In The Loop

Welcome to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority's Blog

Entries Tagged as Waste-to-Energy

Covanta and LCSWMA Extend Partnership

January 08, 2018 ·

New 15-year operating agreement reached for the Lancaster and Harrisburg Energy-from-Waste facilities

The Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) and Covanta (NYSE: CVA), based in Morristown, NJ, announced today a new agreement for the operation and maintenance of LCSWMA’s two Energy-from-Waste facilities: the Lancaster Waste-to-Energy (WTE) Facility, located in Bainbridge, PA, and the Susquehanna Resource Management Complex (SRMC), located in Harrisburg, PA. Combined, these two facilities process around 700,000 tons of waste annually. The new improved agreement, which was finalized at the end of 2017, extends a successful long-term collaboration between LCSWMA and Covanta through 2032.

“LCSWMA is proud to continue working with such an experienced and industry-leading company like Covanta,” says Jim Warner, CEO for LCSWMA. “Waste-to-Energy has been a critical component of LCSWMA’s integrated system that minimizes landfill consumption and generates renewable energy for our community. Covanta has been a vital partner in helping us achieve that goal with great success. This enhanced partnership will help LCSWMA continue offering cost-effective, sustainable waste management services to the residents and businesses we serve.”

LCSWMA retained Covanta’s expertise to design, build and operate the Lancaster WTE Facility. The facility, which Covanta has operated since 1991, serves the sustainable waste management needs of Lancaster County, processing 1,200 tons of municipal solid waste per day to produce enough renewable energy to power 30,000 homes continuously.

The SRMC, serves Dauphin County and the City of Harrisburg by processing up to 800 tons of municipal solid waste per day and generating approximately 23 megawatts of renewable energy that powers state capitol buildings in Harrisburg, PA.

Covanta has operated the SRMC since 2007 and was critical in the turnaround of the facility, completing upgrades that allowed the facility to operate in a reliable and environmentally-sound manner. LCSWMA purchased the SRMC in 2013 from the City of Harrisburg and made significant investments and capital improvements to further enhance facility performance, along with improving customer service and aesthetics of the site.

“We are very pleased to continue our mutually-beneficial partnership with LCSWMA,” said Joey Neuhoff, vice president and general manager of Covanta’s mid-Atlantic region. “LCSWMA has created a world-class integrated waste management system and we are proud of our contributions to that success. We look forward to our continued collaboration over the next 15 years.”

The new agreement stipulates investments and upgrades to the systems at both Energy-from-Waste facilities to ensure continued safe and reliable waste processing and energy production for many years to come.

LCSWMA’s integrated system and Covanta have won numerous awards over the years, including: the Gold Excellence Award in WTE from the Solid Waste Association of North America and Top Plant honors from Power Magazine for the turnaround of the SRMC. The two facilities are also recognized as Star worksites in the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). VPP Star status is the highest honor given to worksites with comprehensive, successful safety and health management systems.

Tags: In The News · SRMC · Waste-to-Energy

LCSWMA Commissions Steam to Perdue AgriBusiness for Soybean Processing Facility

August 08, 2017 ·

Today, LCSWMA began commissioning steam to Perdue AgriBusiness in preparation for the targeted September 2017 start-up of their Soybean Processing Facility adjacent to the Lancaster Waste-to-Energy (WTE) Facility in Conoy Township. LCSWMA sold the contiguous 57-acre tract of land to Perdue in 2016 for $2.48 million in 2016.

The Perdue Soybean Processing Facility includes two main components:

(1) A grain elevator to receive, dry, store, and ship soybeans grown and harvested throughout the region.

(2) The processing plant to process roughly 20 million bushels of soybeans per year and produce soybean meal, soybean hulls, and soybean oil.

LCSWMA will provide around 15% of the steam from the Lancaster WTE Facility (up to 57,000 pounds/hour), which will reduce the environmental footprint of the Perdue Soybean Processing Facility and lower its emissions by avoiding the need to use fossil fuels. Using steam from the Lancaster WTE Facility, instead of creating steam from natural gas or fossil fuels, avoids 20,000-30,000 metric tons of CO2 annually for this project. LCSWMA will also provide process water (up to 130,000 gallons/day or 47 million gallons/annually) from the Lancaster WTE Facility, eliminating the need to use water from the Susquehanna River for the Perdue Soybean Processing Facility. The process water is returned to the Lancaster WTE Facility, where it is treated and recycled yet again in a closed-loop, zero discharge system.

