The Not-So-Technical-After-All Memo

WGTB logo PNG 112x89 Post 42 in a series. When Green Turns Brown is an examination of a small town’s digester-energy project, in which Whitewater, Wisconsin would import other cities’ waste, claiming that the result would be both profitable and green.

The Donohue firm describes its memoranda about a wastewater upgrade as technical memoranda. Waste importation is described in Technical Memorandum 4. There are, for Donohue and the municipal administration advancing that firm’s work, two benefits of the description: the use of the word technical gives their memoranda a patina of something scientific, detailed, and precise, while simultaneously allowing the firm to claim that their work is only one portion of a broader consideration (that is, only about the engineering aspects of the project).

Consider, though, how lightly & hesitantly the Donohue firm, in its technical memorandum, describes supposedly profiting from importing other cities’ unwanted waste into Whitewater:

However, smaller scale projects in which the capital costs can be matched with the expected energy savings may yet be feasible. These projects could be staged such that large capital expenses are not made without a high level of confidence in their potential for energy production. The first stage would be to install hauled waste receiving station proposed previously to generate additional biogas along the previously proposed dual fuel boilers to make us of the gas. This would have a combined construction cost of approximately $473,000. This project would save approximately $50,000 a year in natural gas and should reach $30,000 a year in tipping fees. With an estimated total revenue of $80,000 the project has simple payback period of approximately 6 years.

Depending on additional gas production from the hauled in waste the second phase could add electricity production the form of engine generators to utilize any gas not being consumed by the dual fuel boilers.

Additional engine generators could be added in a later stage should the receiving program continue to be successful.

We have ‘may yet be feasible,’ ‘could be staged,’ ‘depending on additional gas production,’ ‘should the receiving program continue to be successful.’

That’s it for a published analysis of supposed gas production from this engineering firm. Projections of how much money might be made, but no detailed analysis how that money will be made: estimates, without foundations.

(Again, tellingly, Donohue is clear that these projections of waste importation are merely ‘staged’ ones toward a ‘second phase,’ and thereafter a ‘later stage.’)

Either Donohue’s careful, vague description of a fundamental change for Whitewater (significant, constant importation of other cities’ unwanted filth) is a calculated attempt to downplay an importation program, or Messrs. Clapper and Reel truly think that municipal resources are legitimately used for Wastewater Superintendent Reel’s on-public-time science experiments, without any idea where this leads.

Next week: Looking at shifting descriptions of the project, including the latest, completely absurd one.