Dealing With Particularly Challenging "Wastes"
It has not been easy for Service Pumping and Drain and its Northeast Environmental Processing wastewater treatment facility in Lawrence, MA. They are currently in the business of dealing with some of the most challenging - and odorous - liquid wastes, including brown grease. Started in 1927, Service Pumping and Drain was bought by current President Richard Mottolo in 1972. Among its customers are more than 400 restaurants in the greater Boston area. The grease from these clients and other liquid wastes - 25,000 gallons a day - are processed at the wastewater facility, which separates fats, oils, and grease and prepares dewatered solids that can be composted, anaerobically digested, or incinerated.
Because brown grease and similar liquid wastes are challenging to handle and can generate significant odors, Northeast Environmental has had its run-ins with neighbors and Massachusetts DEP. And the regulatory hurdles have been great - including an enforcement action in 2007 that eventually led to addressing confusion about how grease trap wastes should be regulated.
But this company continues, finding cost-effective solutions for wastes that mostly elude attention to the detriment of sewers and municipal wastewater treatment facilities. Fats, oils, and grease (FOG) are the culprit for most sewer pipe blockages and sewer overflows. Throughout the country, states and municipalities are beginning to be more proactive in diverting FOG from sewers. Connecticut has been particularly agressive in regulating grease traps and FOG. Massachusetts is not as far along. Part of the challenge is having facilities operating that can take in and properly manage these wastes. What Northeast Environmental is doing is critical infrastructure for addressing the issue of FOG. And the company is not only creating a disposal option, it is focused on finding ways to put the material to beneficial uses.
But because of the location of Northeast Environmental's wastewater facility - in downtown Lawrence - and its odor potential and regulatory issues, the permitting process has been challenging. Getting the treatment facility going has been "a lot of work, a lot of money, and a lot of time," says Dick Mottolo. Requirements included an air quality permit and a beneficial use determination for the products created at the facility.
The facility is enclosed, with negative air pressure and treatment of process air through carbon filters and two roll-off biofilters. It has a degritting operation. It separates FOG with a cold decant process and is currently sending some to a digester near Bangor, Maine, where it increases biogas production. Some of the dewatered solids go to composting; others to incineration or landfilling. Some free oil is recovered; it can be converted to #6 fuel oil.
"We've had a lot of people come through with grandiose plans to make biodiesel… but when the grant money is gone, they’re gone," says Mottolo. So, Northeast Environmental just continues to do all it can to advance FOG management options - making resources out of one of the most challenging residuals ever!