Ask any wastewater treatment plant operator, treating sewage is easy. It's dealing with the final waste product that's difficult.
"When I go visit across the state, the most frequently asked question is 'How do I deal with sludge?' said Jim Bower, New York Rural trainer/technician, during a Nov. 4 Marcellus village board workshop meeting at Village Hall. "And they tell me what they're doing and the majority of them aren't satisfied."
Village Operator Greg Crysler presented the village board with a letter indicating his concerns about village sludge, as Seneca Meadows is beginning to push the New York State Department of Environment Conservation's limit for sludge intake.
"I live 30 miles away from Seneca Meadows Landfill and it is now affecting the horizon," Bower said.
Why bother crowded landfills with village sludge if there's a way to turn it into something useful? The village's operators have looked to composting village sludge to produce valuable mulch as a short and long-term solution.
The proposed project is estimated at $700,000, half of which would be covered by a New York State Department of Environment Conservation grant currently available to treatment plants that are willing to make the switch. The plant would be the first of its kind in Onondaga County, though similar plants exist across the state, including Madison County.
Crysler and fellow plant operator Ryan Riefler completed a feasibility study that showed the projected cost of hauling sludge to Seneca Meadows to be $33,350 assuming no increase in cost - if that's even an option. Composting was projected at $5,600 a year, making for a savings of $27,750 annually. Taking into account the $350,000 to build the facility, it would take the village an estimated 12.5 years to break even on the project.
Crysler and Riefler also ran a pilot test last month that confirmed that Marcellus sludge could be turned into Class A compost.