Farming and Renewable Energy

Farmer Randy Jordan first sought a way to turn manure into natural gas over a decade ago as a way to reduce his electric bill. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Adam Glanzman for The Washington Post

The Yakima City Council will continue to study micro-organisms as an option for breaking down organic waste in Yakima.

The council passed a resolution Tuesday authorizing city staff to apply for a grant through the Environmental Protection Agency to support the use of anaerobic digestion, a natural process in which micro-organisms break down organic materials such as food scraps, manure and other organic waste, according to the EPA.

The process produces biogas, which is a renewable energy source made up of methane and carbon dioxide. Digestate is the solid material left over after anaerobic digestion. The nutrient-rich product can be used as fertilizer, the EPA said.

The city is already working on an EPA grant application for a feasibility study of anaerobic digestion, Councilmember Kay Funk said. Funk is a member of the Yakima County Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

The study would evaluate costs and revenues, waste streams and energy outputs, she said. It would also decide how the biogas and digestate products could be used.

Chad Kruger, director of the Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, has volunteered to provide educational documents about anaerobic digestion for agricultural communities, Funk said. She said a public information meeting may be scheduled at a later date.

Yakima resident Coleen Anderson supports the use of anaerobic digestion to break down green waste, she said in public comment.

“It would benefit all Yakima residents, including racially diverse and vulnerable populations, by, for example, improving air quality and curtailing trash collection fees,” Anderson said. “In addition, the city could realize considerable revenue from the sale of the bioenergy and the fertilizer and compost that are byproducts.”

Anderson said she still has some questions and would attend a public information meeting.

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