The City Council has approved allocating $3,585,000 to outfit the Greenfield Wastewater Treatment Plant with sludge dewatering equipment that is projected to pay for itself in just over four years, through savings from reduced hauling and disposal costs. The funding was repurposed from a proposed anaerobic digester that was put on hold in March 2020 due to increasing costs and evolving regulations.
The dewatering project will include installation of equipment that presses water out of sludge to reduce the amount that must be hauled away. Other components of the project include demolition of old handling equipment on the second floor of the treatment plant to house the dewatering system, electrical upgrades, demolition of an outside overhang and construction of a new steel building.
“Soon after I began my term, it became clear that the anaerobic digester project was going to cost taxpayers significantly more than first projected, so in consultation with the Department of Public Works, we decided to put it on hold,” said Mayor Roxann Wedegartner. “Repurposing this money for dewatering is a wise investment that will save the City millions over the next two decades.”
“This project represents a big step in reducing the City’s carbon footprint and taking control of our waste disposal costs,” added DPW Director Marlo Warner. “In 2016, we paid just shy of $169,000 for sludge hauling and disposal. This fiscal year, those costs are projected to top $700,000. It’s simply not a sustainable path. This method is expected to save the City approximately $350,000 per year.”
Currently, the City hauls an average of 2.1 million gallons of sludge annually to the wastewater treatment facility in Lowell. Every load of 9,000 gallons is approximately 95% water. The new dewatering process will create a solid byproduct known as “cake.” The City will then have the option of hauling away one dumpster of cake per week, composting the material or adding a dryer for pelletizing the cake for fertilizer.
If all goes as planned, upgrades at the treatment plant are expected to begin in March and the dewatering equipment will be operational in September of 2023.