New Bioreactor Landfill to Power More Columbia Homes

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COLUMBIA - Columbia is currently working on a type of liquid-injected landfill area known as a bioreactor.

It will increase moisture to help break down waste more quickly than the city's first bioreactor landfill, which was created in 2008 and did not use the injection method.

Columbia was the first city in the state to have a bioreactor landfill.

A bioreactor is not a machine, as the name may suggest. It is an area where garbage is dumped and compressed, creating methane gas, which is then used to produce electricity, using generators.

Bioreactor specialist Adam White said that electricity is enough to power approximately 1,500 homes, which is 1.5% of Columbia's demand.

There are two generators near the landfill and each is capable of producing one megawatt of electricity, White said.

All kinds of waste ultimately end up at the landfill site, including yard waste collected at Capen Park and Parkside Drive.

Columbia resident Clint Matthews goes to the Capen Park drop-off site once a month, and said collecting yard waste is a really good program.

"Well, this is reused and cut up into mulch and people come down to get it," Matthews said. "It's really not that far, it's a central location, it doesn't take a lot of effort to bring it down here."

After residents like Matthews bring in their yard waste, Public Works combines it with all the other residential and commercial waste to cover the bioreactor.

"Think of it this way," White said. "You have landfill, cover it up with soil material, add more landfill, cover it up and repeat the process over and over again until you get this huge pile."

Columbia's bioreactor landfill is unique, in that Public Works adds liquid to accelerate the process of compressing, and therefore, creating methane gas faster.

White said the process of adding a third generator should be available by the beginning of September.