Starkville’s Wastewater Plant Takes a Sustainable Step into the Future

Dewatering sludge is better for the environment, produces marketable byproduct

STARKVILLE – Thanks to an upgrade to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Starkville Utilities will soon operate one of the most innovative municipal water treatment systems in the state. Not only is the new dewatering process more environmentally sustainable, but it also creates a usable byproduct from sewage sludge.

“By investing in new technology, we’re getting ahead of the curve by providing a more sustainable solution for sewage and wastewater treatment that will benefit our customers now and well into the future,” said Terry Kemp, general manager of Starkville Utilities. “It also builds on the excellent track record we’ve established for our treatment and discharge processes and supports our commitment to continuous improvement.”

For decades, sludge has been discharged into a 25-acre lagoon on Sand Road, which is nearing capacity and would require dredging or an expansion to continue current operation — both of which are costly and temporary fixes. After analyzing different options, city and utility leaders agreed that investing in sustainable technology would provide the most advantages for customers, the environment, and Starkville’s future.

At the core of the new system are two dewatering screw presses that are designed to process sludge into a byproduct that resembles soil. After being treated, the nutrient-rich material, which is classified as a “Class A” biosolid, will be transported to Mississippi State University for application on pastureland, farms, greenhouses, campus gardens and other areas.

The treatment system upgrade, which was funded by a $10 million bond issue approved in 2019, will not affect customer rates. Kemp noted that the upgrade is the first major renovation of the Earnest E. Jones Wastewater Treatment Plant since its construction in 1980.

Over time, as the lagoon slowly evaporates and shrinks, it will be converted into a bypass lagoon to handle wastewater overflows, when necessary. Starkville Utilities will continue working with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to monitor the lagoon and ensure it complies with all regulatory guidelines.

“This is technology we can build on,” Kemp said. “Maintaining lagoons will be problematic in the future, so we’re dealing with it today by launching a new process that allows us to convert sludge into a useful byproduct that’s easy to transport. It also will help us keep pace with Starkville’s long-term growth and capacity needs, which is a key factor for economic development.”

Starkville Utilities is a municipally owned and operated electric and water utility, serving more than 14,000 residences, businesses and industries in Starkville as well as the state’s largest institution of higher learning, Mississippi State University.

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