Debby Turner-Fox, Salem County Improvement Authority for the methane gas to electricity project

Debbie Turner-Fox

Unlike most of us, when Debby Turner-Fox looks at a landfill she sees an opportunity. Her goal for the Salem County Landfill is to save taxpayer dollars and practice sound environmental management. Ms. Turner-Fox turns to innovative technology and creative new partnerships to meet her two-pronged goal.

Ms. Turner-Fox was inspired by the Salem County Improvement Authority’s success with converting methane management from a cost to a savings. In days past, methane — a byproduct of decomposition in landfills — was released through pipes and burned off, a practice both costly and wasteful. — Today’s technology allows landfill managers to turn methane into electricity and feed it back into the electricity grid. The Salem County Improvement Authority had an even better idea. One that led them into a unique arrangement with the Salem County Community College (SCCC). This arrangement was born out of coinciding developments: The landfill was reaching maturity, meaning that it was producing a consistent amount of methane gas, at the same time that the Community College was outgrowing its glass manufacturing teaching facility. The College, an integral part of Salem County’s rich glass-making history, offers degrees in both Craft and Design and Technology degrees in glass making. Learning of the college’s needs, the Improvement Authority proposed building their new facility close to the landfill so that the energy produced by methane could be used to power the energy-hungry glass-making machinery.

The College accepted the proposal and built the 10,000 square feet Samuel H. Jones Glass Education Center approximately ½ mile from the landfill. The building was financed with the aid of SCIA issued bonds, and the machinery in the building was funded by a generous donation from Samuel H. Jones. The partnership has been a success for both parties. It has lowered the college’s operating costs significantly, and it has lowered the Improvement Authority’s methane management costs by $70,000.

Under Ms. Turner-Fox’s leadership, the Salem County Improvement Authority is exploring opportunities to continue improving their waste management practices. They are working with Energetic to develop a municipal sludge digester, and they are investigating a partnership with other county landfills to reduce the distance leachate has to be shipped for treatment. Both of these efforts have the opportunity to save tax payer dollars and reduce the impact of the Salem County landfill on the environment.

Ms. Turner-Fox is putting into practice her belief in the possibilities of new technologies and new institutional arrangements to save both the environment and costs associated with environmental cleanup. With the recognition bestowed by the 2011 Environmental Achievement Award, PlanSmart NJ applauds the Salem County Improvement Authority and Ms. Turner-Fox for “showing through doing” the innovations that are possible in the field of energy.

Landfill Gas to Electricity

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