Leaders promise new GR biodigester won’t stink

City leaders break ground at the site of a biodigester facility on Dec. 14, 2017 in Grand Rapids, Mich.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — City officials broke ground Thursday on a new biodigester system that they said will equip Grand Rapids to handle the expanding amount of waste that comes with a growing city.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and City Commissioners Joe Jones and Ruth Kelly were among the dignitaries gathered for the ceremony Thursday afternoon.

The plans are expected to become reality next year.

A rendering of a planned biodigester in Grand Rapids.

The $38 million project will be built near the city’s wastewater treatment plant along Market Avenue near I-196. The biodigester’s process creates energy that the city says it will use for electricity.

The city has partnered with Founders Brewing Company and a pipeline will be built to route waste from the beer-making process directly to the facility.

Without an improved plan to deal with waste, Founders leaders said they would have been forced to expand elsewhere.

“This is actually pretty critical for our organization,” Brad Stevenson, chief production officer at Founders Brewing said. “Having a solution right here that let us keep growing right in downtown Grand Rapids was critical.”

Bliss said the city had to do something when it comes to dealing with the waste as the area continues to grow.

“At some point you do have to look at capacity of your current facility. We’re kind of at this crossroads, we had to look at: Do we build additional capacity or do we figure out a different way to manage the waste,” Bliss said.

Mike Lunn, manager of the city’s environmental services division, said the number one question he gets pertains to a high-profile West Michigan biodigester in Lowell that became infamous for emitting a terrible smell. That biodigester was ultimately forced to shut down.

The one in Grand Rapids, Lunn promised, won’t stink.

“There’s thousands of them across the U.S. with no odors and ours won’t have any, either,” Lunn said. “It won’t happen in Grand Rapids.”