News from the NEWEA Annual Conference…
The energy was high and the sessions were full at the NEWEA Annual Conference in January in Boston. Here are highlights from a biosolids & NEBRA perspective...
First came the Young Professional Summit, on Sunday, January 27, attended by more than 100. Several legislators and government affairs people encouraged involvement in legislation and regulation. NEBRA’s Ned Beecher provided one of the two technical workshops, providing an overview of chemicals of emerging concern, their implications for biosolids, and the current topic of PFAS.
On Monday, the room was packed for the state regulatory panel - the first such event at the NEWEA Conference. This well-received session was instigated by the NEWEA Government Affairs Committee (Bob Fischer, Chair) and made possible by the generous participation by regulatory agency staff from every New England state. What are the big topics being addressed by pretty much all of them?
Aluminum - MA will be the first to adopt the new U. S. EPA final Al criteria for fresh water published in December 2018. Other states are looking at this too.
PFAS - NH, VT, and MA have been moving ahead proactively on this, and CT and ME have dealt with it some. RI “is late to the PFAS issue,” according to presenter Joseph Haberek (RI DEM), although they sampled some public drinking water supplies in 2017 and have begun addressing concerns around airports. Tracy Wood of NH DES noted that, even as they are developing drinking water maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for 5 PFAS, discussion has begun regarding considering surface water PFAS limits, which a 2018 law requires NH DES to start in January 2020.
Other current state actions address arsenic in drinking and groundwater (NH is proposing 5 ppb limit), CSOs (MA stakeholders have reduced CSOs significantly in recent years, to 2.2 million gallons; work is ongoing with 19 CSO permittees), MS4 stormwater work (MA has a new outreach campaign, Think Blue Massachusetts), and TMDLs (an especially critical issue around Lake Champlain in VT, where Conservation Law Foundation is appealing new wastewater discharge permit phosphorus limits).
Government affairs were front and center in many sessions and meetings. NACWA and WEF representatives highlighted success in getting new federal law on Integrated Planning under the Clean Water Act and important provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill, especially related to supporting clean water utility investments in watershed water quality protections involving non-point sources (e.g. more flexible collaborations with farms and other stakeholders on conservation practices and water quality protections).
The Residuals Session at the conference addressed sustainability in biosolids master planning, thermal hydrolysis, AD, and pyrolysis. John Ross of Brown and Caldwell did graduate work on the latter and noted that there is a full-scale, 5.5 dt/day biodryer (drying by “composting”) and pyrolysis operation in Silicon Valley, which is proving the concept perhaps better than any of the challenged operations of the past (MaxWest of Sanford FL and SlurryCarb of Realto CA). The key is whether net energy is possible or whether it consumers significant energy, as do other thermal processes; his research found some energy consumption is required, depending on how drying it done. But benefits can be in the destruction of many trace chemicals of concern. Eric Spargimino’s (CDM Smith) presentation of the expansive Trinity River Authority (Dallas, TX) thermal hydrolysis and anaerobic digestion (AD) project that is in construction shocked the New England audience with the fact that biogas from the new system will be flared, because natural gas is so cheap and abundant there in Texas. The “phase 3” $190 million project will still pay back in an estimated 11 years and produce improved biosolids for land application. Residuals and energy were also the focus of a Wednesday morning session featuring Greater Lawrence Sanitary District’s biogas energy work, Des Moines co-digestion, etc. Justin Motta (Stantec) discussed the pilot biodiesel facility happening at the New Haven CT WPCA - remarkable potential that provides an outlet for brown grease (FOG) and could generate up to 825,000 gallons of biodiesel that would sell for $1.25/gallon. Watch this one!
NEBRA’s Ned Beecher co-moderated the Chemicals of Emerging Concern (Microconstituents) session, which included PFAS, of course (3 presentations). There was an excellent overview by Dounia Elkhatib, a graduate student working with Dr. Vinka Oyanedel-Craver (Univ. of RI) on measuring microplastics in wastewater and drinking water.