PLWC Biosolids plant up and running

David Romine, operations manager of PLWC’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, shows part of the process by which sludge from the wastewater being treated becomes Class A EQ biosolid usable as fertilizer.

Thanks to a newly completed $5.15 million biosolids plant, not all the waste at Paragould Light, Water and Cable’s Wastewater Treatment Plant is actually going to waste.

“We send out two 12-[cubic] yard trucks of biosolids a day, Monday through Thursday,” said plant Operations Manager David Romine on Monday.

Romine said the biosolids, a byproduct of wastewater treatment and processed by the plant’s new Schwing Bioset equipment, go out to area farmers at a cost to them of $5 a cubic yard delivered, such that a fully loaded truck would cost $60. “But we give the first two loads free,” he said.

Romine added delivery is also free for the first five miles, then $2 a mile loaded for the next 10 miles. “We don’t charge for the return trip,” Romine said.

He also said that so far, about 20 area farmers are buying the biosolid for use as fertilizer.”It’s ideal for pasture, hay, and sod farmers,” he said. “Row crop farmers don’t use it because we can’t produce it fast enough for them.”

Even so, he said, the Schwing Bioset equipment allows production of what amounts to 24 cubic yards a day, compared to 24 a week with the previous sludge drying system. In addition, the new equipment enables a savings of about $100,000 a year on the cost to operate and maintain the equipment, compared to the old system.

Construction of the Schwing Bioset plant began with demolition of the old biosolid treatment plant beginning in October 2018. Romine said the utility did the demolition itself for a saving of $365,000.

The Schwing Bioset system enables sludge produced to receive a rating of Class A EQ biosolid under the EPA 40 CFR 503 regulation. “The EQ means it’s ‘exceptional quality,’” Romine said, “which means you don’t have to do anything special in order to use it anywhere.”

The sludge, treated with quicklime and sulfamic acid at a temperature of 131 degrees for 40 minutes, has an initial pH of 12 (very alkaline), and the process kills most pathogens and reduces the vector attraction. “That means it doesn’t attract as many insects, like flies,” said PLWC Environmental Services manager Lisa Ellington.

The finished biosolid product, which Romine likened in consistency to Play-Doh®, also has the amount of heavy metals reduced to less than the maximum permitted by the EPA. Such metals include mercury, lead, cadmium, selenium, copper and zinc. “And we are grateful for the factories and other businesses for their pretreatment,” added Ellington, “so that’s why we give the pretreatment awards.”

The plant, completed in partnership with Van Horn Construction and Crist Engineers, commenced operations last September. Anyone desiring more information about the biosolid can call Romine at (870) 239-7723 or Ellington at (870) 239-7795.

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