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Air curtain burner for landfill OK'd

Daily Inter Lake | February 25, 2022 7:00 AM

Health department officials got the green light this month to move forward with the purchase of a roughly $184,000 air curtain burner for the county landfill.

The request came forward as part of the department’s American Rescue Plan Act wish list in 2021. At the time, officials put an estimated $135,000 price tag on the piece of equipment, which will aid in the disposal of wood waste.

Appearing before the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners on Feb. 9, Director Kathi Hooper said the health department preferred to go after a larger, more expensive model. With the higher price comes increased efficiency, Hooper said. The model favored by the department can process seven to nine tons of material an hour.

Despite the nearly $50,000 cost difference, commissioners looked favorably upon the request.

“If you look at fuel use compared to the other one, in the long run it’s more economical to go with the bigger machine,” said County Commissioner Jerry Bennett (D-2).

The health department, which oversees the Libby landfill, formally asked for the air curtain burner in November, but began testing the waters with commissioners over the summer. In July, Hooper told the board that the facility, which uses a chipper to dispose of wood waste, was swimming in wood chips.

“We’re overwhelmed with chips,” she told commissioners at the time.

An air curtain burner will let landfill workers dispose of wood without affecting the region’s air quality. Back in July, Hooper noted that maintenance costs for the chipper were adding up as well.

Brian Alkire, landfill manager, said his team could — despite its size — move the air curtain burner around using a dozer and skids.

County Commissioner Brent Teske (D-1) made the motion and colleague Josh Letcher (D-3) offered a second. Given the influx of waste at the facility, which has moved up plans to expand the landfill, Letcher said going bigger made sense.

“I doubt we’re going to see any less material come in,” he said.

The vote to approve the purchase was unanimous.