Welcome to the Resource Recovery Plant!
110 Center Avenue, Ames, Iowa 50010 515-239-5137
History of the System
Early in 1971, Ames, Iowa caught the attention of an entire nation when it decided to build the first municipally-operated waste-to-energy facility. The city was joined in this pioneering project by Iowa State University, the National Disease Labs, the Iowa Department of Transportation, and 12 smaller communities in Story County.
The 70's brought a growing awareness of conservation and the environment. Key phrases and concepts were "Earth Day", "oil embargoes", "aluminum can redemption", and "newspaper recycling". Knowing its landfill would reach capacity in five years, Ames took this ecological spirit and focused it on advances in refuse handling occurring around the country: Madison, Wisconsin was grinding refuse in a shredder to reduce what was landfilled; in St. Louis, Missouri, city officials were working with the Environmental Protection Agency on a pilot plant to generate electricity from the combustible portion of garbage.
A task force was formed, and after inspecting the Ames utility system, it was concluded that the present system (with some modifications) would be able to use garbage as a supplemental fuel source. The idea was presented to the City Council in late 1971.
The City Council endorsed the task force's proposal to establish the nation's first full-scale program of resource recovery and electrical generation from Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF). A consulting firm was hired to consider the possibilities for resource recovery on a city-wide level. Encouraged by their findings, the Council voted to go ahead with the project.
Construction began in April 1974 at the height of the recession. Inflation boosted the cost of the project from an estimated $3.2 million to more than $5.5 million just two years later. No federal money was available, so general obligation bonds were sold under a special interest rate granted to the City of Ames by the Iowa legislature. The higher interest rate made the bonds more attractive to buyers.
To accumulate enough refuse to make the operation worthwhile, Ames entered into contracts with smaller Story County communities: Cambridge, Colo, Gilbert, Huxley, Maxwell, McCallsburg, Nevada, Roland, Slater, Story City, and Zearing; also included was the unincorporated areas of Story County. Along with the member communities, the National Animal Disease Labs, Iowa State University, and the Iowa Department of Transportation contribute to the waste processed by the Ames system.
The plant opened for business on August 30, 1975, with a seven-person crew working with private haulers to process garbage from the county's more than 70,000 people. The first director of the new facility was Arnold O. Chantland; the plant was eventually named in his honor.