DAPHNE — After nine years at the helm of Daphne Utilities, Rob McElroy is stepping down as general manager to take a position with Algae Systems, a company that’s found success with an environmentally friendly wastewater-treatment and biofuel-producing pilot project on the city’s bayfront…
McElroy sent his resignation letter to Daphne Utilities board members on Monday and said he’s available to work through the end of August. The utility has about 70 employees and serves over 10,000 customers in the city, providing water, sewer and natural gas.
“I’m just moving on to another path with another company,” McElroy said in a phone interview with AL.com. “I’ll be going to work for Algae Systems, which is a company that has invested more than $5 million into the local economy already and I really think I can help them accomplish something really significant in the alternative fuels markets.”
Board Chairman Bob Segalla said a special meeting will be called soon to choose an interim general manager, which will likely be Assistant Manager Danny Lyndall.
McElroy said he is proud of what the company has accomplished since he was hired in 2005.
“I can’t say anything bad about Daphne Utilities,” he said. “It’s been a great company. It’s full of great people and an extremely supportive board. It’s just that opportunities have arisen that only come along a few times in your life and I’ve got to take advantage of it.”
Segalla said McElroy was instrumental in turning the utility into a well-managed operation.
“Rob has done an outstanding job for the utility and we wish him every success because he’s a good manager,” Segalla said.
McElroy played a key part in working with Nevada-based Algae Systems and its leasing of a small strip of bayfront property behind Thomas Medical Center and the Publix shopping center. The City Council gave Daphne Utilities the green light to lease its property in November 2012. While the utilities is a separate entity from the city, the five-member board is appointed by the council.
Algae Systems’ process takes the city’s wastewater and uses it as a nutrient for controlled algae blooms that clean the water and in the process create biofuel. A floating dock, extending into Mobile Bay in front of the city’s Bayfront Park, holds effluent-filled plastic bags and the process is initiated by wave action and sunlight.
The proprietary process was first developed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California and licensed the technology to Algae Systems. According to reports, the company has already received patents for it process in Australia and India.
“They’re doing really cutting-edge technology of wastewater treatment using algae and then converting algae into bio crude oil from which any type of fuel can be derived — gasoline, diesel, jet fuel,” McElroy said. “It’s been very successful so far and it’s still in the ramping up phase. … They are securely backed by a number of investors from outside the country and it’s all private money.”
After stepping down from Daphne Utilities, McElroy said he will become vice president of operations and market development at Algae Systems.
“There’s a lot of markets within the utility industry that I think I am uniquely qualified to open their eyes to,” McElroy said. “There’s applications to their technology that I don’t think have been fully considered (as far as) their ramifications to this industry. And, obviously, the Third World application is always intriguing to me.
“If you can truly find a community that is struggling with poverty and you can show them a way that they can take what’s holding them down — sewage running through the streets, a lack of clean drinking water, a lack of low-cost fuels — and convert what is really a huge liability into their greatest asset, it could transform a society. And that’s really exciting if you think about it.”
McElroy said Algae Systems will likely remain in Daphne for at least three more years and evolve into more of a research facility.
“But the goal of the company is to broaden and build commercial sites across the country, if not across this hemisphere,” he said.
Photo caption: Daphne Utilities General Manager Rob McElroy notified the Daphne Utilities Board on Monday, Aug. 2, 2014, that he will be resigning his position and can serve through the end of the month. (Press-Register file photo)
View original article at: Daphne Utilities GM resigning to take position at Algae Systems