Heather Kerrigan is a GOVERNING contributor. She pens the monthly Public Workforce column and contributes to the print magazine.E-mail: email@example.com
St. Lucie County, Florida, will be making the most of its trash. Geoplasma, an Atlanta-based waste processing company, is set to invest $425 million to build a plant that will vaporize garbage using temperatures hotter than the sun. As a result of the process, which is a cleaner alternative to the traditional method of burning, trash will be turned into gas, which will run the plant and be sold to the local power grid; steam will be sold to the nearby Tropicana plant; and a rock-like material that can be melted will be used for road construction. Once built, the plant will vaporize 3,000 tons of garbage each day, and officials estimate that trash from the past three decades could be puffed away in only 18 years.
Finding wetland violators--those who are draining or dredging on protected wetlands--has long been an on-the-ground job. In an effort to catch more violators, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has taken to the sky with an aerial force of single-engine planes and helicopters. When a suspected wetland violation is seen from the air, investigators land, take pictures and mark the exact location on a GPS unit. If the violator does not have a permit for the wetland changes, the property owner receives a cease-work order. The owner may also be given an order to restore the property at his own expense.
Maryland's new $30 "flush tax" was imposed on homeowners as a means to pay for upgrading sewage plants. The idea was that improved plants would reduce the amount of nitrogen dumped into the Chesapeake Bay by 7.5 million pounds per year. But environmentalists worry that the flush tax is counterproductive. The plants are allowed to use the funding to expand capacity, and in some communities, the expansion is spurring housing development on environmentally sensitive areas-- creating runoff from blacktop, as well as traffic and sprawl that endanger waterfront areas.