By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - Picking up garbage just got a little greener.
Waste Pro, a solid waste company with locations across the state, opened the first of what it said will be "several" compressed natural gas fueling stations on the corner of Prosperity and Selvitz roads in the Fort Pierce Business Park subdivision.
"This is very good for the customers we serve, and it's very good for the environment," said Ron Pecora, senior vice president of Waste Pro.
Fort Pierce was chosen as the first location for the fueling facilities because of its close-by supply of natural gas from the Fort Pierce Utilities Authority.
The fueling station will be used to fuel its fleet of collection trucks, and cost $15 million to build. The company currently has 20 trucks that are using natural gas, with seven more on the way to the area.
In all, 70 collection trucks will use the new technology, costing about $300,000 each, about $25,000 more than regular collection trucks.
"They are Mack trucks and come with a compressed natural gas motor," Mr. Pecora said. "It makes the engines quieter, and now there are no emissions."
The fueling station was unanimously approved by the Fort Pierce City Commission in October 2011. Using an expedited review process, the company got the go-ahead to build the facility in 48 days after the application was submitted in August. It also combined four parcels into one parcel for the approximately 7-acre property. The refueling lot will hold up to 88 collection trucks.
"It is good to hear they are fast-tracking things," said Thomas Perona, Fort Pierce City Commissioner, during the public hearing that was held to discuss the facility.
"When we try to define what business friendly is and show we are out there trying to get things motivated and moving in the right direction, this is a big step."
Because a fleet fueling facility was not an initially listed use for the property Waste Pro wanted to use, the city granted it the ability to operate within a light- industrial zone.
"The payback is long-term," Mr. Pecora said. "Natural gas is cheaper than diesel fuel, so there is an advantage there, as well as the advantage to the environment."