MARTINSBURG — Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., described the Eastern Panhandle as forward thinkers Tuesday afternoon after touring the Entsorga renewable energy facility.
Emily Dyson, director of science research and development for BioHiTech and project manager for Entsorga, lead Tuesday's tour of the facility, which is the first renewable energy facility of its kind in the United States.
"We always like to be first," Capito said of this technology in West Virginia. "If we are first in the technology to keep our planet cleaner and more environmentally pleasing, that is great because the (Eastern) Panhandle, I think, is always forward looking in terms of the environment. That is why it is great to have the technology right here."
Berkeley County SWA conducted an assessment and wanted to bring a resource recovery facility or recycling, something that was going to help with waste management.
Clint Hogbin, chairman of the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority, told Capito that the SWA was searching for an alternative to landfills for waste management due to the landfills not being conducive for the growth of the area.
The SWA leases the land to Entsorga, which accepted its first load of waste on March 29. The waste is then turned into SRFs, which is an engineer specified fuel, and sent to Argos. This fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by offsetting coal by 30%, according to Dyson.
Capito said as a member of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Entsorga was an important stop on her visit.
"Being a part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, waste disposal and recycling is obviously in the public's mind," Capito said. "Innovation and technology, they are producing a product from the waste here in Berkeley County and have worked really well with the Solid Waste Authority who embraced the technology — a lot of times it is hard to get people to change — and they have a ready source who needs the fuel."
Dyson added that West Virginia has a bad reputation of throwing trash on the ground or burning, and for a long time, West Virginia took everyone else’s waste, but now West Virginia is the first to take the step to use its waste as a commodity.
"Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority has done an amazing job building a program," Dyson said.
Capito was also glad to see that Entsorga has added 17 new jobs to the area. According to Dyson, all the employees are West Virginia residents, and they also employ a few veterans and a few former incarcerated individuals who said no one was giving them a chance.
Dyson said she was thankful for Capito's visit the facility.
"That is outstanding to have a senator that is interested in her state and our technology," she said. "I think she was duly impressed, and I was encouraged to see what her imagination was before she got here versus what she saw."
By the end of the year, Entsorga will start collecting waste from the public. A future free day will be announced so people can try the new service.
"They can only drop off residential waste," Dyson said. "We are not taking appliances, we are not taking electronics, no heavy metal like car parts. It is strictly the things you would put in a trash bag. We don't take any construction or demolition waste."
Other stops by Capito Tuesday included the ribbon cutting of the Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications, the new Beer Pub at the Bavarian Inn and Blue Ridge Community and Technical College.