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Turlock lauded for eco-friendly ways

POSTED July 24, 2009 10:42 p.m.
It’s not easy being green, but Turlock excels at it, according to the non-profit National Resources Defense Council.
Earlier this month the NRDC announced that Turlock is the 17th best small city in the country in the fields of environmental sustainability and livability, according to research conducted for its annual Smarter Cities Study.
The 2008 Smarter Cities Study is “intended as a tool for identifying, for the purpose of spotlighting, those cities that are taking the lead in addressing the major environmental challenges of our time, from global warming to clean air and water,” according to the NRDC Web site.
The Smarter Cities Study began in 2005 as an independent investigation of environmental sustainability and livability conducted by the Green Guide, which is now a part of National Geographic. This year’s study is the first to include the small cities category.
Every small city in America — more than 400 with populations between 50,000 and 99,999 — were ranked in areas such as air quality, green building, and standard of living by the NRDC for the Smarter Cities Study.
In addition to its 17th place ranking, Turlock claimed seventh overall in the field of recycling, thanks to the efforts of Turlock Scavenger, and ninth overall in energy production and conservation due to the Turlock Irrigation District’s work.
“TID has a proven history of environmental stewardship by securing renewable energy through innovative strategies and will continue to seek additional, appropriate ways to keep the communities it serves green,” said TID Public Information Division Manager Michelle Reimers.
The NRDC highlighted TID’s status as one of just four publicly owned irrigation districts in the state to also provide electricity to residents.
The renewable nature of much of TID’s energy generation — ranging from the massive Tuolumne Wind Project in Klickitat County, Wash., to California’s largest fuel cell, installed to convert methane gas from Turlock’s Regional Water Quality Control Facility into electricity — was a key component of the city’s success in the Smarter Cities Study.
TID was also lauded as the first utility in the state to develop small hydropower plants in the 1970s.
“In addition to renewable energy, TID continues to help customers achieve energy savings through the implementation and promotion of a variety of programs that provide rebate opportunities for all rate classes to encourage customers to conserve energy,” Reimers said.
Turlock Scavenger did their own part to send Turlock to the top of the rankings, thanks to their extensive recycling program, which they operate through an agreement with the City of Turlock.
Scavenger makes use of three colored trash bins for consumers to sort their own waste for recycling purposes.
All trash collected from blue cans — those intended for all recyclable goods — is taken to Stockton where it is sorted and recycled. Green can contents — primarily yard waste — is taken to Grover Landscaping’s compost operation where it is repurposed.
Even the black can waste — the complete trash — is kept away from the county’s Fink Road Landfill as much as possible. Since 1989, Scavenger has worked with the Stanislaus Resource Recovery Center, a City of Modesto and Stanislaus County joint effort, to burn trash and generate enough energy to power 18,000 homes.
According to Turlock Scavenger Assistant Manager Art Machado, between 10 and 12 truckloads of Turlock’s waste are diverted from the landfill to the recovery center each day. Only unburnable trash such as concrete, metal, and sheetrock end up in the landfill.
“We’ve been trying to work our operation into where we can recycle as much as we can and divert it away from the landfill where it would be buried,” Machado said.
Despite helping the city to become the seventh best recycling small city in the nation, Turlock Scavenger still sees a few areas for improvement.
Scavenger does not currently provide a comprehensive recycling solution for commercial customers or apartment complexes, due to difficulties of installing three separate can types at such locations. While some recyclable materials are sorted out, much of the trash ends up contaminated with food waste and becomes unusable.
However, going forward, Turlock Scavenger sees its partnership with the City of Turlock improving, making the city a greener place for all.
“We have a really close working relationship with the City of Turlock and they’re always about going above and beyond the minimum requirements,” Machado said.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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