Getting rid of thousands of wet tons of sludge each year – also known as biosolids – isn’t as easy as flushing a toilet and watching it drain out of sight —beyond anyone’s smell.
Pasco County is looking toward new technology and biosolids management company, Merrell Bros. Inc., to deliver a solution.
Pasco County commissioners heard a presentation during a May 17 workshop regarding a proposed facility that can turn sludge into dry fertilizer that can be sold.
Consultants from CDM explained how the system would work to commissioners.
Merrell would construct and operate the facility, which would be owned by the county and located at the Shady Hills solid waste complex.
County officials estimate a cost savings of as much as $750,000 a year based on a service agreement with Merrell. Construction costs would not exceed $13 million. The facility could be online within two years.
The Indiana-based company is the second to seek the county’s business. In 2011, commissioners selected Earth, Wind & Fire Technologies to handle the county’s sludge, but the company folded before negotiating a contract.
Earth, Wind & Fire planned to create a synthetic diesel fuel from the sludge.
Pasco annually ends up with about 23,000 tons of sludge that fills about 1,100 dump trucks, according to Anthony Pevec, environmental engineer with CDM.
Much of it is composted or hauled to landfills in Georgia. But, some also goes to St. Cloud, where the largest bio-landfill in central Florida is located. Tipping fees there rose about 13 percent in the last year, according to data from CDM.
Pevec told commissioners that getting rid of sludge is expensive and is getting more so as state regulations limit available sites. Counties worried about protecting clean water also are restricting new site permits, including Pasco.
According to CDM, St. Petersburg’s disposal method is estimated to cost about $80 million.
Nearly four years ago, Hillsborough County spent more than $25 million on a process that couldn’t eliminate the odor issue.
Merrell is proposing a 15-year agreement with Pasco, with three, 5-year renewals, according to county records. The proposed facility would have a 50,000-ton capacity. In addition to Pasco’s sludge, Merrell anticipates contracting with other counties to treat and convert their product to fertilizer for sale.
But Michael Carballa, the county’s utilities engineering director, said, “Our sludge always has priority.”
The facility would have a greenhouse “pod,” a pasteurization building and an odor control system. A pilot program tested the procedure by using some of Pasco’s sludge.
It passed the test.
“We wanted a high level of odor control,” said Pevec.
Published June 8, 2016