In Brief / en bref....

Biosolids Use Farm Is Recognized Environmental Steward...  The Whitcomb Farm is a part of the community fabric and landscape in the center of Essex Junction, VT.  The current farmer, “Lorenzo Whitcomb is the fifth generation of the family to care for the land that was first tilled in 1867,” according to a local news story.  The family were recognized as dairy farmers of the year in 2001.  And, for many years, they have incorporated biosolids from the nearby Essex Junction WWTF into their soil management.  In the last few years, the Whitcomb farm has gone even further in its stewardship of the land, conserving 271 acres in 2014 in association with the Vermont Land Trust and, in 2017, an additional 139 acres.  The Essex Junction WRRF has worked with the Whitcombs for decades.  This is a great local recycling and land stewardship symbiosis.

Michael Hodge of Casella Organics (NEBRA Member) emphasized the ever-important topic of odor management in his presentation to the NEWEA Annual Conference in January.  "All odors are nuisances to neighbors," he said. "The bar is higher than it was 10 years ago and will be higher 10 years from now."  When was the last time you reviewed your odor management protocols?  He mentioned myriad odor mitigation systems they employ: landfills – perimeter misting, cleaning and spraying empty trailers, masking agents work on trucks (but they use neutralizing agents more), minimizing use of dewatered sludge storage silos to minimize age of sludge, eliminating lime dosing when possible, odor control agent incorporated during conveyance to trailer, applying topical odor on trailers/trucks, continuing evaluating other compounds/options, and getting daily feedback from management & disposal facilities. 

The new paradigm is this: even solids going to landfill need odor control.  Society’s tolerance is low and diminishing.  And there is no magic bullet.

Digestion creates lower odor solids. Should you consider installing AD?  When did you last review your odor mitigation efforts?.

Co-Digestion & CHP Life Cycle Analysis....  Late last year, U. S. EPA approved release of significant new technical study of co-digestion and combined heat and power (CHP) at a small water resource recovery facility (WRRF) in Bath, NY.  EPA staff, working with a contractor, conducted a “Life Cycle Assessment and Cost Analysis of Water and Wastewater Treatment Options for Sustainabililty.”  The analyses included comparisons of current operations with proposed upgrades at this small (~1 MGD design) New York facility.  Dr. Xin (Cissy) Ma (U. S. EPA) facilitated the project and presented the details at the Northeast Residuals & Biosolids Conference last October (slides here).  The report is available here.

Advancing composting and soil health in Atlantic Canada…. Lise LeBlanc, lead advisor for LP Consulting (and a NEBRA Board Member) reports that “last summer, we conducted a compost Phase 1 project where we evaluated the compost test results from various Municipal facilities (9). We put on workshops across Nova Scotia for farmers and composters so that both industries can understand the challenges and opportunities in working together on compost projects. Phase 1 was so successful that we just received approval for Phase 2. For the next 5 years we will be applying compost on fields and evaluating various parameters such as improvement in soil health (measuring soil tilth, soil microbial populations, soil testing), crop yield, and quality and economics. Stay tuned for field tours in year 2!  We are also waiting to hear if there will be a similar project approved in NB and PEI.”  See this interview of what was found in Phase 1

Advocating for recognition of wastewater and biosolids in Vermont….  Over the past few years, GMWEA and several water resource recovery facility (WRRF) leaders have stepped up advocacy in Montpelier.  As noted in this update, such efforts helped push the House Fish, Wildlife & Water Resources Committee to set aside a misdirected bill that would have banned land application of biosolids.  GMWEA’s main focus – and victory – has been in ensuring that VT DEC, legislators, and others recognize the important role that WRRFs play in controlling phosphorus (P) discharges to Lake Champlain and other water bodies – which is a key part of the state’s all-in efforts on P under Act 64, which is being implemented with tens of millions of dollars of investment.  As noted in a recent VT League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) newsletter, “VLCT Executive Director Maura Carroll told attendees ‘The work you all do in local government is incredible! What I’m trying to say is own it. You do an immense amount of work. The State relies on you to get it done and they’re always saying they couldn’t possibly do what they downshift to you.’”  Kudos to the GMWEA and its Government Affairs Committee (Chair Bob Fischer, South Burlington, who also chairs NEWEA’s Government Affairs Committee) for the impact they are having!

