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Poop Power

Poo-turned-power project gets a bit messy

By: Sara Lima

Last Updated:


Matthew Mazzotta, a 33-year-old Cambridge, MA artist, is working on a project to convert dog waste into usable energy. The amount of usable energy generated by the project is modest, but that’s not the point. Matthew hopes to nudge people into thinking about their energy consumption, where it comes from, and the potential of what’s wasted. But execution, as Adam Ragusea reports for WBUR’s Radio Boston, "has proven more difficult — and more messy — than Matthew could have possibly imagined."

Following Matthew’s dog-park epiphany that inspired the project, he secured a grant from his alma mater, MIT, as well as support from the Cambridge Arts Council, to build the world’s first public methane digester run on dog poop at the Pacific Street dog park in Cambridgeport.

From Adam Ragusea’s report, some of the, ahem, crappier parts of the process:

I have a look inside the digester.

‘If it was light, you could see right in there and see some cow dung," Matthew says.

Wait, cows? How did cows get in the dog park?

Well, here’s the thing. You can’t just gradually accumulate dog feces in a can and get a digester going. You have to foster a very specific type of methanagenic bacteria. So Matthew figured he’d prime his digester with cow dung. And as his buddies Paul and Jegan tell me, that’s when things first got "out of hand."

They had to go down south to get some manure. And they had to mix the manure with water, but the water couldn’t have any chlorine in it, so they had to fetch buckets and buckets of water from the Charles River.

"Cow manure is getting all over us in ways that we’re not liking it," Matthew says. "At this point Jegan is so covered that I say, ‘You can’t get in this truck with your pants on.’ So as I’m driving, he’s in the back with his pants off."

At one point, five or six of the lids fly off the back off the truck. Right in the middle of Mass. Ave.
Paul jumps out and yells, ‘Hey man, don’t touch those! They’re covered in s-t!’"

Matthew’s buddies, Paul and Jegan, unload the tanks at the park.

"And Jegan’s in the back, with his hands in his lap, no pants on, and he goes, ‘Man, this night’s getting out of hand.’"

Luckily, all this effort, pant-less and otherwise, wasn’t for not. Though there was some trial and error, the flame in the lamp, powered by the dog-poop provided methane, is alight and getting brighter everyday. You can see the Park Spark Project at the Pacific Street dog park in Cambridgeport until Sept. 25.

Read the full article here.


Last Updated:

By: Sara Lima
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