Water, Water, Everywhere…

“I’m going to email you tons of sludge.”

Amy Lyon-Galvin is wonderful that way. Shortly after our discussion, she made good on her promise and sent me the statistic for the amount of sludge the Liverpool Waste Water Treatment Plant produces: 2,000 tons of Class A dry sludge per year approved for land application to agricultural fields in Medina County.  

But that’s what happens in the end. We need to start at the beginning.

Clean water was one of those things I didn’t feel the need to pull back the curtain on. I was more than happy to believe that it was just magical forces at work bringing me fresh water and taking away dirty. But the current Signature Class had the curtain pulled, torn down, and all but burned by sanitary engineer, Amy Lyon-Galvin.

As part of Environment and Quality of Life Day, the 2017 Class had the privilege of touring the water treatment facility located in Valley City. The plant is on the verge of completing a project that started two years ago. Recognizing that their system was going to need replacing, Liverpool sought out new technology to become more environmentally friendly and efficient. They built a pilot and tested it for three years. After thorough research and investigation, they decided to move forward.

The plant’s current system operates “pressure cooker” style, consuming a lot of energy to heat and kill pathogens from the 9 million gallons of water processed daily. As noted above, 2000 tons of the sludge are purified to the point of being designated “Class A” annually. The new system, 300,000 times larger than the pilot, employs “anaerobic digestion” which has a gas byproduct that will be used to partially power the plant.

If you think that this is just a biology lesson disguised as a field trip, think again. This is a $35 million project that will benefit more than just those of us in Medina county. First of all, environmentally speaking, greenhouse gasses and the water treatment plant’s carbon footprint will be greatly reduced. Perhaps this doesn’t impress you because you are not on board the Environmental Train (shame on you). Then, consider the fact that customer rates were not raised to fund the project, and when it is completed, the facility will not have to pay for as much energy to run the system. That will save consumers (even the ones who don’t care about the environment) $1.6 million per year. Additionally, the process will also help to keep Lake Erie clean. Agricultural runoff typically contains high amounts of phosphorous which has contributed to the increase in algae bloom. The new process encourages the formation of struvite crystals that give phosphorous a slow release quality. When it is applied to the land, the crystals stick to the ground better and resist runoff.  

Despite being blown away by all this technology and forward thinking concerning the environment, I had to ask the obvious: With this new system, will it still smell?

“It will be a different odor,” Lyon-Galvin admitted. “The current odor can be a scorched, burnt sludge smell. The new smell will be more…organic.”

I have to say I never considered how to classify the smell, but I appreciate her efforts. And more so, I appreciate the fact that there is a person behind the curtain who really loves her job and does it so well.


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