In May 2016, Perdue received its air permit from PA-DEP for the Soybean Processing Facility and began groundwork and construction on the project. LCSWMA spent the latter half of the year focused on engineering design for the necessary steam modifications to the Lancaster WTE Facility, in order to integrate the two facilities. The partners anticipate full commencement of operations at the site to occur in fall 2017.

Tags: In The News · Waste-to-Energy

3/14/2017: LCSWMA Closed

March 13, 2017 ·

Due to the impending snow storm, all LCSWMA facilities will be CLOSED on Tuesday, March 14. This includes the Transfer Station Complex, Household Hazardous Waste Facility, Frey Farm Landfill, Lancaster WTE Facility and the Susquehanna Resource Management Complex. Please check back for updates regarding the storm's impact on Wednesday's operations.

For a list of facility operating hours, click here

Tags: Frey Farm Landfill · HHW · SRMC · Waste-to-Energy

From Ashes to Boathouse: 25 Years at SBU

October 12, 2015 ·

From Ashes to Boathouse: 25 Years at SBU
By Louise Badoche
October 4, 2015

Faculty and students of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences gathered in Endeavour Hall on a rainy October 2 to celebrate 25 years of the Boathouse, an experimental building made from municipal solid waste ash blocks.

“Weather couldn’t be better for the occasion, since this is exactly why the Boathouse was built,” speaker Dr. Frank Roethel said.    

Chemical oceanographer Roethel, has long been interested in  environmental issues associated with the combustion of garbage and finding possible ways to reuse the ash produced as the result of incinerating waste.

The Long Island Landfill Law (1983) left the Long Island’s towns with two choices regarding the management of their waste: truck it off-island or incinerate it. “Today, more than 50% of Long Island’s municipal waste is sent to waste-to-energy facilities where they are combusted,” Roethel said. Every year, 475,000 tons of ash are generated from combustion and disposed in ash fills.      

These ash fills will soon reach their maximum capacity and it is important to find solutions for their disposal, said Roethel.

In the 1980’s, he found a way to safely stabilize the ash and make bricks ready for construction.

With the ash blocks he designed, Roethel built four artificial reefs with great success before building the Boathouse. Over time, the blocks maintained their structure and there  were no chemicals leaching into the water.

Twenty-five years ago, not long after Roethel started teaching at Stony Brook University, the Dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (SoMAS) Jerry Schubel asked him to build an experimental building made from municipal solid waste ash blocks in order to protect the boats from rain damage.  

After testing the blocks in laboratories and getting a permit from the New York Department of Environmental Protection (DEC), the Boathouse saw the light in 1990 and is still brilliantly standing among the SoMAS buildings.

The Boathouse has been closely examined and tested over the years. Against all predictions , reports show that the ash blocks maintained their structural integrity, there was no leaching in soils, and no significant change in their chemistry.

Environmental conditions had no impact on the building and surprisingly the strength of the blocks has doubled over twenty five years. “The Boathouse has surely aged better than I have,” Roethel said.

A typical concern among the public is that ash is toxic and therefore ash blocks are too. On Friday, Roethel clearly refuted this belief, explaining the different processes that waste-to-energy facilities put in place to remove harmful chemicals.

Air monitoring even showed that the Boathouse is the cleanest building on campus.  

Using ash for building construction however is not allowed in New York State, but Dr. Roethel states that positive changes are slowly being observed.

“The process is slow mainly because the DEC is conservative and afraid to implement changes,” Professor Swanson, director of the Waste Reduction and Management Institute at Stony Brook said. Swanson agreed that ash should be allowed for construction.

Senior Moshan Chen, an environmental studies major student who had the chance to work with Dr. Roethel, stated that the idea is great and needs to be pushed further in order to obtain the public support.     

The Boathouse required 350 tons of ash which Roethel said is the equivalent of one day of ash disposed in Brookhaven ash fill. “We would need a lot of boathouses,” Roethel said, engendering laughs in the audience.

