Biosolids Management Overview
The City of Philadelphia Water Department developed during the mid-1970s alternatives to the ocean disposal of biosolids. This development was part of a comprehensive agreement with the USEPA for the upgrade of the City's three regional wastewater plants and the establishment of land-based recycling programs. The Water Department ended ocean disposal in 1980, and in 1984 selected composting as its principal mode of biosolids processing. In 1988, the Water Department opened its Sludge Processing and Distribution Center, since renamed the Biosolids Recycling Center (BRC). This is a regional facility for the dewatering and processing of the biosolids collected from the three wastewater plants, which have a combined service population of 2.3 million people.
Philadelphia has operated a diversified program for biosolids disposition, with a strong emphasis on employing the soil enrichment properties of its products. The products meet federal and state standards for stability and for allowable contaminant levels. Approximately 65 percent of Philadelphia's biosolids have been put to recycling programs since 1988. The programs for disposition of biosolids up until 2008 have included:
- Coal mine reclamation 15%
- Agricultural utilization in Pennsylvania & Maryland & Virginia 25%
- Compost marketing 20%
- Public works applications 10%
- Landfill disposal 30%
The program for biosolids processing and disposition has undergone several changes since it was first started in 1980. One important change is the greatly reduced quantity of cake arising from improvements made in 1993 and then again in 2002, to centrifuge dewatering equipment. Cake production from the centrifuges decreased from 330,000 tons in 1992 to 234,000 in 1997, and currently average 220,000 tons. The average solids content in the biosolids cake increased from 17% to 26% (in 1997) and now averages 30% total solids. Secondly, the BRC is currently producing only one, as opposed to four, products: biosolids cake. In response to competitive landfill prices, approximately 30 % of biosolids are directly landfilled. Also, reclamation and agricultural utilization programs have been shifted away from mine mix and into biosolids cake for direct utilization. Compost had been produced up until March 2007, but production was stopped due to increasing costs and staffing reductions. Stockpiles of this compost will be extinguished by 2010, through the commercial markets in suburban locations and to satisfy the demand for compost at in-city giveaway centers.
The most significant recent change to the BRC operation was that it was privatized on October 11, 2008, and the facility is now solely operated and controlled by Synagro Technologies through the Philadelphia Biosolids Services(PBS) company. PBS is solely responsible for ensuring that their operations are in compliance with all federal, state, and local Clean Air Act and odor requirements. This 20+ year contract with the City leases a portion of the property at 7800 Penrose Ferry Road to the company for Synagro to operate and utilize all of the biosolids produced by the City of Philadelphia. Their current operation is the same as the City?s operation which consists of dewatering the sludge from the wastewater plants; storing the cake on site; and utilizing the biosolids cake by agricultural land application, strip-mine application, and land-fill. With this contract, the Company is obligated to design, build, and operate a Class A Drying Facility at the BRC site within 5 years.
The Biosolids Recycling Center is located in the southwestern section of Philadelphia, adjoining the Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant and the Philadelphia International Airport. In recognition of Philadelphia's successful and cost-effective biosolids program, the US Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Philadelphia Water Department the 1995 Biosolids Beneficial Use Award and the 1999 Excellence Award for Biosolids Utilization.
More Information On:
Biosolids Management Unit
Philadelphia Water Department
7800 Penrose Ferry Road
Philadelphia, PA 19153
Email, Mail or Call Us: 215-685-4067