Where wastewater and rainwater are used to nourish wetlands and irrigate a perennial landscape garden at Rodale Institute.

 Garvey Resources is proud to have been a partner on the team that developed the concept and design of Rodale Institute’s innovative Water Purification ECO-Center (WPEC), a wastewater/stormwater reuse and constructed wetlands facility, at their new Visitor’s Center.  Dedicated on June 16, 2011, this revolutionary on-site wastewater treatment and reuse system, developed by Rodale’s team and funded by the EPA, PADEP and Rodale Institute, utilizes septic waste as a resource.

Rodale Institute Visitor’s Center

The WPEC design uses constructed wetlands as a natural and efficient way to provide sewage treatment.

The technologies used here, along with the outstanding educational facilities at Rodale, give this project the potential to effectively demonstrate, to a broad audience, ways to treat and recycle stormwater and wastewater in a manner that will improve land use practices.

Since the Rodale Institute is a not-for-profit agricultural education center, educating the public about water stewardship is an important part of their mission.  The basis for any water lesson lies in understanding the workings of the hydrologic cycle.  Rainwater which falls on crops, for example, soaks into the ground where it eventually reaches the water table.  It moves through this to streams or rivers where it evaporates to form rain clouds.  But with the WPEC system, rainwater takes a slight detour in this cycle.

Building and wetland

When rain falls on the Visitor’s Center, it is collected in cisterns under the building and is used to flush the toilets.  After flushing, the wastewater flows into a storage tank where the liquid and solid elements are separated.  The solids decompose while the liquid is sent through the constructed wetland area adjacent to the building.  Here, the natural processes of wetlands plants and microbes clean the water twice as well as that of a traditional septic system.  From the wetland, the clean water then flows to a subsurface drip irrigation system in the perennial beds, watering and fertilizing the plants.  As the water seeps through the ground, it is cleaned even more so that, by the time it reaches groundwater level, it has been purified.  In fact, it has been shown that most organic contaminants and pathogens are removed within the first two feet of soil.

Sampling equipment is included in this design to enable Rodale to collect data on the performance of the system.  Unlike conventional septic tanks and sand mounds used for on-lot treatment, this system does not need deep and well-drained soils (which tend to be prime agricultural soils) so it could be used on building sites that do not pass the “percolation test” for conventional treatment.  If this technology becomes more widely used it could contribute to the preservation of farmland.

The simplicity and passive design of this system has great appeal.  There are no moving parts, except for pumps, so there is very little to maintain.  Constructed wetlands, although little-known by the public, have proven to be an incredibly cost effective, energy efficient, and reliable method of treating wastewater.  Part of Rodale’s educational component will be using the WPEC as a learning tool to help visitors rethink their current views about water use and treatment.  Rodale’s reputation for sound scientific study adds credibility to this lesson.

We are pleased and proud to have been a part of a project that has the potential to significantly impact the way the general public views wastewater and its reuse.  Congratulations to the Rodale Institute for leading the way.

Garvey Resources paver

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European E. coli Outbreak and the Implications for the Biosolids Sector

An outbreak of illnesses in Northern Germany caused by a new strain of E. coli has made 1800 people sick with 18 deaths.   The New York Times stated that “the outbreak has been particularly virulent because it has led to a potentially lethal complication, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, or H.U.S., which causes kidney failure and neurological damage.”   The Times also reported that, by using an epidemiological study of the pattern of infection, German authorities have concluded that contaminated sprouts from an organic farm were the most likely cause.   It is still unknown, however, how the pathogens came in contact with the sprouts.

It’s possible that the public may now become suspicious that biosolids contain harmful E coli.  However, testing for fecal coliform has shown that, through proper treatment, pathogenic bacteria in biosolids are reduced to safe levels.

There are many types of E. coli, most of which are harmless.  Since a small number do come under scrutiny as dangerous pathogens, biosolids are rigorously monitored for indicator organisms, such as fecal coliform, as a means of determining the potential presence or absence of these disease-causing organisms.  The term fecal coliform represents a large group of bacteria, most of which are strains of E. coli. 

A WERF project, undertaken by Bucknell University regarding regrowth, odors and sudden increases (ROSI) in indicator organisms in biosolids, is working to quantify fecal coliform levels in biosolids.  Various test methods are being trialed, including E. coli test methods, to determine which method results in the most accurate numbers of organisms counted.   Testing biosolids directly for pathogens, whether before or after treatment, is not feasible because the pathogens are present in such low numbers that it is impossible to measure them.  The indicator organisms that are measured are very robust, much more so than the actual disease-causing organisms.  This finding strengthens the EPA’s belief that, if we can destroy fecal coliform, we are certainly destroying pathogens of concern.

