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Grand Forks contemplates incinerator

If an incinerator works for Polk County, can it work for Grand Forks, which is struggling to develop a new landfill? City officials have said they're open to the idea, but the problem is they still would need to have a landfill. Neither incinerat...

If an incinerator works for Polk County, can it work for Grand Forks, which is struggling to develop a new landfill?

City officials have said they're open to the idea, but the problem is they still would need to have a landfill.

Neither incinerators nor composting facilities can eliminate all garbage. And even though the byproducts would seem more environmentally benign than regular garbage, the landfill that receives them would have to meet the same standards as regular landfills.

For Polk County, the incinerator and its attached recycling facility are seen primarily as a way to reduce the amount of waste going into the county landfill, thereby extending the landfill's life span. Minnesota law makes it tougher to build landfills there than in North Dakota.

Which is why the county and its partners decided to build the incinerator even though the cost of that technology is higher.

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The $6.8 million cost of the Polk County incinerator when it was built in 1988 is equivalent to $11.8 million today.

In contrast, the projected cost of a new Grand Forks landfill is about $6 million to $7 million. It's difficult to compare costs, though, because Grand Forks, with its bigger customer base, would need a bigger incinerator than Polk County and, at the same time, the cost of the technology may have fallen over time.

What's not so difficult to compare is the cost of disposing garbage for customers of the Grand Forks landfill and the Polk County landfill. Grand Forks customers pay about $33 a ton while Polk County customers pay $55 a ton.

The question is whether Grand Forks will be able to continue charging less as the difficulty of finding a site for a new landfill in the Red River Valley grows.

Tu-Uyen Tran

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