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New ideas for the environment; what some Indiana companies are doing to help.

Discarded tires hardly seem like an environmental treasure. But as surely as necessity is the mother of invention, used tires are becoming black gold for forward-thinking entrepreneurs.

NIPSCO Development Co. Inc., a subsidiary of Hammond-based NIPSCO Industries, is building an electric-generating station in England that will burn whole tires more cleanly than coal. And a professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette is studying ways that rubber tire scraps--as well as other trash items, such as brick and steel from demolished buildings--can be mixed with asphalt to build roads.

In addition to finding new uses for tires and other items that used to be bound for landfills, companies in Indiana are identifying new ways to reduce waste emissions into the air, soil and water. They also are developing new methods to break down waste and neutralize contaminated media in a manner that is cost-effective yet environmentally protective.

Here are some profiles of what's happening in the Hoosier state:

NIPSCO Is Burning Rubber--NIPSCO Development Co.'s $85 million tire-fueled generating station in Wolverhampton, England, is expected to begin operations by August 1993. The 30-megawatt plant will employ about 60 people and will use between 8 million and 10 million tires per year to produce electricity for approximately 25,000 homes.

Representatives from NIPSCO and ELM Energy and Recycling Ltd. broke ground for the plant April 2. The first project of its kind in England, the station is unique because it will not release harmful emissions into the air. "Actually, you can burn tires more cleanly if you have the right oxygen mix than you can coal," says Thomas J. Kallay, media information manager for NIPSCO Industries.

The ELM station's incinerators were developed by Basic Environmental Engineering of Glen Ellyn, Ill. Kallay says company officials are so confident in the incinerators that they have installed an air monitor in the office of the mayor of Wolverhampton.

All of the generating station's byproducts will be recycled for other industrial purposes, Kallay notes. The ash, for example, will be used in road construction. This is the first time that NIPSCO is developing a plant to burn whole tires. The company has mixed tire chips with coal in its Michigan City generating station, and the testing "went very well," Kallay says.

NIPSCO would love to build a tire-burning station in Indiana, Kallay adds, but it's not an easy sell because of public perceptions about the pollution produced by burning tires. "We hope," says Kallay, "this plant will in effect be a data base."

Get Ready To Ride On Recycled Roads--C. William Lovell, a professor of civil engineering at Purdue University, is studying ways to recycle various materials to build roads. The research is being conducted on behalf of the Indiana Department of Transportation and is required under legislation passed last year by the Indiana General Assembly.

Lovell's list includes old concrete and asphalt pavement, coal combustion ash, foundry sands, battery casings, tire scraps and building demolition products. Tires, coal ash and recycled pavement are among the most promising items, since they already are being used in some road construction activities, Lovell says. Battery casings hold the least promise because they contain lead.

"Really, there has been some experimentation with most of these things for several decades," the professor explains. But with limited landfill space and increasing waste disposal fees, interest in producing roads made from recycled materials has intensified.

More than half of the 50 states already make some use of discarded tires in road construction. In some states, the use of recycled materials is mandatory.

Cummins Seeks The Sun--Cummins Power Generation Inc. of Columbus is developing an electrical generating system that uses a distant but powerful energy source--the sun.

A subsidiary of Cummins Engine Co., Cummins Power Generation has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to head a three-year, $14 million joint venture to produce a five-kilowatt solar electricity system that will be tested in five sites across the country. Cummins also will be competing for a similar award to develop a 25-kilowatt system.

Cummins and its partners will use an array of mirrors to capture and concentrate sunlight, which then will heat a combustion engine that produces electricity, explains Jerome Davis, president of Cummins Power Generation.

Davis says the endeavor is noteworthy because of its cost-effectiveness for this type of application. Based on projections, he says, the cost of the five-kilowatt system will be 6 cents to 8 cents per kilowatt hour, which is comparable to current residential electric rates. And the cost of the 25-kilowatt system should be closer to 5 cents.

Initially, the five-kilowatt system may be used to pump water for drinking and crop irrigation in developing countries, as well as to meet the electrical needs of medical centers, military installations, farms and ranches in remote areas. However, says Davis, the 25-kilowatt system could be used by U.S. utilities.

Canonie Cooks Dirt Clean--Canonie Environmental Services of Porter has developed an award-winning rotary kiln system that--unlike a standard incinerator--cleans contaminated soil without emitting toxic byproducts.

In March, Canonie subsidiary SoilTech ATP Systems Inc. received a national award for its cleanup of 42,000 tons of contaminated soil at a Superfund site near Buffalo, N.Y. Cleanup began in October 1990 and was completed in September 1991.

The project involved the first successful use of thermal desorption/dechlorination technology in the United States. Using an anaerobic thermal processing (ATP) system, SoilTech heats contaminated soil to remove polychlorinated biphenyls, better known as PCBs. The vapors then are recondensed, mixed with chemicals and recycled.

The SoilTech equipment must be transported to the site on flatbed trucks and assembled, says Colleen Ramquist, marketing services coordinator for Canonie. Oxygen is left out of the soil-heating process in the kiln, and this prevents toxins from being emitted into the air, she explains. This is how anaerobic thermal processing differs from incineration.

