Trustees discuss the Wastewater Treatment Plant’s dry sludge program

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Nov. 23, the Bellows Falls Trustees discussed the sludge dryer system and the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup said paving of the lot behind J&H Hardware was delayed because new pipes were added to divert rainwater from the roof from going directly to the plant. He explained that much of the overtime came from rain events with excess stormwater going straight to the plant, which created the alarms. By separating those pipes, Pickup explained, there should be reductions in operating costs and overtime at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. He thanked Director Rob Wheeler for his part.

Pickup gave an update for purchasing the dryer and partnership with Resource Management Inc. of Holderness, N.H. He said at the plant tour in August their observations included reduction of wet tons turned to pressed dry cake, the trucking, and field use. He said it “truly is a real recycling continuous effort.”

Pickup said the long-term concern with the wet sludge would be availability of disposal. He noted that there was demand for Class A biosolids and in the future it might be an additional revenue source for the village. For now the savings were not paying for disposal.

Pickup said that the state of Vermont had a complex permitting process and hoped to have the classifications for both states in December. He had said in an earlier meeting, “I’m not comfortable [to recommend the purchase] if we don’t have at least both states for Class A.”

He explained the purchase price for the machine was $268,450. At the Oct. 12 Trustee meeting, Pickup said they had signed the contract with RMI and installed the dryer in October 2020. In December of 2020, payments began at $10,500 per month. Pickup had explained that RMI was no longer working with Shincchi-USA and that Shincci-USA was moving forward to sell, service, and install the units on their own.

He had explained that the dryer pilot program would end in December and decisions should be made on purchasing the dryer or returning to hauling wet sludge.

On Nov. 23, the proposals included purchasing the machine from RMI, working with them or Shincci, or establishing a new contract with Casella. On the bill of sale with RMI, an option for a full relationship was added to provide disposal and testing of the Class A biosolids. RMI would also be responsible to assist with wet sludge disposal if necessary.

Pickup said there were multiple conversations with Shincci-USA and had developed contact with Shincci in Japan who had been able to acquire parts for the machine domestically.

He said Shincci-USA offered a proposal for additional support but was concerned there was no East Coast representation and only two representatives, both based in Arizona.

Casella offered a three-year variable rate contract on emergency backup pricing with new hauling service to New York state.

Pickup said the department recommended purchase of the machine and would get the Trustees a cost benefit analysis at their first meeting in December with time to vote at the second meeting. The Trustees had previously decided in October on one meeting for December.

Wade Masure said based on the information they had received, one meeting was sufficient to make a decision. The board agreed.

Pickup spoke highly of Wheeler. “Rob and team have been really tremendous… Without their expertise and their abilities, this would have failed. A lot of the success of this going forward falls on [Wheeler’s] shoulders…”

McAuliffe said, “If you assume we can borrow at 2% and finance this over five years, we would be looking at an annual payment of $56,000…basically $4,700 per month.”

Village President Deborah Wright asked about the life expectancy and mentioned there was no warranty.

Pickup said the machine could last 30 years as long as it was heavily maintained. He speculated that by exchanging parts for stainless steel at the seven-year mark, it could give them at least 25 years. He said the lack of warranty was one of the concerns.

McAuliffe said, “Given what this means…taking a wet product and trucking it over the highways and putting it into a landfill versus investing in the machine and producing a Class A fertilizer is all positive. In this day of rebuilding America, there has to be funding to encourage this kind of decision by municipalities.” He agreed with the dryer purchase and recommended looking for federal funding.

Wright wondered about possible ARPA funds due to the health risks of wet sludge.

Pickup agreed that it might be eligible because it is wastewater and infrastructure related.

Masure asked why Vermont’s certification process was so much longer. Pickup said they are exceedingly cautious and demanded more thorough and rigorous testing.

Due to town department budget hearings, the Trustees will meet once next month, Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House.

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