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HU finds answer to sludge

Sludge buildup in the holding ponds at Hartselle’s Wastewater Treatment Plant has long been a problem. And it reached a point last year where something had to be done.

The first step taken was to hire an engineering firm to conduct a study for the purpose of determining what it would cost to implement a sludge separation process, preventing any more sludge from being deposited in the ponds.

The estimated cost came in at about $4 million, a figure far greater than what was anticipated.

Looking that huge cost square in the face, HU’s staff jumped out of the box and began creating an alternate plan. A decision was made to take on the project one part at a time and to use in-house expertise and labor to the fullest extent possible.

All of the infrastructure was done in-house. It included foundation work and pouring of a concrete pad for a building to house a centrifuge, drying beds for processing pond sludge and electric work on the centrifuge building.

With in-house labor and favorable bids for a storage tank, metal building and centrifuge, the cost came in at about $900,000.

The centrifuge is now in operation for about six hours a day. It is removing solid waste from wastewater before it is released to the treatment plant for processing. This solid waste, which contains toxic chemicals, is 16 times lighter than it would be if disposed of in it natural form, thus greatly reducing cost of disposal at the landfill.

In the meantime, the drying beds will be used under favorable weather conditions to dry out sludge as it is removed from the ponds and enable it to be disposed of at a minimal cost.

HU’s sludge removal processes are already being viewed as a model for other municipalities in the state. Proactive thinking and the effective use of available resources clearly show that HU is looking out for the best interest of its ratepayers.