Tough to believe: There is a market for septic waste
It’s hard to believe there is money in septic waste, but accepting septage has become a viable revenue source for many communities. Depending on the situation, accepting septage can generate tens-of-thousands of dollars above what it takes to treat it. Communities are taking advantage of unused treatment capacities to accept septage and thus reduce costs to their customers. In addition to the revenue generated by accepting septage, many state and federal grant and/or low interest loan programs give special consideration to Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTP) that accept septage.
The days of land application of untreated septage waste, i.e., dumping it on the ground, are rapidly coming to an end. Treatment strategies and regulations for septage disposal are ever-evolving. Septage and truck waste treatment is emerging as the preferred alternative to land application or landfill.
Accepting septage isn’t an easy transition. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ‘s land application regulations must be followed. Also each state has unique regulations regarding plants that accept septage. Regulations address the protection of the environment, treatment plant workers and the facility, and the community they serve. The first step toward transitioning a plant to accept septage is to conduct a Maximum Allowable Headworks Loadings (local limits) study. The study evaluates whether the treatment plant is able to absorb the additional hydraulic flow and organic loading. When acceptable loadings are established, a Septage Receiving Plan is drafted. This plan must follow local, state and federal guidelines, and must be posted for public comment prior to approval.
Along with accepting septage waste, many communities expand their acceptance policy to include trucked non-hazardous liquid waste. This may include leachate, brewery waste, food processing waste or some non-hazardous industrial waste. After a community determines the type and volume of waste it can accept, they can set disposal fees. The fees set are not intended to create a profit, in fact most states prohibit for-profit arrangements. The fees offset treatment costs, provide for capital improvements, pay debt and lower costs to the customers.
Not only is there a benefit to the community, but the septage hauler benefits as well. In northern climates, where it’s prohibited to dispose of septage on frozen ground, haulers can dispose of waste at a WWTP. This eliminates the need of the hauler to provide winter storage and year-round service to their customers. By disposing of septage at a WWTP, the hauler saves time and money associated with maintaining the land used for land application.
If a community has the resources to accept septage and non-hazardous liquid waste, they are helping their community and environment.
Next month Mead & Hunt will follow-up with a discussion on septage haulers that have decided to construct their own treatment systems to help control their own hauling costs and solids disposal options.
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