Every day, the Boathouse proves that ash can be usefully reused explained Roethel. Some say that it is the most beautiful building on campus, along with being tested as the safest one to breathe in. Yet, critics keep hammering and arguing that with time, ash will disintegrate and bring the building down.  

But today, Roethel remains confident about the benefits of ash reuse and has no doubt that the Boathouse will remain for years to come. He proved to himself and skeptical scientists that ash blocks are a safe and smart way to reuse ash produced from the combustion of garbage.

Dr. Roethel ended his presentation by putting up the quote, “One valid test is worth a thousand expert opinions.” He smiled and said, “I don’t know who wrote it, but I strongly agree with it.”

Tags: In The News · Waste-to-Energy

Explore Energy Island

August 13, 2015 ·

Tucked away on a small landmass, owned by LCSWMA, on the Susquehanna River is the primitive Energy Island campsite. Located behind LCSWMA’s Lancaster Waste-to-Energy Facility in Conoy Township, this campsite is part of the Susquehanna Water Trail and is the only campsite of its kind on the trail in Lancaster County.

Accessible only by boat, the Energy Island campsite features a cleared camping area, fire pit and charcoal grill. Campers are encouraged to document their stay in the guest book located near the entrance of the campsite.

LCSWMA built the campsite in 2012 for residents and visitors to enjoy Lancaster County’s beautiful environment, including the scenic Susquehanna River.

To locate the campsite, enter the GPS coordinates 40°04'01.4"N 76°38'34.7"W. River access is available five miles from the Falmouth Boat Launch (111 Collins Rd, Bainbridge, PA 17502) or 2 miles from the Bainbridge Boat Launch (40-58 S Front St, Bainbridge, PA 17502). 

Island shoreline. A perfect place to dock your boat, kayak or canoe for an evening of camping.

Entrance to the campsite. A log book is provided for guests to record their journey. 

Cleared campsite area, which can fit three to four tents. 

Fire pit and log seating. Chopped firewood is also available at the campsite for campers to use. 

Charcoal grill located at the edge of the campsite. 

View of the Susquehanna River from the campsite. 

Shock's Mill Bridge in the distance. 

The Susquehanna River. 

Tags: Community Recreation · Northwest Lancaster County River Trail · Trail Development · Waste-to-Energy

Waste-to-Energy: The Lost Decades

August 03, 2015 ·

Guest Editorial: Waste-to-Energy—The Lost Decades

By James D. Warner
July 1, 2015
MSW Management Magazine

It’s now 2015, two decades since a new waste-to-energy (WTE) facility was built and commissioned in the United States. (The last one was in Montgomery County, MD, in 1995.) This long period without new facility construction will come to an end in a few months when the West Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority (in Florida) opens a new 3000 TPD facility—their second, in fact. What should we, as an industry, think of these two lost decades without any new development (yes, we had expansions) of this proven technology? When only three general options exist (recycle/compost, combustion, and landfill) to manage our MSW stream, how could a country as large as the US not build a WTE facility in 20 years?

Other regions of the developed world have embraced WTE during the same time period, including almost all of Western Europe (driven by landfill organics bans and $100+/ton landfill taxes), Pacific Rim Countries (now 40% of the global market), as well as other select emerging regions around the globe (i.e., the Arabian Peninsula). According to the latest EPA numbers, the US was utilizing WTE for processing only 12% of MSW in 2013. Twenty years ago, the US was recycling 27% of MSW. We are now recycling about 35% as a nation: a gain of 8%. Landfilling has declined from 57% to 53% in the last 20 years, while combustion has also fallen from 16% to a reduced level of 12% as noted previously. Both landfilling and combustion have decreased an equal percentage to account for the rise in recycling. So, after we recycle 35%, we are landfilling about four of every five remaining tons. This can hardly be seen as “progress” in a country where landfilling is at the bottom of EPA’s own waste hierarchy. I struggle to accept that we are choosing to landfill our MSW because citizens, local government units, and waste practitioners believe it is generally better for the environment. What is the root problem then? And, we if continue on this path, what can we expect in the next 20 years?

