Looking at the 12.3.13 Digester Presentation

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12.3.13 Whitewater WI Common Council Digester Importation Discussion from John Adams on Vimeo.

I promised last week a look at the December 3, 2013 digester presentation, from Whitewater’s Wastewater Superintendent Tim Reel, and City Manager Cameron Clapper.

In that presentation (not so long ago, only about a year-and a-half) and in remarks thereafter, it’s been clear that a significant component of a wastewater upgrade project would be the use of a local digester to import waste into Whitewater from other cities that don’t want it.

And yet, even as late as March 2015, City Manager Clapper contended that work on the digester was simply about upgrading existing facilities (emphasis added):

Wastewater Treatment Facility Upgrade Clarification

….The truth is that the wastewater treatment facility already has two anaerobic digesters on site. The existing digesters were installed when the plant was built in the early 1980s. These digesters have been fully functional and in use for 30 years. What is under consideration as part of the project is the installation of additional equipment within the digesters that would increase operational efficiency within the digesters….

There’s no mention of importation at all.

Consider, however, how Whitewater officials have, in fact, sometimes (but not so much recently, or as widely) described use of digesters for importing waste from other cities that don’t want it.

From the video embedded above, and the relevant Council packet portion below, one quickly sees that Messrs. Clapper and Reel have been consistent boosters for waste importation, far beyond that naturally generated in Whitewater, from other places looking for Whitewater to manage their filth.

(The time stamps that I cite are from the embedded video above. The original video of the full council meeting is online at; the full Council packet may be found at

Presentation, Reel @ 03:16:

This project would be separate….This would be a standalone project.

Presentation, Reel @ 04:56:

After that [during a 11.5.13 meeting] we actually met with a contractor, a liquid waste hauler, contractor, met with that same group, to kinda gauge interest and also volumes that might potentially be available for a project like this.

Presentation, Reel @ 05:23:

So, what does waste energy look like for the City of Whitewater? It would be, we would be, essentially seeking, some of the basic, we would be seeking additional waste streams.

Presentation, Reel @ 14:29:

Success will hinge on availability and diversity of outside waste….City will be responsible to obtain waste streams and secure long term agreements.

Presentation, Clapper @ 22:42:

There are other communities that have digesters that do some kind of mixture but nobody that’s taking purely industrial-strength waste like we’re looking into…very few.

Packet, Slide 7:

This is a fundamental shift in our perception of Wastewater Facilities.

On this, one can agree – It would be a fundamental shift, as small-town Whitewater would become a net waste importer.

Now, I’ve been asked if I’m concerned about the pace of municipal efforts on this project (and the sales-like presentations Whitewater officials are making to hand-picked groups).

The broadest answer is that the quality of this project does not rest in the selling of it, although these presentations represent an additional if lesser indication of the way Messrs. Clapper and Reel feel the need to speak to audiences selectively about it.

The questions about this proposal that are economic, fiscal, environmental, health-related, and that concern preferential dealing will only grow greater.

So, a rush to approve changes very little for advocates this plan; accountability would likely prove a persistent, years-long question for them.

A sound inquiry should not be rushed. Even from an early stage, and throughout, this plan has been about more than a local-use upgrade.

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Original Council Common Presentation, 12.3.13
Full Council Video


Next Monday: Parsing a Presentation.