In December 1981, a bond referendum was approved by the New Hanover County citizens by an overwhelming 13 to 1 ratio for the construction of the $13.1 million "Refuse Fired Steam Generation Facility". A contract was awarded to Clark Kenith, Inc., of Atlanta, GA, for plant design and construction in November 1982. Start-up and testing of the facility began in June 1984, with the County assuming operation of the plant in August 1984.
A dedication ceremony was held September 27, 1984, to celebrate the construction and initial operation of the 200 ton-per-day plant. The "Steam Plant" was listed as the first waste-to-energy facility in North Carolina, and one of the first small plants in the nation to generate both steam and electricity (or cogeneration).
As a means of addressing the solid waste demands generated by a growing community, a referendum held in 1988 was passed by a 4 to 1 margin that approved a $27 million bond for expanding the facility. Construction was completed in 1990 on the installation of a 250 ton-per-day boiler, upgrades to the electrical generation equipment and air pollution controls, and installation of computerized systems control.
The original two boilers, each with capacities of 100 tons per day and still in service today, were designed and manufactured by the Keeler/Dorr-Oliver Company. The 300 tpd boiler installed in 1990 was designed, manufactured and installed by Volund, USA, Ltd., subsidiary of the Belgian firm internationally known for waste-to-energy plant construction.
How Trash is Handled at the WASTEC Facility
WASTEC is a "mass burn" combustion facility, meaning that no special preparation is given the waste stream before it's combusted. (Some waste-to-energy facilities use refuse-derived fuel (RDF), which refers to a waste stream from which nonburnables are removed and the resulting fuel is blended for uniform combustion rates). Three boilers are used to produce steam to turn two electrical generators. The facility is capable of burning approximately 140,000 tons of waste per year.
High-tech air pollution control equipment is employed consisting of scrubbers and filter baghouses on each boiler to eliminate acid gases. Also, there are nitrous oxide and mercury controls.
Plant emissions are constantly monitored using a Continuous Emissions Monitoring and Data Acquisition System (or CEMDAS). Monitoring is performed for carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrous oxides (NOx), and opacity (visible smoke).
Combustion results in a volume reduction of garbage of approximately 85%. To illustrate the amount of reduction achieved by WASTEC, for every 100 trucks of trash that dispose of trash at WASTEC, only 15 trucks of ash are carted to the landfill. Since test results show the WASTEC ash to be non-hazardous, ash is used at the Landfill for daily cover and to help build roadways into the disposal area
WASTEC accepts residential, commercial and institutional trash. Materials that are not accepted for combustion include: tires; lead-acid batteries; building materials such as shingles, gypsum, concrete and brick; hazardous materials; regulated hospital wastes; anti-freeze from automobiles; white goods; and large amounts of aluminum cans. Contracts can be arranged for out-of-county or other special wastes, although test results are sometimes required when appropriate.
Including fees generated through disposal and sales of electricity, WASTEC revenue is approximately $7.5 million annually. Waste-to-energy is a primary means of managing solid waste in the northeastern U.S. Approximately 16% of the nation's waste is managed through incineration and WASTEC is currently the only operating municipal waste-to-energy facility in North Carolina.