WTE had a promising growth spurt from 1985 through 1995. Many of the plants built during that period (including LCSWMA’s in Lancaster County, PA) exceeded performance expectations of their owners and became widely accepted in their local communities. In LCSWMA’s experience, our landfill life was extended from 10 years to 30 years. Our county recycling rate grew significantly from single digits to 43.7% just last year. It is worth noting the recycling rate would only be 40% if not for the recovery of ferrous and non-ferrous metal after combustion. We have generated enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of every home in Lancaster County for four years. We have lowered our waste disposal CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) output by more than 10 million tons, versus had we landfilled that post-recycled waste. Our MSW disposal fee is $62.80 per ton, which is lower than the rate at the time our WTE facility opened in 1991. The last debt payment on the facility will be made this year so all future benefits will come without project debt. I now present readers the same question I am asked by residents and visitors after a tour of our WTE facility: “Why aren’t there more of facilities like this in the US?” Good question, but one with a difficult answer.

What has stalled WTE advancement after its initial growth spurt 20 years ago? I think the answer reflects many factors. Some aspects played out more prominently in communities that once considered WTE for their management of MSW, but never implemented a project. Primary factors halting new construction included: 1) environmental activism that effectively disseminate false pollution info on archaic “incinerators” operating in the 1960s and 1970s, while ignoring the advanced APC technologies used today; 2) short-term political election cycles and long term project development timelines; 3) lackluster energy markets putting more project revenue pressure onto waste tipping fees; and 4) the fact that landfills still offer the cheapest disposal option in most, albeit not all, regions of the country.

The lack of WTE development in the last 10 years has been especially disappointing. After the United Haulers decision by the US Supreme court in April 2007 cleared the uncertainty of Waste Flow Control powers of local governments, I thought this resolution would stimulate a new round of WTE procurement in the US. Unfortunately that turned out not to be the case, mostly due to the four factors mentioned above. Additionally, “conversion technology” companies have been hawking their waste processing solutions to communities that demonstrate a desire for something beyond recycling, but also not wanting landfilling and or traditional mass burn WTE. How has that worked out so far for venture capitalist, technology companies, these explorative communities, and the waste industry as a whole? Overwhelming evidence thus far supports a resounding conclusion of “not so well”. In many ways, this is a disappointment because without WTE growth, combined with a plateau of nationwide recycling at 35%, this “fourth dimension” could have carved an effective slice of the hierarchy pyramid somewhere above landfilling. But I for one am pessimistic that it will.

So where does this situation leave us for the next 20 years? What will the MSW management percentages that I began this commentary with be in 2035? Will the primary categories still be only recycling, landfill and WTE? Or will a fourth MSW management category be added because it is processing millions of tons of mixed MSW? I am hopeful that as a country we could reach 50% recycling in the next two decades, but it will not be easy. Can we double WTE to reach processing 25% of our nation’s MSW? I think that is possible with higher value energy markets and more robust energy credit and carbon credit allowance programs. It will also require greater political will of local and regional governments to demand more than just landfilling their waste after recycling. And finally, I think the choice to landfill will diminish, as distances to urban watersheds grow even greater. However, so long as this choice remains the cheapest and easiest for decision makers, it will continue to be the dominate MSW disposal option practiced in the United States for post-recycled waste. 

LCSWMA's Lancaster Waste-to-Energy Facility 

Tags: In The News · Waste-to-Energy

Book a FREE Public Tour

March 03, 2015 ·

Have you ever wondered what happens to your trash after it’s picked up? Find out by taking a FREE public tour of our Transfer Station Complex in Lancaster, Waste-to-Energy Facility in Bainbridge or Frey Farm Landfill in Conestoga. 

Each tour offers a behind-the-scenes look at our daily operations. Follow your trash, as we transform it from waste to a resource! Tours run from March through October. Reservations can be made online or by calling 717-397-9968. 

Choose from the following tour options: 

Transfer Station Complex (1299 Harrisburg Pike, Lancaster): Tours begin at the large Transfer Station building with an overview of Lancaster County's Integrated System. The walking tour continues with a visit to our Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facility, compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations and concludes in our Transfer Station training room where visitors can view the tipping floor in action.

Lancaster Waste-to-Energy Facility (1911 River Road, Bainbridge): Tours begin at the Administrative Building where visitors receive an overview of Lancaster County's Integrated System and Covanta's partnership as operator of the facility. The visit continues with a driving tour, where guests are shuttled around the site, stopping at the tipping floor, control room, ash warehouse and other site highlights.

