Thinking About Biosolids; Joining the Movement from Class B to Class A
Historically, most of us did not think about biosolids.
For many years, this potentially valuable material was viewed as something we had to “get rid of”. It was dumped into landfills, over-applied to farmlands (i.e., not at proper, agronomic rates), buried in remote locations and/or otherwise “disposed” of. In those days, there were few choices in terms of the safe and proper treatment of this amazing resource. There were also legitimate concerns with things like pathogens and metals in biosolids.
Today, however, thanks to decades of careful research and advancements in the science of wastewater infrastructure and treatment, we know that it is possible to retain the good in these raw resources and produce of exceptional quality derived from biosolids. These advancements are allowing us to re-examine the wastewater conversation, as an increasing number of municipalities and other generators look for efficient, low-cost and environmentally sustainable, management solutions.
While it is true that even traditional, Class B biosolids receive further treatment, there are still many concerns about the use of this material due to pathogens, odors, and so forth. At the same time, our approach to wastewater infrastructure has reduced and/or practically eliminated concerns with metals. Independent, third-party monitoring and testing has repeatedly shown it is possible to produce a range of safe, Class A quality products and services from this amazing resource, such as nutrient rich biofertilizers, alternative sources of carbon and biogas that can be further converted into green energy.
As a leader in this movement, Lystek International Inc. has made it easy for generators of biosolids across North America to capitalize on the opportunity to make better use of this valuable resource, instead of burying it or looking at it as something to be “disposed” of. Proof of this is evident in award-winning biosolids management solutions provided by Lystek to places like Southgate Township, the Cities of Toronto and Guelph, Ontario, North Battleford, Saskatchewan and Fairfield, California. These are just a few examples of communities that are part of the growing movement toward Class A treatment and resource recovery as part of the rapidly expanding, circular economy.
Newport Utilities in Tennessee wanted to upgrade its biosolids material from Class B to “Exceptional Quality”, Class A. In this case, they invested in a dryer system as part of the transition to a higher quality product.
This new system has been saving the utility thousands of dollars a month compared to its former plan and it has allowed them to market their Class A biosolids as a biofertilizer product to generate some additional, off-setting revenue. With the cost of land for new landfills at an all-time high, many other jurisdictions across North America have also come to realize that they cannot afford to stick with a biosolids disposal process that takes up much-needed air space.
The community’s Class B approach was definitely a problem that needed to be resolved as it was creating a potential long-term liability. By moving to a Class A strategy, Newport now has a sustainable solution for biosolids management.
The state of Florida has been a water and environmental trend-setter in the U.S. for decades. With a dense population and a wealth of natural resources, the state cannot afford to pass up opportunities to increase sustainability while protecting its delicate, natural environment.
In 2004, the percentage of Class A biosolids in Florida was 17%. As the wastewater industry began to better understand and appreciate the potential, economic benefits and versatility of high-quality biosolids, they quickly became the industry standard. By 2009, the percentage of Class A biosolids had shot up to 40%, totaling approximately 160,000 tons. In addition, Florida imported another 59,000 tons from other states, for use on farms and vegetable gardens as compost or fertilizer. It is believed this strong demand will continue to grow.
North Battleford, Saskatchewan
The City of North Battleford had historically landfilled their biosolids. However, between the issues of rising costs, odors and mounting regulatory pressure from the Province of Saskatchewan, the City was in a tough spot.
They turned to Lystek, who transformed North Battleford’s traditional Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) into a Wastewater Resource Recovery Center (WRRC). Instead of wasting the biosolids in the landfill, the City is now able to convert them into a federally registered, pathogen-free, Class A quality, biofertilizer that is now sold to the local, farming community. This approach eliminates odor issues at the landfill while preserving valuable air space and offsetting some operational costs. That is a big deal for any community, but especially for all the smaller cities and towns throughout North America, and the world.
North Battleford also won a national environmental award for their efforts to convert their traditional treatment plant into a resource recovery center – and the “icing on the cake” is that the system is simple to operate and cost efficient, delivering over $250,000 in cost savings, annually.
Both generators and the public have begun to better understand and recognize the value and importance of making better use of these materials by leveraging Class A biosolids solutions. Regardless of the motivation, be it long term cost control, savings, odor mitigation, reduction in greenhouse gases, making better use of existing infrastructure, generating “green” energy or simply a desire to fill the demand for organically-based, exceptional quality biofertilizers, forward-thinking generators are making the switch to sustainable, Class A biosolids management. In doing so, they are looking to companies like Lystek to help them; companies that have proven they know how to turn problems into solutions. Increasing regulatory pressure and general attitudes toward sustainability and cost-efficiency will help to ensure this movement continues to grow.
Suddenly, everyone is thinking (and talking) about biosolids.