City runs into sewage sludge problem

September 27, 2018

HUNTINGTON — The city of Huntington will need to look for a permanent solution after a landfill in Ohio stopped plaining of a bad odor.

This leaves the city with only one available landfill that will accept the sludge, and only after first treating it with lime, a chemical compound that breaks down organic matter.

Scott Kelley, chief operator of the Huntington Wastewater Treatment Plant, gave an update about the situation to members of the Huntington Sanitary Board on Tuesday.

Kelley said the city was asked by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to cease operations at the Rumpke Waste and Recycling facility in Waverly, Ohio, because of the odor being caused there.

The city is now in talks to drop off sewage sludge at the Republic Services’ Green Valley Landfill in Ashland. However, the truckloads must be treated with lime first.

Kelley said crews at the Huntington Wastewater Treatment Plant continue to

experiment with the most efficient types of lime and the right amounts necessary to prevent odor.

They are currently using hydrated lime, which is about $10 a bag, sourced from local vendors. The city would then purchase quicklime, a dry lime, costing approximately $5 a bag.

They used a mixture of dry lime and lime pellets on several truck loads, discovering about seven to 10 bags of dry lime does the best job.

Kelley said in the best-case scenario, the lime would cost approximately $40,000 a year to purchase. The worst-case scenario would run more than $80,000, he said.

This has created a sewage sludge backup problem. The landfill in Ohio had accepted three truckloads a day, while the landfill in Kentucky will only accept two.

Charleston does not run into this problem because the city owns its own landfill and treats sludge with a digester, Kelley said. A digester breaks down organic material in sewage sludge, converting it to fertilizer before being hauled off.

The need to purchase lime was an unexpected but necessary expense, said Brian Bracey, executive director for the Huntington Water Quality Board. The city might look at investing in a digester at its treatment plant, preventing the need to purchase so much lime, Bracey said.

Kelley said it was cheaper to haul the city’s sludge out of state because landfills in West Virginia require the sewage sludge be treated with a digester first.

Now states like Ohio and Kentucky are placing more requirements on the types of waste they accept from out of state.

“Nobody likes to dispose of other people’s trash,” he said.

Kelley said the city previously looked at creating a 10-acre landfill, but some estimates showed it would cost approximately $1 million.

The Water Quality Board is the umbrella agency for the Huntington Sanitary Board, Huntington Stormwater Utility and Huntington Floodwall Division. The Sanitary Board is in charge of all sanitary sewer operations in Huntington, while the Stormwater Utility oversees stormwater collection and operations and maintenance of the floodwall.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

Update hourly