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Innovative Land Application Project Using Hybrid Poplars

In response to an RFP to the Philadelphia Water Department, Garvey Resources assisted in the development and preparation of a proposal and test plots using Class B biosolids in establishing a tree farm on mined land in need of reclamation.

Biosolids were used as a sub-surface fertilizer to establish and support a vigorous stand of hybrid poplar trees.  Hybrid poplars, a quick growing species, are receiving much interest as a green energy resource and as a tool that can be utilized in the reclamation of disturbed sites.  An advantage over traditional means of biosolids land application is that this technique will significantly reduce the need for stockpiling and virtually eliminate any off-site odor issues related to incomplete incorporation.

Three-year control tree grown without biosolids

Hybrid poplar use has recently expanded from past traditional use in windbreaks to producing wood/fiber/fuel products and to remediate contaminated sites and treat waste.  These hybrids are also capable of using more water and nutrients, which make them ideal for waste management applications.  Coal burning power plants are planning on using this means of rapid biomass production to earn carbon sequestration credits to offset emissions of greenhouse gases.

Garvey Resources worked with local environmental groups to distribute information about this innovative technique and to build public support early in the project.  We also developed the plan for an Environmental Management System for this project.

Hybrid poplars are among the fastest growing tree species inNorth America.  They are capable of accumulating enormous amounts of wood and biomass in a relatively short period of time.  With proper care and selections of appropriate varieties, poplars can also sequester enormous amounts of carbon dioxide in a short period of time.  Wood products manufactured from poplar trees can make this sequestration permanent.  Poplars, for this reason, have received considerable attention as a potential tool to help combat global warming.

The ability to establish these trees as a useful crop may serve purposes beyond the restoration of mined lands.  If trees can be used to restore mined land across the commonwealth, those businesses that rely on forestry resources may provide economic growth and development within the region.  Furthermore, the potential for these trees to serve as a fuel resource in the production of power may help reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.

Posted in Agriculture, beneficial use, benefits to farmers, biosolids as fertilizer, biosolids management, Diane Garvey, disposal of biosolids, economic benefit, Garvey Resources, hybrid poplars, land application, mineland reclamation, recycling, service offered by Garvey Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Building Public Support for Biosolids Management Activities

The following is a summary of a paper presented by Diane Garvey at the NJWEA Annual Conference on May 11, 2011 at Bally’s Atlantic City:

Biosolids technology has advanced to the point that there are many ways to process biosolids that are economically feasible and environmentally beneficial.  We know that society as a whole will benefit from biosolids processing and use especially in the context of renewable energy needs, urban sustainability interests, population growth, soil enhancement, and technology improvements.

However, the public does not always agree and often sees the processing and recycling of biosolids as a controversial issue.  Misinformed public perception, rather than technical rationale, should not control the future direction of biosolids management and environmentally sound uses for biosolids.

An opportunity exists to address these concerns, overcome the negative perceptions, and define biosolids as a valuable resource. Despite the beneficial use of biosolids for many years, much of the population is unaware of them, presenting us with a timely opportunity to build a base of support by establishing a favorable relationship between biosolids managers and the public.

To this end, the biosolids manager needs to be seen as trustworthy, honest and open while engaging all stakeholders in a shared vision of the beneficial use of safe, low odor biosolids products.   Information offered about beneficial biosolids products should be unshakable in its integrity.  We must take public concerns seriously, develop coordinated and proactive educational outreach and communications plans, employ creative ways to build positive public support, and reposition biosolids as a community resource too valuable to waste.

Advice to guide the biosolids manager:

  • It’s not about public relations, it’s about public relationships.
  • You’re living in a fish bowl so get your house in order.
  • Get your story in the news.
  • Counteract misinformation on the internet through Search Engine Optimization.
  • Pay attention! Know how various regulatory changes in the area of fertilizer marketing, agriculture, air and water quality standards, land use, zoning, and new technology will affect your program.
Posted in biosolids, biosolids management, Communication, compliance issues, Garvey Resources, public support, recycling, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farmers Say, “Hoorah for Class A!”

