Koochiching County moves ahead with high-tech garbage solution

Koochiching County recently signed a contract with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as part of its Renewable Energy Clean Air Project.

It’s another step forward in the county’s quest to adopt emerging technology to deal with its garbage.

For several years the county has explored a technology called plasma gasification. The technology uses extreme temperatures to convert all sorts of waste — municipal trash, woody biomass, wastewater sludge, construction debris — into fuel and other marketable byproducts.

The county’s plan is to build such a facility in International Falls. It would be one of the first of its kind in the country.

The deal with the MPCA releases $2.5 million that will be matched with federal funds to further develop parts of the project, including preliminary design, permitting and preconstruction services.

While some environmental groups are skeptical of the technology, supporters tout it as an environmentally friendly alternative to landfilling. The gasification process uses energy similar to a bolt of lightening, creating temperatures as hot as the sun. The extreme heat results in extremely clean emissions, say proponents.

Leaders in Koochiching County say the project will create high tech jobs for the struggling region. They believe their facility could be a model for the rest of the country.

A company called Coronal LLC is the developer and manager of the project.

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