The city of Winnipeg is working with Manitoba Hydro to see what can be done about the methane gas generated by rotting garbage at the Brady Road landfill.

Unlike many other landfills in Canada, Winnipeg's Brady Road landfill – the largest dump in Canada – has no process for controlling or capturing the methane produced by rotting refuse. A study by the University of Manitoba says the landfill is the single largest producer of methane gas in the province.

"We know that methane is a very harmful greenhouse gas," says Dan McInnis, city manager in charge at the landfill. "By kind of collecting and doing something with it will have a great environmental benefit."

Several other large Canadian municipalities, including most in western Canada, have already taken steps to reduce methane emissions. Some burn off the methane, which reduces the harmful effects significantly. Others use the gas to generate power.

City could sell 'green' credits

Methane is a major contributor to the greenhouse gases believed to cause climate change. Since the Kyoto Protocol went into effect, there's new currency in trash. If the methane is captured – even if it's just burned away – there could be a payoff.

"Presumably the developers of that project would, in some fashion, get credit for the emission reduction," says Bill Hamlin with Manitoba Hydro.

Such credits could be sold, and the most likely buyers would be large industrial operations facing emissions constraints under Kyoto. Businesses must reduce their own emissions or buy credits for emission reductions from other sources, says Hamlin, such as the city or Manitoba Hydro.

"It would become an income source for a project like the Brady Road landfill," says Hamlin. "It's one of the potential income streams that could enable the development."

Manitoba Hydro and the City of Winnipeg recently installed test wells at Brady Road, and now they will determine how much gas is being generated.

McInnis says a report to city council later this year will recommend whether the gas should be burned off, turned into power, or left as it is, to dissipate into the atmosphere.

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