Minergy technology still a possibility

Posted July 29, 2003

By Ed Culhane
Post-Crescent staff writer

NEENAH — Two years ago, Minergy engineers designed a furnace hot enough to melt PCB-contaminated Fox River mud into a usable glass aggregate while destroying the PCBs.

They built a pilot furnace in Winneconne and ran 60 tons of mud through it while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measured the results.

The furnace destroyed PCBs at 99.9999 percent efficiency rate and produced 30 tons of glass aggregate that could be sold as a construction material.

The technology, called vitrification, was not chosen by regulators in the final Record of Decision for the lower Fox River, a decision that mandates dredging and landfill disposal.

State Department of Natural Resources officials said there are too many questions about the cost.

Still, the door was left open.

“If we could go with vitrification, that would eliminate the problem,” said DNR Secretary Scott Hassett.

The ROD said the Neenah company’s vitrification technology is viable.

“From our perspective, it sounds like they are saying vitrification works, it is cost effective and it makes the PCBs go away,” said Terry Carroll, Minergy’s regional manager.

The Minergy plan got another boost Monday when the Sierra Club, in its response to the ROD, stated a preference for glass furnace technology.

“Given the options we have for Fox River sediment, the vitrification process is the only one that will permanently destroy the PCBs and not leave their dangers for future generations,” said Jennifer Feyerherm, toxics specialist for the Sierra Club’s Great Lakes Program.

“Even if it costs a little more now, it will be worth it in the long run.”

Comparing costs is difficult. The DNR estimates it will cost $284 million to dredge and dispose of the 6.5 million cubic yards of sediment targeted for removal.

Minergy said that the 6.5 million cubic yards could be melted for $191 million. But this does not include the cost of dredging or of pressing water from sediments.

Ed Culhane can be reached at 993-1000, ext. 216, or by e-mail at eculhane@postcrescent.com