Executives say $200 million facility would need 1,000 staff

Executives say $200 million facility would need 1,000 staff

September 30th, 2011 by Ansley Haman in Business Around the Region

Bill Hullander

A business group came to Hamilton County on Thursday on a quest for three things - sewer sludge, trash, and land for a facility to turn it all into diesel fuel.

Several county commissioners gathered in their office after the morning agenda session as county Trustee Bill Hullander introduced them to the representatives of Earth, Wind & Fire Technologies LLC.

Chairman and CEO N. Dennis Wherrell told commissioners he plans to invest more than $200 million of private money in a diesel production business that would produce an estimated 1,000 jobs.

Hullander said the company leaders were making an impromptu visit to the county. He said he knew about the project because his neighbor, Sam Owens, is a consultant for the company.

"We definitely, definitely are not trying to go ahead of the city of Chattanooga," Hullander said of the project, which would require contracts with the city for sewer byproducts and access to landfills.

Wherrell told commissioners he plans to meet with city officials to discuss possibly contracting with them for sewer sludge and trash, which he calls "stock."

Commissioner Mitch McClure said, "I like how you use the word 'stock' for garbage."

Wherrell said employee salaries would be from $35,000-$75,000 a year. When asked about environmental effects of the operation, Wherrell said the plant would produce zero emissions.

The company needs about 40-60 acres with rail access, preferably near water, Wherrell said. It would build a facility where carbon pellets created in the landfill can be turned into military-grade diesel through a microwave process.

Operations manager Terry Keeney said a ton of trash should be able to produce about 80 gallons of diesel fuel.

"They were looking at the old ethanol plant beside the freeway in Marion County," Hullander said. "For whatever reason, that's not going to work for them."