Recently, several wastewater treatment plants have asked Garvey Resources to find suitable farmers who could benefit by utilizing Exceptional Quality, Class A biosolids as a fertilizer.  Our outreach campaign to the farmers has resulted in a great deal of enthusiasm from them about using biosolids to offset their lime and fertilizer needs. Fertilizer prices have increased every year for the past five years and farmers are looking for creative ways to reduce expenses.  In fact, when one farmer was told that 80 miles was too far away for the plant to haul the biosolids to his farm, he offered to pay for hauling. 

Biosolids often contain lime since some wastewater treatment plants use lime to stabilize the biosolids and reduce vector attraction (flies, rodents, etc.) in their product.  Since soils in eastern Pennsylvania usually require lime addition every second or third year in order to maintain soil pH at optimum levels, the lime content in some biosolids helps meet this need. 

See how they grow!

Optimum soil pH is important to farmers because it helps increase the availability of nutrients in the soil and subsequently increases crop yields.  When we calculate agronomic rates (best rate of application of a nutrient for optimum yield) with regard to biosolids application, we look at the plant-available nitrogen demand of the crops and we also use soil testing to determine liming recommendations.  This is important because it is considered a best management practice (BMP) not to exceed the amount of nitrogen or lime needed to reach optimum nutrient levels in the soil.  Therefore, the levels of nitrogen and lime in biosolids that are land applied are carefully monitored. 

We have received very favorable feedback from the farmers who have used biosolids as fertilizer.  For example, a farmer who used a heat dried product on a portion of his sunflower field reported taller, more drought-resistant plants with strong stalks capable of supporting a large flower head with a high yield of sunflower seeds.  The phosphorus in biosolids stimulates greater root and stalk development. The portion of the field where a chemical fertilizer was used instead did not produce as high a yield. 

More and more, farmers who use biosolids to fertilize their fields are seeking Class A, low-odor products because of an increase in surrounding residential development and the resultant pressure to reduce odors.  Farmers want to farm and don’t want resistance from the community.  Consequently, when heat-dried, Class A, low-odor biosolids are offered by wastewater treatment plants, there is usually an immediate and positive response from farmers near and far wishing to use this product on their fields.  This is a hopeful trend.  As more farmers come to appreciate the benefits of biosolids as a fertilizer, more wastewater treatment plants will be encouraged to treat their biosolids to a Class A level so that they can be used as fertilizer, rather than incurring the additional cost of disposing of the biosolids in landfills. 

The economic benefit for the farmers is obvious.  They can now get their fields fertilized for free, rather than paying the ever-increasing cost of chemical fertilizers.  This, in turn, helps create a market for the wastewater treatment plant’s endless supply of biosolids, which results in a uniquely sustainable form of recycling of a renewable, natural resource.  It is a win-win situation for all involved.

Posted in agronomic rates, benefits to farmers, biosolids as fertilizer, Diane Garvey, disposal of biosolids, Exceptional Quality Class A biosolids, Garvey Resources, land application, odor, recycling, service offered by Garvey Resources, Uncategorized, wastewater treatment plants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Annual Biosolids Report Time

We’ve been busy collecting data from our wastewater treatment plant clients and preparing their annual reports for USEPA and PADEP.  The annual reports that we provide for our clients are clearly presented in binders that contain all forms, biosolids analyses, tabulated data and transmittal letters to the pertinent agencies. 

As part of the services we offer, we remind our clients that whenever they analyze total solids in the biosolids for compliance purposes, and for inclusion in the annual report, it must be done by a PADEP accredited laboratory.  We also find that more and more of our clients are asking us to remind them when to sample and to review their results immediately for compliance. 

Annual report time provides a great opportunity to review trends in a plant’s biosolids’ quality.  For instance, if the concentration of one of the metals is increasing steadily or suddenly, we can then look for potential sources in the collection system.  It is also a good time to discuss biosolids processing trends and identify any opportunities to improve the efficiency of a plant’s operations.  We often find ways to save money or to streamline a standard operating procedure in order to free up an operator’s time for other things. 

This year, Garvey Resources is helping one of our clients who normally prepares their own annual report.  Due to some employees being out on disability, the client is busier than normal with everyday activities, so we are preparing, copying and shipping their annual report for them.  This is just one of the many services we offer to the wastewater treatment plant community.

Posted in annual biosolids report, compliance issues, PADEP accredited laboratory, service offered by Garvey Resources, Uncategorized, wastewater treatment plants | Leave a comment