After the Fire: Biosolids Planning for a Sustainable Future

Last Modified: Sep 04, 2018


  • Micah Blate - Hazen and Sawyer
  • Joshua Palombo - Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority

The Cape May Municipal Utility Authority (CMCMUA) owns and operates four (4) regional Wastewater Treatment Facilities: (1) Ocean City Wastewater Treatment Facility (OCWTF), (2) Cape May Wastewater Treatment Facility (CMWTF), (3) Seven Mile Beach/Middle Region Wastewater Treatment Facility (SMMWTF), and (4) Wildwood/Lower Region Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWLWTF). Cape May is the southernmost County in New Jersey.

Adjacent to the SMMWTF, the CMCMUA owns a regional sludge composting facility (SCF), which provided centralized biosolids processing, until a fire in late 2015 rendered a portion of the facility inoperable. When in operation, the composting facility is capable of producing an Exceptional Quality (EQ) Class A Biosolids, which was marketed under the tradename CapeOrganic.  Prior to the fire, the SCF received unstabilized, dewatered sludge from all four (4) WTFs for subsequent processing.  Additionally, the composting facility also received dewatered sludge from some neighboring areas including the Lower Township MUA and Millville Township. 

The fire forced the CMCMUA to contract with third-parties (Atlantic County Utilities Authority – ACUA and Synagro) for biosolids processing activities. Because most of the CMCMUA’s service areas are tourist destinations during summer months, the CMCMUA experiences flow and load fluctuations to the WTFs, in some cases over 300% of the average, further complicating biosolids handling practices. Currently, the non-peak portion of dewatered sludge, is sent to the ACUA, while peak loadings of dewatered sludge are handled by Synagro.

Even prior to the fire, the SCF was approaching the end of its useful life and required significant investment in improvements and maintenance. The existing SCF process also results in odor generation which impacts the surrounding community and visitors, especially during the summer months. As such, the CMCMUA embarked on development of a Long Term Sustainable Biosolids Master Plan (Plan) for management of the solids generated at all four WTFs capable of satisfying the following goals:

  • Long term sustainability;
  • Safe and reliable operation;
  • Public acceptance;
  • Acceptable life cycle cost;
  • Green energy technology; and,
  • Recoverable energy efficiency.
  • For more information, please contact the author at

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