Navigating Biosolids Management Decisions in the Face of an Uncertain Future


  • Matthew Van Horne, PE, C. Michael Bullard, PE - Hazen and Sawyer

Utilities are challenged to sustainably produce high quality treated effluent while simultaneously recovering energy, nutrients, carbon and other resources. In Virginia, and many other states, the previous two decades focused on efforts to improve receiving water body quality, primarily through nutrient removal in the liquid treatment process. To achieve these stringent effluent discharge goals an inter-related and robust biosolids management system is essential.

However, destabilizing drivers are emerging that highlight a need to explore and implement new biosolids management approaches in light of future uncertainties. Some of these drivers include:
• Land application regulatory changes (nutrients);
• Public concerns related to land application (pathogens, micro-constituents, odors, etc.);
• Landfill disposal limitations and costs;
• Incineration and thermal process air emission regulatory changes;
• Emerging technologies (thermal hydrolysis, gasification, ANAMMOX processes, sludge pretreatment, etc.) potentially reducing operating costs; and
• Movement towards energy neutrality through co-digestion and biogas utilization to maximize benefits.

Case studies from four utilities will be presented showcasing results from navigating the decision making process in the face of uncertainty. The first utility operates multiple facilities with an interconnected biosolids management program and must allocate limited capital to address future challenges with infrastructure renewal, climate change, energy management, and organics diversion. The second utility generates a Class A compost product via a contract service provider; however, reclaiming control and diversifying disposal alternatives is a critical component of future stability. The third utility operates two facilities and explored alternatives to its Class B land application program to diversify its management alternatives. The final utility took a whole facility integrated approach to energy management while also managing discharge requirements.

This presentation will show the importance of effective master planning considering a wide range of process goals and risk management approaches to address near- and long-term needs with significant future uncertainty.

For more information, please contact the author at

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Horizons Fall 2017 (pdf)

Horizons showcases significant water, wastewater, reuse, and stormwater projects and innovations that help our clients to achieve their goals, and can help you achieve yours. Articles are written by top engineers and process group leaders, demonstrating and explaining the beneficial application of a variety of technologies and tools.

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