The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Posts Tagged ‘sludge’

Costs to city climb for its sewage sludge while providing area farmers with free fertilizer

In City Hall on April 27, 2009 at 12:02 am

The city’s nearly unending supply of sewage sludge keeps costing even as it keeps farmers in a steady supply of fertilizer with no expense to them.

The city’s travails with biosolid sludge, which is the byproduct left over after the waste water treatment process at the city’s huge Water Pollution Control plant, are just another result of the June 2008 flood.

The flood, among other things, damaged the WPC facility, which is located on Bertram Road SE near Highway 13. And among the flood damage at the plant was damage to the plant’s incinerator, which is used to burn the sludge left over after the treatment plant. With the incinerator out of commission, the city has had to do something else with the sludge.

For a few months after the flood, the city was forced to transport the sludge to a private Illinois landfill at high cost because the local solid waste agency did not want to take up any of its limited landfill space with the sludge.

In recent years, periodically some of WPC plant’s sludge has gone to area farmers for fertilizer at times when the plant’s incinerator has been down for maintenance. But with the incinerator out of commission, a much larger amount of sludge has gone to more farmers to use on more fields. In fact, in recent months, the city has had to stockpile the sludge in certain places in the country until farmers could get back into fields to apply the material.

Last week, the City Council approved additional spending on sludge because the WPC’s incinerator has taken more time to repair than had been thought, Pat Ball, the city’s utilities director, reported in a memo to the City Council.

Last October, the council had authorized spending $800,000 from WPC revenues, which are paid by user fees, to hire contractor Wulfekuhle Injection and Pumping to haul and apply sludge to farm fields.

Last week, the council added another $800,000 to the contract.

Long term, the city council and the solid waste agency board still hold out hopes that one day the sludge might be burned, perhaps along with municipal garbage, to make energy from waste.

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Updates on waste water sludge, municipal garbage: farmers will miss the sludge; horizon still holds the dream of burning sludge/garbage to produce energy

In Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency, City Hall, FEMA, Floods on March 28, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Greg Eyerly, the city’s utilities operations manager, wasn’t sitting on a bar stool drinking mai tais a 6 o’clock Friday evening.

No, he was gushingly talking about the $1.8-million fix of the flood-damaged incinerator at the city’s waste water treatment plant on Bertram Road SE near Highway 13. It’s an emergency fix, an interim repair, paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief funds. The repair is expected to hold the fort for three to five years as the city studies what is to come next.

Getting the incinerator up and running will have two significant ramifications: The city will no longer need to truck any of its biosolid sludge to a landfill in Illinois at great expense. And it will not need to use its best option, applying the sludge as fertilizer to farm fields, nearly as much.

Eyerly says the city likely will always put some of the sludge on farm fields during times in which the incinerator is down for maintenance. Farmers, by the way, have stood in line to get the stuff, 200 semi-truck loads or 100 tons of which the waste water plant produces each day. Land application, though, comes with uncertainty, Eyerly says. In fact, the city has had to stockpile the sludge in various spots out in the country this winter for use when fields are suitable for working.

Eyerly reports that the city continues to move ahead with plans to study the feasibility of burning sewage sludge and municipal waste to produce energy. The City Council has approved a $1-million study of the issue.

The waste-to-energy idea, in fact, has been much in the news in Cedar Rapids as local elected officials and community leaders imagine what might come to the rescue of the flood-wrecked steam system that had inexpensively served the downtown, Quaker and Cargill and other industries near downtown, the hospitals and Coe College before the June 2008 flood.

At last report, the city’s lobbyists were trucking a plan to build a $200-million waste-to-energy plan around Congress while city leaders also were working the Iowa Legislature for money.

No one has said much about either for some weeks.

Meanwhile, St. Luke’s Hospital and Coe College have one plan and Mercy Medical Center its own plan to find federal money to build their own steam systems.

At the same time, too, the city of Marion, armed with a state grant, has embarked on a $150,000 study of a waste-to-energy technology called plasma arc. A Marion-centered group of enthusiasts called WasteNotIowa have been promoting plasma arc for five or so years, ever since the local solid waste agency proposed and then did expand its landfill on the edge of Marion.

The second piece of waste news is coming from the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency and that Site 2 landfill.

Karmin McShane, the agency’s director, this week reported that the agency has taken initial steps to tap methane gas from the closed cells at the landfill to produce electricity.

Building the system of pipes and generators will provide electricity for the equivalent of 1,800 homes. Revenue from electricity will pay off the investment needed to set up the system in five years, McShane says.

‘You bet you’ farmers are interested in waste-water treatment sludge

In City Hall, Floods on February 11, 2009 at 2:43 pm

The vital incinerator at the city’s Water Pollution Control facility has been in disrepair since the flood, a fact that has forced the facility to find something else to do with the plant’s daily output of biosolid sludge.

For some years, the city has directed some of the sludge to area farmers for use as fertilizer at times when the incinerator has been down for repair.

Now, nearly all of it is going to farmers. In fact, farmers have been eager to take the stuff off the city’s hands, Steve Hershner, city utilities environmental manager, reports.

The sludge issue is coming up at City Hall on Wednesday as the council approves spending up to another $150,000 to landfill the sludge in the next year.

The council resolution updates a previous one that made $100,000 available for the landfilling of sewage sludge.

Hershner says the city likely will be forced to landfill sludge when farm fields are too wet in early spring to land apply the sludge.

The local solid waste agency has decided it does not want to use up space in its landfills for the sludge, so the city must spend more to haul it to Milan, Ill.

Land application costs the city only about 45 percent as much as hauling the sludge to an Illinois landfill. It’s about $25 a ton for land application, $55 a ton for landfilling, Hershner has said.

In recent months, farmers at about 40 sites have stepped forward to make their ground available for city’s sludge, and Hershner acknowledges that the city has received a “limited” number of complaints from neighbors.

At the same time, he has pointed out that the Cedar Rapids plant’s sludge is different than most waste-water treatment plants’ sludge because most of what the Cedar Rapids plant treats is waste from the local agricultural industries. About 80 percent of it is.

Most of the Cedar Rapids material was grown on the farm and, with land application, it returns to the land, Hershner says.

He notes that the repair of the sludge incinerator is expected to be complete in March, which will allow the city to begin to burn sludge again. Until then, the city must either land apply or landfill.

“When you’re in waste water treatment, you’re going to make biosolids and you got to have a place for it to go every day,” Hershner says.

Longer range, the city is undertaking a study to see if it might make sense to burn sludge and municipal garbage to create energy.