Here's some possible balm for your conscience in case it's prone to distress when you throw away food.
The agency that delivers water to 1.3 million customers in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, also performs other services, such as treating wastewater and generating electricity from waste.
The agency collects discarded food and other waste – some of it too gross to describe for a family online newspaper – at its main wastewater treatment plant near the eastern end of the Bay Bridge. The muck is tossed into a digester and spews a tremendous volume of methane, which in turn can power electricity-generating machines.
Up to now, the district has been using three conventional engines – each about the size of a car – that run on the methane to make electricity and lower its greenhouse-gas footprint, but there's been a big surplus, necessitating flaring of the excess methane, according to Alice Towey, an associate engineer with the agency.
On Tuesday, the district is holding a unveiling of what a news release calls "a state-of-the-art turbine" that will nearly double the plant's generating capacity.
"It's basically a jet engine," Towey said. "It's just a lot more efficient." The turbine is more compact, able to fit in the bed of a truck, and has a 5.6-megawatt capacity, compared with the existing three engines whose combined capacity is 6.3 megawatts, Towey said.
The news release calls the power-generating facility "EBMUD's green factory."
"The nature of the wastewater treatment plant as we know it has evolved," said agency spokesman Charles Hardy. "That's why we call it the 'green factory.' Instead of a place where we get rid of something, it's a place where we produce something."
The Tuesday event begins at 9 a.m. at the treatment plant at 2020 Wake Ave. in Oakland. (Directions to the facility are attached to this article.) The main speaker will be Alexis Strauss, water division director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Region IX. Other participants in the program are EBMUD board President John Coleman and Matt Bond, president of the Water Environment Federation.