As regulations regarding incineration become stricter, the use of anaerobic thermal treatment will become greater, Ramquist predicts. The SoilTech system now is being used to clean up a second Superfund site north of Chicago.

NIMCO Relies On Microbes For Decontamination--While Canonie's SoilTech ATP technology makes sense for large-scale projects, NIMCO Environmental Services of Valparaiso is using microbes to clean up smaller contaminated sites.

Bioremediation is a process that uses naturally occurring microorganisms to degrade harmful organic compounds into non-toxic substances.

"Bioremediation is the buzzword now," says John Kiest, president of NIMCO. Technicians from his company analyze contaminated areas to determine the proper formula and application process for the microorganisms, which break down toxic hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide and water.

"The technology's been around for a number of years," Kiest says. In the past, bioremediation primarily has been used for large oil spills, but it now is being applied on a smaller scale.

For example, NIMCO can bioremediate soil contaminated by leaking underground storage tanks at a gas station. A benefit is that this process can be conducted without closing down the service station or moving the contaminated soil to a special waste landfill, which simply moves the problem from one site to another, Kiest says.

SenTech Joins Forces With Ameritech--If it weren't for Norman Lear, Indianapolis-based SenTech Corp. might never have been formed.

An investment banker by trade, SenTech founder Jerry W. Spore recall that he was watching Lear's "All In The Family" in 1976 and was troubled by an argument between Archie Bunker and his "meathead" son-in-law. The debate, which focused on whether aerosol spray cans should be banned because of their detrimental effects to the ozone layer, bothered Spore because he could not decide who was right.

Ten years later, a friend approached Spore about getting capitalization to develop a leak detector for halogen-based gases, including chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are used as coolants in refrigeration and air-conditioning units. The idea was to help supermarket owners save money, since they were losing thousands of dollars per year as a result of gas leaks. Spore recalled the sitcom debate and decided that there also was an important environmental need for this product.

SenTech was incorporated in 1987 and has created a patented leak sensor for halogen-based gases. The company announced a joint agreement in April with Ameritech InfoServe Inc. of Chicago. Under the agreement, Ameritech will provide 24-hour monitoring and related services under contract to purchasers of leak-detection devices sold by SenTech or its authorized regional distributors.

Garfield Goes Green--Cartoonist Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, is operating a back-to-nature wastewater treatment system at his three-building compound just north of Muncie.

PAWS Inc., the art licensing studio for Garfield, generates about 1,200 gallons of wastewater per day from bathroom, shower and kitchen facilities, says Russ Vernon, plant operator and horticulturist for the company's solar aquatic system.

A standard wastewater treatment facility allows waste to settle from the water. It then treats the waste with bacteria, thus producing sludge, Vernon says. The solar aquatic system produces plants instead of sludge, he explains. The waste is suspended in the water to maximize contact with bacteria. Decomposed waste then is used as fertilizer for algae and a variety of larger plants, which in turn are eaten by animals such as snails, fish and toads. Excess plants are harvested and can be used for compost.

"It's basically what mother nature has used to clean water for many millions of years," Vernon says.

There are, however, some manmade additions. The PAWS system incorporates six 700-gallon fiberglass tanks, a 5,000-gallon artificial lagoon and an artificial marsh, allocated inside a greenhouse. Once the five-day cleaning process is completed, the water is discharged into a stream through a field tile.

The solar aquatic system has been on line since September 1990, when it became the first system of its kind to gain a standard operating discharge permit from a governmental agency anywhere in the world, says Vernon, who now is experimenting with the production of roses in the greenhouse.

Just Don't Let These Pallets Get Wet--Two-year-old Gate Pallet Systems of Crown Point, a subsidiary of Florida-based Gate Petroleum Co., produces a 48-inch by 40-inch pallet that weighs only 17 pounds but is as strong as a pallet that is three times as heavy. The secret is that it's made from corrugated cardboard.

"Our Payload Pallet is our registered trademark," says Art Wagner, vice president and general manager of Gate Pallet Systems. Because it's light, the Payload Pallet is easier to lift and less expensive to ship than a comparable wooden pallet. Because there's no wood, handlers don't have to worry about nails or splinters. And because it's made of corrugated cardboard, the pallet is easily recyclable.

"It's just regular cardboard. There's nothing exotic," Wagner says. Even so, the Payload Pallet's design is patented, since its geometry offers a tremendous strength-to-weight ratio. Although corrugated pallets have been around for years, they typically have not been able to hold more than 500 pounds, Wagner says. The Payload Pallets were independently tested and hold an average of more than 2,400 pounds.

Payload Pallets may be purchased in various sizes and quantities. Costs range between $2 and $30, Wagner says. As landfills become more restrictive and disposal costs increase, these cardboard pallets will continue to become more desirable. "Two years ago," he says, "the economics weren't as strong as they are now."
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Title Annotation:Environment
Author:Pockrass, Steven
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:The future of community banking.
Next Article:Playing by new rules: tougher environmental rules are in the offing, but a new state law will help owners of contaminated property.

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