Water Online

January 2017

Water Innovations gives Water and Wastewater Engineers and end-users a venue to find project solutions and source valuable product information. We aim to educate the engineering and operations community on important issues and trends.

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selenium, and zinc are essential plant nutrients that can be found in MWRD biosolids but at a fraction of the maximum allowable levels. MWRD biosolids provide soils with major nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, minor nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and sulfur, and with metals such as iron and manganese that serve as micronutrients and stimulate healthy soil. Biosolids Program Receives State of Illinois Validation While the MWRD has been building its biosolids program for decades, the growth of the program was limited as the state of Illinois did not recognize all federal biosolids regulatory standards. That changed on July 20, 2015, when Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation amending the Illinois Environmental Protection Act adopting the USEPA Part 503 EQ biosolids standard to recognize EQ biosolids as a resource and not a sludge or a waste. EQ biosolids, according to federal and state regulatory standards, are a superior alternative to chemical fertilizers for turf grass in landscaping, parks, and athletic fields, as well as for agriculture. The legislation recognizes EQ biosolids as a safe, beneficial, and renewable resource that should be used locally and made available to the public. The new law is in line with federal standards, which provide that the EQ biosolids are "a resource to be recovered" that "can be used on land as a beneficial recyclable material that improves soil tilth, fertility, and stability." This high-quality product will no longer be subject to more stringent regulation as a sludge or other waste and instead will be allowed for nearly unrestricted distribution. "At a time when there is growing scrutiny over fertilizers and pesticides, we are supporting a natural trend that is both resourceful to our environment and also our taxpayers," said MWRD President Mariyana Spyropoulos. "Recognition of Exceptional Quality biosolids in the state of Illinois is consistent with federal rules and is an important step towards achieving a resource recovery model. Changing the law made good environmental sense and good economic sense." Resource Recovery Ordinance Opens Doors To Composting The MWRD's Board of Commissioners, a nine-member elected body that creates policy for the 2,000-person government agency, implemented a Resource Recovery Ordinance in October 2016. This ordinance allows the MWRD to accept vegetative materials, such as yard waste and other organic materials, for beneficial reuse. MWRD staff developed a program in which wood chips and yard waste such as leaves, branches, and twigs are composted with biosolids to produce a composted biosolids product. Through this composting program, biosolids will be used locally instead of being hauled to distant farmlands, thereby reducing the agency's carbon footprint and providing the opportunity to distribute a product that is more economically and environmentally beneficial. The composting program has sparked an entirely new enterprise from which to grow and expand, generate revenue, and ultimately protect the environment. In addition to being used for healthy lawns and landscaping purposes, the compost is safe for use in growing food crops. In 2016, the MWRD partnered with ChicaGRO Intergenerational Growing Project to help convert more than 70 vacant Chicago neighborhood lots into backyard community gardens that use the compost in planting beds and growing vegetables. Brownfields that have languished for years are also finding new life through MWRD composted biosolids; the 87-acre Lake Calumet Cluster Site, home to five former U.S. steel plants along Lake Michigan on the Southeast Side of Chicago, is being restored from rocky terrain to a green space that will one day be a stop for migratory birds. At the MWRD's Hanover Park Water Reclamation Plant, workers are developing a tree nursery that will flourish with the use of the composted biosolids. In addition, the MWRD has distributed more than 25,000 oak tree saplings as part of a new initiative called Restore the Canopy, Plant a Tree. The program, implemented in April 2016, educates the region about the importance of the tree population that has been decimated in recent years, as well as the lasting benefits that trees provide in managing stormwater. Each tree sapling is distributed in the compost blend. Goals For Biosolids Composting Program In 2016, the first year of the composting program, the MWRD met an internal goal of producing 10,000 tons of composted biosolids. In 2017, the goal is to produce and sell 50,000 tons, and wateronline.com n Water Innovations 29 BIOSOLIDSMANAGEMENT Biosolids compost was used to develop the grounds of the new Maggie Daley Park in Chicago. The composting program has sparked an entirely new enterprise from which to grow and expand, generate revenue, and ultimately protect the environment.

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