Septage Receiving System Helps Landfill Produce More Biogas

Septage waste super-charges green energy production

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Septage Receiving System Helps Landfill Produce More Biogas

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Is septage the secret ingredient needed to turn a regular municipal solid waste landfill into a bioreactor landfill — producing more biogas and freeing up space for even more garbage? This is exactly what is happening at one landfill in Michigan. Using trucked-in human fecal waste from residential septic tanks is accelerating the degradation of organic waste in the landfill. This super-charging of biogas production is powering on-site generators, providing a new source of green energy. The first step in this innovative process is a Honey Monster septage receiving station from JWC Environmental.   

Starting in 2005, the research team associated with Smiths Creek Landfill in Michigan constructed a septage receiving area to take in and screen septage, store it and then pump it into infiltration pipelines buried in one portion of the landfill. CTI & Associates, an environmental consultant based in Novi, Michigan, had determined that injecting the septage into the landfill would significantly speed up the decomposition of the waste allowing the landfill to remain in service longer.

The Honey Monster septage receiving station from JWC Environmental of Santa Ana, California, was a key element in managing the incoming septic waste. The system monitors, grinds, screens, cleans and removes unwanted trash and solids as septage is unloaded from tanker trucks. Haulers swipe their access card to activate the system, connect a discharge hose to a 4-inch cam lock connector and start the flow from their truck. Once finished the system calculates the total volume and prints a receipt for the driver. This data is later downloaded by the landfill billing office, so they can send the hauler an invoice. The Honey Monster also performs a washdown cycle to ensure it is ready to go when the next load arrives.

“The Honey Monster is working as advertised — no complaints,” says Matt Williams, manager of the landfill. “The drivers unload in about five or six minutes and everything is working fine. We simply check it once a day.”  

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is phasing out land application of septage so the Honey Monster at Smiths Creek Landfill is a convenient location for St. Clair County septage haulers. The landfill has the capacity to receive an average of 23,000 gallons per day.

Once the Honey Monster screens out trash, the septage flows into two holding tanks where material further settles. It is then pumped through piping and injected into gravel beds deep inside the landfill where it percolates through the compacted garbage. The mixture of garbage and septage starts a biological chain reaction, speeding up decomposition of organic matter like cardboard, food waste and green waste. 

The bioreactor cell covers roughly 7 acres and septage passes through 700,000 cubic yards of garbage. The project has been so successful for Saint Clair County that they have constructed a 3.2 MW gas-to-electricity facility to gain the advantage of the increased biogas production. The generated electricity is used for on-site operations as well as sold to the local utility, generating revenue for the community. 

According to Williams there are two key benefits of a bioreactor landfill: 

  1. More biogas in a quicker amount of time
  2. Increased settlement of garbage resulting in more landfill capacity 

“It certainly helps with decomposition of trash and is a very cool system,” Williams says. The economic development enhancements, the improvement of local water quality, and overall community benefits prove that the project was absolutely the right thing to do.


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