By Linda Dillman
A sludge press is not glamorous.
However, the one in Canal Winchester is a winner and drawing international attention to the city.
The machine converts a byproduct of wastewater treatment into a useable product. It takes a form of liquid sludge and runs it through a series of processes, which removes a large portion of water and turn it into a top soil-like product that can applied to a farm field as fertilizer or disposed at a landfill.
Over a decade old, the current press was state-of-the-art in 2009, when the nearest similar system was located in Tennessee.
“Because of the relative newness of the technology at that time, Matt (Peoples), myself and our city engineer visited several sites with this type of technology in Virginia and had a truck-mounted unit site-tested here before proceeding with the purchase and installation,” said city Water Reclamation Superintendent Steve Smith.
The city is in the process of a $150,000 system upgrade by adding two cells to the current four-cell configuration and installing new computer controls, which will extend system life and increase capacity in response to city growth, both residential and commercial.
Visitors from municipalities in Ohio and as far away as Rwanda are visiting the water reclamation complex and exploring options in adopting aspects of the Canal Winchester system.
“With new technology, many in our industry got word of and wanted to see our installation, discuss our success and basically use us as a benchmark,” said Smith. “We have had engineers and operators numbering over 100 come to see the installation in the last 10 years. An area near San Francisco was our furthest traveler until an engineer in Rwanda came by. Our sister city of Johnstown, as well as the village of Ashville have now installed this type of press.”
While the press is not on the list of must-sees for most city dwellers, all residents and businesses are impacted in one way or another by its efficiency—no down time and no need for an on-site employee to monitor operations.
Smith said most sludge presses, unlike Canal Winchester’s system, cannot be left to run unattended all night.
“With our machine, we start it Monday morning and it runs continuously until Friday afternoon,” said Smith. “Of course, it has controls that stop its function should it ‘fault’ in any way, but that is a rare occurrence. This then gives us the ability to put our labor resources towards other facets of the plant and system operation, saving a lot of money in labor costs. There is also significant savings in water use and its power requirements are about half of a belt press and about 10 percent of a centrifuge.”
According to Smith, new development has impacted his department’s operation. After Brewdog opened up, sludge production went up 26 percent, with all but 2 percent a result of the treatment of brewery waste.
“It is important to note that the brewery is a good neighbor,” Smith said. “Paying a surcharge for this service and the treatment of this waste does not negatively impact the rates our residents pay for sewage treatment, nor supersede the plant’s capacity to treat waste or support other future city growth. We’ve had quite a few inquiries by other communities as to how we are coping with the treatment of this brewery waste, since many mid-size breweries are opening throughout the country in smaller cities, so we are sharing this information as well.”
To date, the city has not had any permit violations or other negative impact from waste treatment and has developed—and continues to develop—procedures and processes to properly and successfully treat higher strength waste.