IBJNews

Greenfield plant transforms waste into fertilizer

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Spring gardeners, lawn manicurists and nursery folk of all varieties on the hunt for cheap fertilizer this planting season need look no farther than the Greenfield's wastewater treatment facility, where there is an ample supply that will not run out anytime soon.

Stored in two open-air storage barns, numerous 12-foot-high piles of "Class A" biosolids processed from the treatment plant stand ready to be applied to area lawns, gardens and farms instead of being transported to the landfill.

The mounds look like little more than rich, dark soil. There are no flies and only the slight aroma of ammonia floats in the air.

The city has been producing the fertilizer since 2004 and has been supplying it primarily to farmers and some residential takers as well.

"We couldn't do this if people didn't take it," Greenfield Wastewater Superintendent David Scheiter told the Daily Reporter (http://bit.ly/11VkCbM ).

The biosolid is initially pumped from the plant's sludge holding tanks, where aerobic and anaerobic micro-organisms start the treatment processes. The liquid material is further treated and then piped through mixers and presses that add a polymer to give the substance cohesiveness and squeeze out the water.

Fly ash, a highly alkaline residue from coal-fired power plants that has a high capacity for water absorption, is added to increase the pH level and further solidify the material, Scheiter said.

It is then heaped under the storage barns where the sun bakes it to 150 degrees for three days to finally eradicate any remaining pathogens and increase pH to the desired level.

Every batch is tested by a third-party, state-approved laboratory to make sure the fertilizer conforms to state and federal health guidelines, Scheiter said.

"This never goes out to anybody without having it tested," he said.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management sets strict standards for biosolid fertilizers produced by municipal sewage treatment plants, and both distributors and large-scale agricultural applications require a state permit, said Amy Hartsock, IDEM public information officer.

"We want to make sure people understand that (IDEM) has extensive regulatory and safety requirements along with monitoring to ensure that the product is safe," Hartsock said.

According to the section of the Indiana Administrative Code regulating land application of biosolids, one test benchmark for fecal coliform requires that levels not exceed a "most probable number" of 1,000 per gram of solid waste.

"Ours routinely comes back testing at zero to three," Scheiter said.

Biosolid proponents, which include IDEM, Hartsock said, say the organic material boosts soil PH, decreasing the necessity of adding lime; improves water absorption and retention; and releases nutrients slowly as organic matter breaks down, providing a continuous source of food.

"The best thing about this is that it can be used to condition the soil," Scheiter said, adding that working the matter into hard, clay fields will improve soil quality over time.

And it can be used on any soil, from large agricultural applications to local lawns and gardens.

Gardeners might want to shovel the material on and then till it in, but a fertilizer or lime spreader will do just fine for local lawns, Scheiter said.

"If you put it on (the lawn) at the right time, with a little of that and a little rain, it gives it a nice kick," Scheiter said.

However, the biosolid must be used judiciously. "If you put too much on you can burn (your lawn)," he said.

Earlier this year, the city board of public works authorized the purchase of a $50,000 windrow machine to paddle and mix the material into a finer texture.

"We just wanted to provide a higher-quality product," Scheiter said.

The city charges $2 per cubic yard for the first biosolid yard and $1 for each additional yard. Quantities of 25 cubic yards or more - roughly a dump truck full, Scheiter said - are free if you bring your own truck.

Despite the low purchase price and giveaway to area agriculture, moving biosolids off the plant yard to lawns and farms also saves the city money, Scheiter said.

The city produces between 1,200 and 1,500 dry tons of the material annually and it all has to go somewhere. If farmers and residents didn't use it the city would have to pay landfill disposal fees to dump it.

"If we didn't spend money (buying) fly ash, we'd spend more money taking it to the landfill," Scheiter said.

Recycling and avoiding the landfill is one of the environmental benefits touted by IDEM, Hartsock said, and there are economic advantages above saving the carrying cost to the dump.

"We've seen higher crop yields for the farmers," Hartsock said.

Farmer Richard Buchanan heartily agreed Wednesday as he loaded a semitrailer full of biosolid at the city's treatment plant.

"We've been using this stuff every season for the past two years," said Buchanan, who farms throughout Hancock County. "We use it on everything: corn, soybeans, wheat and hay - lots of hay. It boosts it pretty good."

Buchanan said he applied the fertilizer to his wheat fields prior to the last spring snowfall, and when the snow melted, the crop immediately came out of the ground.

"This stuff is awesome," Buchanan said. "And if you use it on your lawn it's going to be amazing."

Additionally, every time Buchanan and other farmers load a big truck of biosolid, they're saving a truckload of money. A similar load of chicken manure would cost upward of $300, Buchanan said, adding that it wouldn't smell nearly as nice.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?

ADVERTISEMENT