Frey Farm Landfill (3049 River Road, Conestoga): Tours begin at the Rieber House Welcome Center where visitors receive an overview of Lancaster County's Integrated System. The visit continues with a driving tour, where guests are shuttled around the site, stopping at the landfill gas plant, wind project, landfill tipping face and other highlights.

Tags: Frey Farm Landfill · HHW · Tours · Transfer Station · Waste-to-Energy

Spend the Night on Energy Island

August 15, 2014 ·

Enjoy the last few weekends of summer with a trip to LCSWMA’s Energy Island Campsite located near our Lancaster Waste-to-Energy Facility in Conoy Township. 

This primitive campsite is the only one of its kind along the Susquehanna Water Trail and is accessible only by watercraft. 

Convenient signage placed along the water’s edge guides campers to the site, which is situated under a canopy of trees, near the shoreline. Other features of the campsite include a fire pit, charcoal grill and log book for visitors to record their journey. 

LCSWMA built the campsite for residents and visitors to enjoy Lancaster County’s amazing environment, including the scenic Susquehanna River. We continue to support the Rivertown communities by developing opportunities for outdoor recreation along this beautiful waterway.

To access the exact location of the campsite, use the GPS coordinates 40°04'01.4"N 76°38'34.7"W. 


Tags: Community Recreation · Waste-to-Energy

Eagles at WTE Facility

May 09, 2014 ·

For the past six years, a pair of eagles have nested on a small island owned by LCSWMA behind our Lancaster Waste-to-Energy Facility. Check out this video, captured by a Marietta resident, that shows their latest set of eaglets.

View video here:


Tags: Waste-to-Energy · Wildlife

Renewable Energy At Work: Lancaster WTE Facility

March 07, 2014 ·

On an average day, our Lancaster Waste-to-Energy (WTE) Facility receives around 1,500 tons of waste. While many view this waste as simply trash; to us, it is a resource for generating renewable energy (electricity). The WTE Facility produces enough power for approximately 30,000 Lancaster County homes.

In addition, the WTE Facility reduces solid waste volume by 90 percent, which minimizes the amount that enters the landfill and preserves Lancaster County’s beautiful land.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1. Waste is delivered and dumped onto the tipping floor where it is pushed into a storage pit. An overhead crane, called a grapple, mixes the waste to ensure even composition for best combustion before it is fed into one of three boilers.

(Pictured Above: WTE tipping floor, pit and grapple)

Step 2. The walls surrounding each boiler are equipped with glass water tubes. As the trash burns at a temperature of 1,800 Fahrenheit, it boils the water in those tubes and produces steam.

(Pictured Above: One of three boilers)

Step 3.  The stream, reaching 800 F, is piped to a turbine. Pressure from the steam spins the turbine, which is connected to a generator that produces about 34 megawatts of electricity.

(Pictured Above: Turbine generator)

Step 4. Finally, gas from the furnace enters the emissions control process where carbon and lime are added to reduce mercury and acid gases. Next, the air goes through the final filter, called a baghouse, to ensure even the tiniest particles are removed. The result is clean air leaving the stack.

(Pictured Above: WTE emissions control system and stack)

Step 5. At the end of the waste-to-energy process, reacted salts and fly ash (particulate matter) are conditioned with water and then combined with the bottom ash from the furnaces. Conveyors transport the ash to a building for metals recovery where the system removes metals containing iron, using a magnet. A non-ferrous recovery system removes aluminum, copper, brass and other precious metals. The metals are sold to a recycling market.

(Pictured Above: WTE ash belt)

Step 6. The remaining ash is taken to the landfill to be used as daily waste cover.

(Pictured Above: WTE ash at the Frey Farm Landfill)

The facility uses a small portion of the electricity generated to power its operations, while the majority is sold back to the power grid for revenue, which helps offset the facility’s operating costs and keep Lancaster County’s tipping fees stable.

Interested in learning more about how the Lancaster WTE Facility works and our other renewable energy initiatives? If so, sign up online to take one of our public tours. Tours provide an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at facility operations and offer visitors the opportunity to ask questions.


Tags: Waste-to-Energy