The Power of Many: Can Biosolids Become a Regional Commodity?

A Florida project demonstrates that clean-water facilities have options that go beyond their in-house resources

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Editor's Note: This article is part a biosolids profile in the September 2015 issue of Treatment Plant Operator. Not a subscriber? Take care of that right here and now. Click here to have TPO delivered monthly to your mailbox.

Conventional wisdom says that when it comes to managing biosolids, each community and clean-water plant is on its own.

A project in Florida challenged that assumption. VitAg Corporation is developing a high-grade commercial farm and turf fertilizer that contains biosolids as a way to provide the organic material and slow-release qualities in demand in today’s market.

The company is developing its process with consulting assistance from the CDM Smith engineering firm. John Donovan, P.E., a senior vice president with CDM Smith, calls the program an example of what communities can achieve through regional cooperation.

Some 50 communities in central Florida already rely on Shelly’s Environmental Services to haul and land-apply biosolids from their treatment plants. Under a 20-year contract with VitAg, Shelly’s will divert about 200 wet tons per day toward fertilizer production.

VitAg’s website calls its product, “the next generation of biosolids recycling. The process, which will use biosolids dewatered to 18 to 30 percent solids, is conducted in a clean facility that discharges only water and air. The water is sent to a wastewater treatment plant, and the air can be discharged to a treatment plant or processed through air-handling and treatment equipment before discharge.

The company says its VitAg Fertilizer “looks, smells, handles and has the high nutrient value of traditional fertilizer.” It has the nutrient value of high-grade conventional fertilizer along with nearly 20 percent organic matter content. It can be used directly as fertilizer or as a component of custom-blended fertilizers.

The granular product contains 16 percent nitrogen and 2 percent phosphorus, along with sulfur and iron. It exceeds U.S. EPA Class A biosolids requirements and EQ standards. It can be applied using standard farm equipment.

“VitAg has done enough research with the product on a small scale to know that it will be in demand,” says Donovan. “This program is one example of where the private sector has a solution and the public sector has an opportunity to put an emerging technology to use.”


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