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News / Northwest

Inslee says this Tri-Cities project will ‘lead the world’ in agriculture water treatment

By Eric Rosane, Tri-City Herald
Published: May 23, 2023, 7:25am

KENNEWICK — Standing on the future site of Pasco’s renewable natural gas plant, Gov. Jay Inslee said there was “no more exciting project” in Washington state than the city’s industrial water process reuse expansion.

The governor visited the Tri-Cities on Friday to celebrate the start of the 18-month project that aims to expand capacity of the facility that treats “process water” discharged by food processors that drive Pasco’s economy, such as Reser’s Fine Foods and Twin City Foods.

It will also capture and repurpose pollutants that escape from that process, such as methane and nitrogen, turning them into renewable natural gas and fertilizer.

Inslee said the project was “taking something that was a problem and turning it into a solution.”

“This is something I love as a product because this treatment of agricultural industrial wastewater can lead the world in how we handle water, and turn water from a wasted product into a useful product,” he said. “We know we need more clean energy and this is producing clean energy with clean methane.”

In 1995, Pasco took a big investment risk by building what was at the time a state-of-the-art process water reuse facility at 957 E. Foster Wells Road.

The project aimed to attract food processors to Pasco, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the nation.

Today, the process facility treats more than a billion gallons of water annually, and the businesses that use the facility employ 1,200 to 1,500 and support countless more jobs.

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The expansion — which will expand the capacity up to two billions of gallons annually — is decades in the making. It will add 400 jobs and allow Darigold to open their $650 million dairy plant in North Pasco.

The new facility will also remove nitrogen from the wastewater treatment process through rotating algae belts and carbon from the air. Nitrogen-rich fertilizer will then be sold to local farmers.

“The amount of carbon that is captured in one year from the system we’ll be building is equivalent to the amount of carbon captured by 8,000 acres of forest land. It’s a huge amount,” said Steve Worley, Pasco’s public works director.

State Sen. Matt Boehnke, R-Kennewick, said funding for this project was a bipartisan effort that will support economic development, reduce the impact to local property taxes, do good for agriculture and the environment, and will help local schools and clean energy research efforts.

“When you talk to people like Darigold, they’re putting a commitment into this state for a lot of money and for a lot of years to develop their product and be a good service for us. And we’re a key part of that,” he said.

Lawmakers from the 8th, 9th and 15th legislative districts helped the project come to fruition, Boehnke said.

The $180 million project will be built out over four phases. This phase is being paid for with a $43 million Department of Ecology loan, $5 million in appropriations from the Legislature through the Climate Commitment Act’s cap-and-investment auctions, $5 million from the Washington Community Economic Revitalization Board, $99 million from processor investments and bonds, and $12 million in city bonds.

Inslee said investing in projects like Pasco’s process water reuse facility will be essential to decarbonizing Washington’s economy and moving toward a cleaner future.

“I know when you see the pipe and the turbines, they don’t immediately scream ‘beauty’ to you,” Inslee said. “But this kind of project means I get to look up at Mount Rainier and see glaciers that will still exist when my kids and grandkids are around.”

“It means we’re going to have oysters in Puget Sound so that it’s not acidified. It means we’re going to have trees in our forests that have not burned down. There is a beauty here in the design and functioning of this project,” he said.