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.

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8 years ago

Too weird how they’re gushing over this idea like it’s high tech when it’s just dumping crap on us.If it’s so great then why minimize it now?Key question: who benefits from dumping scum in Whitewater?does someone have a piece of hauling deal in mind?

Mr. Anonymous
8 years ago

I commented about this a few times anonymously. (Now I am Mr. Anonymous.) Yes, they want to get the approval. All they care about is a vote. If you keep with this, then you and city have completely different goals.You also have different approaches.I really doubt they understand your objective (maybe some do, but that’s it).There’s no way that your method makes any sense to them.(There was a story in the Gazette yesterday that confirms what you’re saying about them not being candid.It doesn’t matter to them if it is all about approval.) Your way is better anyway.

Dr. X
8 years ago

“Only crap cities import crap” will be the new town description.

8 years ago

That’s not true just when he talks.
Still getting paid even then.
Costs more when he starts building what he’s paid to talk about.

8 years ago

Like many residents, I have been watching this subject with interest since I believe it is another catastrophic failure in the making. Can you say “Tech Center”?

What’s really frustrating is that it seems impossible to drive a stake through this “waste digesting” project. At first it was an independent entity that was going to consume “waste” generated by the University dining halls and when that proposal hit a brick wall, the whole “waste digestion” idea was handed off to (or picked up by) the Whitewater utilities department.

What I would really like to know is what their definition of “waste” is? As my friend asked: “Is it ‘crap’ (which is bad enough) or are we talking corrosive, glow in the dark, birth defect creating, toxic, bury it in Yucca Mountain, hazmat unit on 24 hr. call waste?”

I assume it has to be more than just sewage, e.g., feces – don’t all communities have systems and plant to dispose of that type of waste? A definition of what composes the “waste” they propose to accommodate, i.e., “digest,” would help in determining the potential, if any, health hazards that may accompany this project.

8 years ago

Guess they won’t be saying it’s just the same as now only “better” Dumb to even pretend it is the same as now.

8 years ago

Trusting that they will only use the right ingredients is risky when no one will see what goes in Not enough that the plant manager says it is O.K.