The large digesters, or vessels of anaerobic bacteria, at Muscatine's Water Resource Recovery Facility may soon convert organic food waste into biogas.

MUSCATINE — A contract for construction of a food waste receiving facility has been approved by the Muscatine City Council, moving the city one step closer to biogas production. 

During its meeting Thursday, the Council approved the contract and bond, awarded last month, to Leander Construction of Canton, Illinois, for $1,728,000.

The company will build the High Strength Waste Receiving Station at the former Recycling Center. The facility will take in food waste — both solid and liquid — from restaurants, grocery stores and food producers and convert the material to biogas through anaerobic digestion, similar to the human digestive system. 

The station, scheduled to be "substantially complete" by the end of January, is part of the broader project called Muscatine Area Resource Recovery for Vehicles and Energy (MARRVE). Developed by Water and Resource Recovery Facility Director Jon Koch, the project would produce biogas to be used and sold, and would address problems of food waste, but it had been in planning stages for years because of cost. 

Koch said the project should take 5-6 months to complete, and leeway was given when writing the bid proposal. 

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"Everybody I've talked to wants it done next month," he said, referencing area businesses and food manufacturers looking to get rid of food waste.

In city documents, Koch announced he had been working with Conservation Design Forum, an ecological design firm, to develop a test pilot — at no cost to the city — to determine how best to clean, transport and sell the biogas.

"They will conduct research at our facility to identify uses for the biogas and biosolids, then conduct a two-day visioning and planning workshop for our staff and stakeholders like Alliant Energy," the memo read.

The firm secured an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to complete the pilot, and the council approved a letter of support for the grant, which is offered through the Iowa Energy Office of the Iowa Economic Development Authority. 

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