Montague considering potential sludge composting facility on Sandy Lane

  • Chelsey Little, superintendent of the Water Pollution Control Facility in Montague. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/9/2022 3:45:22 PM

MONTAGUE — The town is considering the feasibility of building a sludge composting facility as sludge hauling becomes increasingly inconvenient and expensive, with Sandy Lane being targeted as the most ideal location.

Montague is currently faced with having to haul sludge, or “solid material that cannot be broken down any further in the wastewater process,” at a rate of $214 per wet ton — an increase from the previous rate of $95 per wet ton — after receiving underwhelming bids for sludge cake-hauling services, as explained by Wastewater Superintendent Chelsey Little. In addition, Charlie Alix, a senior associate and biosolids specialist at Stantec design company who came before the Selectboard last week, said sludge quality and composting regulations are becoming more strict and the nearest composting facilities are seldom accepting new sludge.

Early in his presentation to the Selectboard, Alix listed 20 third-party disposal and processing facilities that were contacted to discuss potential service. These facilities, all out of state, included eight incineration facilities, eight landfills and four reuse processing facilities.

Alix said “there’s not a lot of capacity in New England for incineration,” a statement supported by all eight contacted facilities reporting limited ability to accept biosolids. Aside from some not having the capacity for new customers, others lack the capacity to accept sludge of certain compositions.

“Some facilities will only take liquid,” Alix said. “Some facilities will only take dewatered (sludge) with a minimum of 20% solids.”

Landfills, Alix said, pose a similar predicament.

“Landfilling, that’s getting tighter and tighter because landfills generally have a limit on how much they’re going to take,” he said.

Alix added that sludge consistency has to be particularly firm to conform to landfill storage requirements.

The four reuse processing facilities, Alix said, are not accepting new customers.

Third-party costs for outsourcing disposal and processing would range from $170,000 to $230,000 per year.

Alix posed two size options for the town to consider: a facility that could process 4 dry tons per week solely from Montague or a facility that could process 10 dry tons per week as “a regional solution.” He also posed two roofing options: a fully-enclosed facility or a facility with only a roof and negative aeration that pulls fumes downward.

While the Sandy Lane site is considered favorable by Alix, he proposed two sites for consideration: Sandy Lane and the Water Pollution Control Facility at 34 Greenfield Road. The Water Pollution Control Facility site, he said, lacks odor control, product storage and waterway setback permitting compliance.

“At the wastewater treatment plant site, the only advantage of that site is that you wouldn’t have to truck the sludge to any place,” he said. “It’s right there.”

He added that the Water Pollution Control Facility site would only have room to house a facility that processes 4 dry tons per week.

“Even then, it’s pretty tight,” Alix said.

The Sandy Lane site, while farther away, would be superior, Alix argued.

“The Sandy Lane site is a much better site,” he said. “The only disadvantage is that you do have to truck the sludge over there, but it’s a short distance and you’re probably talking a truck every couple of days. It’s not a great deal of material and it’s not a lot coming in.”

Alix added that the Sandy Lane site is more removed from residences and would have ample space for storage.

Department of Public Works Director Tom Bergeron said, however, that while he is “very much in agreement with getting this facility,” Alix and the town might want to reconsider Sandy Lane as being the ideal location. He said the proposed truck drop-off site is now owned by the Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA), that nearby groundwater lies just 4 or 5 feet from the ground’s surface and that implementation of a new building would detract from current town storage space.

“I just want to put that out there, but I don’t want to get all excited that this is the perfect area for it,” Bergeron said. “It may be, but those are some things to consider.”

As presented by Alix, the cost to build a facility that processes 4 dry tons per week would be roughly $3.13 million. The total annualized cost would be $494,000 when factoring in revenue. Without revenue, the annualized cost would be $504,000. The net present value would be nearly $7.18 million when factoring in revenue. Without revenue, the net present value would be $7.33 million.

The cost to build a facility that processes 10 dry tons per week would be nearly $4.97 million. The total annualized cost would be $585,000 when factoring in revenue. Without revenue, the total annualized cost would be $844,000. The net present value would be nearly $8.61 million when factoring in revenue. Without revenue, the net present value would be $12.63 million.

A notable distinction highlighted by Alix is that the $194,000 operating cost of a facility that processes 10 dry tons per week, when factoring in revenue, would be less than the $220,000 operating cost of a facility that processes 4 dry tons per week.

Selectboard Chair Rich Kuklewicz said if Montague were to build the larger facility, there must be a considerable financial incentive.

“To me, if we were gonna take it in and take 10 tons, I would like to see the cost of disposal of sludge for Montague be near zero,” he said.

Town Administrator Steve Ellis said he would be interested in fielding the possibility of receiving state or federal financial support for the addition of a new facility.

“There’s still more work to do,” Kuklewicz said. “It’s great if we can get federal funding or state funding for construction, but we’ve also got to run the thing.”

The Selectboard concluded last week’s discussion by agreeing to maintain interest as long as further financial feasibility is evidenced.

“We just need a lot more data as far as a financial decision,” Kuklewicz said. “As far as an environmental decision, it seems like the right thing to do.”

Reach Julian Mendoza
at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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