Trash-Power Goal Grows Nearer With Site Work in L. B.

Times Staff Writer

Construction began last week for an $85-million trash-to-energy plant that officials hope will be gulping more than 750 tons of garbage a day by August, 1988.

Bulldozers are grading a 17-acre Terminal Island site to make way for the plant, dubbed the Southeast Resource Recovery Facility, or SERRF.

Project leaders say work is expected to begin in about three months on windowless buildings to house the maze of pipes, boilers and turbines that will be used to burn garbage and produce enough electricity for 30,000 homes.

Since first proposed in 1980, the project has had to clear a series of bureaucratic hurdles and environmental reviews that at times threatened to dash chances it would ever be built. With that history, Long Beach officials were understandably pleased last week to see the project speeding forward.

"It's gotten to the point now where people are finally convinced it's going ahead," said Bill Davis, manager of the city's solid-waste program and the man who shepherded the SERRF project.

Other Cities Watching

The Long Beach project and a smaller plant being built in Commerce are the first publicly financed trash-to-energy projects of their type in California. Because of that, Davis said, officials and residents in other cities will likely look to the two projects for proof that the trash-to-energy technology can be a success.

"Hopefully, SERRF will be able to demonstrate that waste-to-energy is a viable idea and some of the hysteria about these projects will evaporate," Davis said.

Among those studying the plant will be city officials from Los Angeles, where a battle looms over three massive trash-to-energy plants that are being proposed for construction.

Like the plants planned for Los Angeles, SERRF will use a process called "mass burn."

Garbage brought by truck to the plant--bounded by Henry Ford Avenue, New Dock Street, Seaside Boulevard and the Terminal Island Freeway--will be dumped into a furnace and burned, incinerating everything from newspapers to glass bottles.

Heat from the fire warms water in boilers, producing steam that turns turbines, producing electricity. That electricity will be sold to Southern California Edison Co. to pay off the bonds that were sold to finance construction of the plant.

Three-Month Test

Before that process begins on a day-to-day basis, however, the builders of the plant, Pittsburgh-based Dravo Corp., will be required to conduct a three-month "performance demonstration." During that review, which Davis compared to the warranty period on a new car, Dravo will have to prove that the plant is operating within air-quality standards and other performance objectives.

"We don't expect any problems," Davis said, noting that mass-burn technology has been successfully used for years at trash-to-energy plants in Europe and on the East Coast.

The plant will handle about 600 tons of trash collected each day in Long Beach by city-operated garbage trucks. Since an additional 150 tons of trash can be burned daily, Davis said, he has begun talks with officials in Signal Hill and Lakewood to determine if they want to use SERRF.

While the plant will initially have two boilers, city officials may eventually add a third, a move that would enable SERRF to handle 1,170 tons of garbage a day, Davis said.

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