For years, waste has been something that business owners want to get rid of. As more businesses take responsibility for their impact on the environment, many firms inquire about what happens to waste after disposal.
Wastewater is often the highest volume of waste that each business produces. This presents an opportunity to meet or exceed commitments to repurposing waste by finding better uses for wastewater, which has been the case for many municipal and private wastewater treatment facilities.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH SLUDGE?
Wastewater treatment facilities use microorganisms to breakdown raw sewage. After serving their purpose, these bacteria die due to oxygen starvation later in the process. Billions of dead bacteria fall to the bottom of storage tanks, creating a thick sludge of biofilm.
The sludge collects inside water tanks and requires regular cleaning for proper function. When sludge is not cleaned, it can fill up water tanks, rendering a wastewater treatment facility useless for processing new waste.
Sludge is an inescapable byproduct of cleaning the water that everyone in a community uses. Wastewater needs cleaning before reintroduction to the environment. Otherwise, municipalities would run out of water, one of the environment’s most precious resources. Furthermore, if the sludge is not repurposed, it ends up in a landfill. However, there is a way to repurpose the sludge for other uses. Wastewater Transport Services uses belt presses to remove the valuable nutrients from the sludge.
The process used by Wastewater Transport Services to repurpose sludge starts with the prescreening of wastewater. This part removes any large debris, such as rags or trash. Next, the water rolls through a belt press that uses two belts at extreme pressure. The belts are similar to two industrial conveyor belts that squeeze everything in between them. This part serves the two-fold purpose of removing water from the solid waste and drying out the solid waste.
Compost is one of the ways to repurpose sludge. When the sludge is completely dry and separated from the water, nutrient-dense material remains. After mixing the nutrients with wood, the compost cures in piles.
As the material continues to go through the natural decomposition process, the woodpiles reach an internal temperature high enough to kill any pathogens that remain. This compost helps the environment and prevents the use of chemical-laden alternatives, which require using more natural resources to create and distribute them.
Farmers use this compost to restore nitrogen and phosphorus levels in soil worn out by years of growing. The compost is also beneficial for helping hay grow.
By using sludge to make compost, Wastewater Transport Services helps the environment and customers. Most wastewater transport and disposal operators charge clients for removing waste and for the cost of dumping it in a landfill. Since our sludge never ends up in a landfill, our customers enjoy discounted prices. Furthermore, we can sell the compost at wholesale, which reduces the price even more.
This innovative process also has a significant impact on the environment. The sludge that is not composted goes to landfills. No one can make more land. As the world continues to produce more waste, existing landfills will soon be insufficient to care for the amount of trash.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Frank Baggett, our belt press operator in Austin, Texas, describes the belt press as a very simple machine. If there are any mechanical problems, they are usually electrical. Yet, any operational issues with a belt press can bring progress to a screeching halt.
“I have two belt presses here. I have one that is my backup now. If you only have one and it stops running, you might as well just bring all your trucks to the yard and park them. If they don’t have anywhere to unload, then they can’t service customers.
A belt press is not a high maintenance machine, but it does have to be properly maintained. We can store 120,000 gallons here at one time, but that fills up really quick when you have fifteen trucks,” Baggett says.
Beyond operating the belt press, Baggett spends time meeting customers. Most local wastewater treatment facilities face hefty fines if their waste disposal process is non-compliant. Representatives from these facilities visit the belt press from time to time to ensure that the process is correct. They are always impressed by what they find.
Turning sludge into compost is one of many ways that Wastewater Transport Services positively impacts the environment. Employees like Baggett take pride in finding new ways to repurpose waste.