And, in case you missed it:  Last summer, the VT Legislature passed this: "Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives - That the General Assembly thanks the employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their role in safeguarding our State’s and nation’s environmental quality, and be it further resolved: that the Secretary of State be directed to send a copy of this resolution to" Administrator Scott Pruitt and EPA Region 1.

Nutrient Management: Research Insights for Decision Makers is a new publication of the Canadian Water Network. It emphasizes a “5R” approach to phosphorus (P) management, in which biosolids plays a role:

  • Re-align phosphorus inputs (e.g., match phosphorus application to crop requirements)
  • Reduce phosphorus losses (e.g., reduce losses from rural septic systems)  
  • Recycle phosphorus (e.g., apply manure or biosolids instead of fertilizers)
  • Recover phosphorus in wastes (e.g., consider phosphorus recovery technologies) 
  • Redefine phosphorus in food systems (e.g., reduce food waste and phosphorus in food additives/preservatives)

The SSI Shake-out seems to be complete.... The Brockton, MA and West Haven, CT sewage sludge incinerators (SSIs) shut down in the past year.  But Dan Gorka of Veolia (NEBRA Member) reports that continuing SSI operations throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island are handling the demand; the market has settled since the challenges of 2016, although prices for solids disposal are up.

Outreach & education…. Follow these leaders! 

  • Fred McNeil of the Manchester, NH WRRF noted during a presentation in January at the NEWEA Annual Conference that “Fred McNeil “every public high school in Manchester comes to the plant for a tour and a cookout.”  What is a more important part of a high school education?  McNeill and the NHWPCA led efforts to have NH Public Television look at water infrastructure; see video.
  • The Concord, NH WRRF (NEBRA member), led by Dan Driscoll, continue to excel in outreach.... NH Chronicle, a news magazine on WMUR TV visited the treatment plant in early January.  Watch it....
  • Lystek, NY:  https://www.recordernews.com/news/local-news/113758
  • RMI Partners with NMH (from RMI Nov. 2017 newsletter)   In fall 2017, Resource Management Inc. (RMI) partnered with the Northfield Mt. Hermon School (NMH) located in Gill, MA to clean out their sewage lagoons.  Because this project to empty the lagoons only happens every 15 years, some of the faculty on campus decided to use the opportunity as a “teachable moment.”  Several classes toured the lagoon and learned how the system works and the importance of investing in infrastructure to clean our wastewater and protect the Connecticut River watershed.  Many of the students did not realize that their daily showers and flushes are piped down the hill from campus and are treated through a biological lagoon system to convert their waste into microbes and a final fertilizer product called biosolids.  Recycling the biosolids is part of a long-term commitment to sustainable practices at NMH.  This project was particularly fun for RMI President Shelagh Connelly, as she graduated from NMH in 1982 and currently has a daughter who is graduating this spring.  “It was nice to be able to work for the School that was pivotal in getting me on the environmental track so long ago.”

NERC Publishes "Funding Opportunities For Organics & Compost"
According to Athena Lee Bradley, Projects Manager and organics specialist for NERC, this document provides state-by-state information for the 11-states in the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) region – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont – regarding potential sources of grant or loan funding for organics-related businesses that are available from state and federal agencies.

The Sustainable P Alliance is helping facilitate improved understanding of phosphorus (P) use and dynamics, capture and recycling.  From their February update:

  • "WEF's WaterSTARRE initiative: We are participants in this program from the Water Environment Federation that aims to set goals for resource recovery in the water sector, in part through the development of metrics for nutrient recovery.
  • "Joint IAT Workgroup: The Alliance participates in this group that is helping to define research priorities for what will be known as The Water Research Foundation, a merger of WE&RF and WRF. 
  • "TSC's Food, Beverage, and Agriculture Working Group: We have been providing editorial input on a phosphorus-related key performance indicator used within The Sustainability Consortium's sustainability metrics for retail supply chains (including those of Walmart and Amazon)."