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Plant turns infested ash trees into electrical power
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- A Michigan power plant is using the remains of trees lost to a parasitic insect to produce energy.

The burning of wood chips from dead ash trees at the Genesee Power Station in Genesee Township provides an alternative to traditional landfills and composting, state officials said.

"We think that's a really neat use for that wood," Kendra Anderson, regional supervisor for the Michigan Department of Agriculture, told the Detroit Free Press.

The prospect of being able to recycle ash wood into electricity is one good thing to emerge from the problems created by the emerald ash borer. The insect, which apparently came to Michigan several years ago in wood packing material from Asia, is devastating the Detroit area's ash trees.

Six counties are under a state quarantine preventing ash trees or logs from being moved from the area with the hopes of halting the borer's spread. But ash wood can be moved out of the quarantine if it is first chipped into 1-inch pieces, a process experts say kills the insect.

A company called Mid-Michigan Recycling is transporting some of the chipped wood to the Genesee County facility, which has volunteered to accept ash chips from the state, said E.P. Barrett Jr., manager of waste wood recovery for the company.

The Genesee Power Station is one of five wood-burning power plants in Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the one nearest to the quarantined area.

The state hopes to get federal funding for a larger-scale, pilot chipping and disposal operation by early next year, said Ken Rauscher, director of the state Agriculture Department's pesticide and plant pest management division.

Once a federal quarantine is issued -- in effect, elevating the borer infestation to a national problem -- the state will enter into a formal agreement with the power station to burn some ash wood chips, Rauscher said.

Those that wind up at Genesee Power will be used to produce electricity. Other ash chips may be burned in the Detroit incinerator or go to compost or landfill operations, he said.

Agriculture Department representatives met with the Genesee County commissioners last week to answer concerns about the advisability of moving dead, infested ash wood into a non-quarantined area. Another meeting for community residents is possible, a board spokesman said.

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