From wet sludge into dry pellets City leases land for disposal venture

December 19, 1991|By M. Dion Thompson

Baltimore made a deal yesterday to get two wastewater treatment plants built that will turn wet sludge into dry pellets -- and might lessen the stink that sometimes emanates from the Back River sewerage complex in eastern Baltimore County.

Through the Board of Estimates' unanimous decision, the city will lease land to Bio Gro/Clay Joint Venture and Enviro-Gro Technologies.

Both companies have to find financing for the projects, which must be fully operational within three years. The plants are estimated to cost $33 million each.

DTC "This is privatization. The city doesn't put up any money," said George G. Balog, director of the Department of Public Works. "I think it's a very positive effort."

The plants will use a process known as heat-drying in which wet sludge is dried and turned into pellets. The companies will then market the pellets as fertilizer or for use in other industries. Mr. Balog said the pellets also might be used as fuel in the cement industry.

In 1989, the city solicited proposals for heat-drying plants private companies would own, operate and maintain. The city wants to reduce the amount of wet sludge produced, eliminate the odor associated with producing it and manage its storage. Estimates are that heat-drying reduces the volume of sludge produced by 80 percent.

Currently, the city's sludge disposal efforts depend on weather conditions.

During rainy weather, the sludge cannot be dried and hauled away, causing backups at the Back River plant and complaints from nearby residents.

Mr. Balog also said the companies, which exceeded city requirements for involvement by women and minorities, have agreed to enter into a partnership with the civil engineering department at Morgan State University.

Bio Gro, which is based in Annapolis, already has a city contract involving waste treatment. In October, the board awarded the company a $7.3 million contract to remove an estimated 170,000 tons of sludge from the Back River plant during the next two

years.

Once the two new plants are in operation, they will handle about 556 tons of sludge every day.

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