By Lisa Capobianco
Southington will soon lead the way in organic food waste management, due to a facility on DePaolo Drive.
Under the company Supreme Industries, which is based in Harwinton, Quantum BioPower will operate a food waste to energy facility on 49 DePaolo Drive with the goal of potentially providing electricity for 600 to 650 homes in town. Food waste will enter the facility from large food waste producers such as food manufacturers, grocery stores and hospitals. This comes in reference with Public Act 11-217, which requires certain food wholesalers, manufacturers and supermarkets that generate at least 104 tons of food scraps per year to recycle their organic materials at a composting facility located within a 20-mile radius.
“We have found a true partner in the town of Southington,” said Program Manager Brian Paganini. “When successful, this will be one of the first operations in the region—it is really a recycling revolution.”
Paganini said the facility will be permitted to accept 40,000 tons of food per year, including packaged and unpackaged products. The food wastes will potentially transform into energy under the anaerobic digestion process, which Paganini defines as a natural process that involves fermenting the organic material in the absence of oxygen. Once turned into a “slurry consistency,” the food waste will sit in a large, upright tank where it will ferment for a period of time. The goal is to trap the fermentation.
“Our goal is to capture the methane that is produced and the methane is used as fuel to fuel a generator, which in turn, will produce electricity,” Paganini said. “We are pushing the thought of the way folks think about waste material.”
Economic Development Coordinator Lou Perillo said, during a recent Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, that the project will serve as a valuable asset to the town, both in its operations and cost-savings.
“It is a sustainable company,” Perillo said. “They are also helping reduce the town’s expense and the town benefits by gaining tax dollars.”
The Southington Planning and Zoning Commission recently approved the anaerobic digestion facility with the stipulation that the plant will control odor using a chemical scrubber that meets the approval of the Engineering department.
“I am glad they chose Southington,” said Planning and Zoning Vice Chairman Paul Chaplinsky. “It is always good for the town to be ahead of the curve.”
Owned by B&R Corporation, the site on DePaolo Drive currently has two constructed buildings: a scale house which serves as a gate of access and an administrative office building, which is partially completed. Currently, the site also features a mulch manufacturing operations and storage overseen by Supreme Forest Products, a company of Supreme Industries which has multiple divisions in land clearing, wood waste reduction and recycling and manufacturing mulch products. Paganini said that to date, the site has 15 staff members, and will add another dozen in March.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is currently reviewing the application for the anaerobic digestion facility. The new facilities to be constructed for the anaerobic digestion process include an operations facility, a pulping and packaging facility and a wastewater treatment facility. If all goes according to plan, Paganini predicts that the facility will start accepting food wastes in December.
“Our goal for this facility is really to gain a model of sustainability where everything is going to be used for beneficial reuse,” Paganini said.