July 6, 2022
Starkville Utilities has received approval from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to use biosolids from the city’s wastewater treatment plant for land applications. In the coming weeks, the Starkville Parks and Recreation Department will begin applying the nutrient-rich material to select landscaped areas and green spaces to improve soil quality and plant health.
“The biosolids project required a lot of forward thinking to make Starkville’s wastewater treatment process more innovative and environmentally sustainable,” said Edward Kemp, general manager of Starkville Utilities. “Our partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department brings the project full circle by finding an end use for locally generated biosolids that can benefit the environment, the community and our customers.”
As part of the wastewater treatment plant upgrade, Starkville Utilities installed equipment designed to process sewage sludge into a safe, nonhazardous byproduct that resembles soil. MDEQ recently confirmed that the material meets “Class A” biosolid requirements and will routinely test the material to ensure it remains in compliance.
In the coming weeks, the Parks and Recreation Department will start adding the material to soil in select areas where grass, trees and flowers could use some help.
“We have clay-based soil throughout the community; adding organic material will improve soil quality and act as a high-grade fertilizer,” said Brandon Doherty, general manager of the Parks and Recreation Department. “We’re using it strategically in public areas where we’re trying to grow grass and enhance landscaping around trees and flowers. We’re also saving money because it’s less expensive than fertilizer.”
The city also has designated areas where the material will not be used, such as playgrounds, ball fields and other public areas where people are engaged in activities.
“We’re focusing on green spaces for now to see how the soil responds to the biosolid material,” Doherty said. “It’s a process being used safely and successfully by communities throughout the U.S., and I think our strategic approach is the right option for Starkville and will set the stage for broader applications in the future.”
Other communities in Mississippi are producing biosolids, but Starkville is the only one using screw presses in its treatment process. Starkville Utilities employees learned how to operate the new equipment during training sessions conducted by the equipment manufacturers last year.
“Our new biosolids process is fully automated, and manufacturers have the capability to monitor and troubleshoot the equipment if we run into any problems,” said Starkville Utilities operator Thomas Ware. “The sludge we collected before just sat in a lagoon until it reached capacity. Now, we have a more environmentally friendly process and a valuable byproduct.”
Earlier this year, Starkville’s biosolids project was recognized for innovation and engineering excellence by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Mississippi. ACEC/MS presented the award to Volkert, Inc., Starkville Utilities’ project consultant.
“We had outstanding technical support throughout all phases of the biosolids project from our in-house team and contractor specialists,” Kemp said. “As a result, Starkville Utilities is on the forefront of environmental sustainability in our wastewater treatment practices. As part of our Renew Principle commitment, we’ll continue seeking more innovative solutions in all of our operations to better serve customers now and in the future.”
Starkville Utilities is a public utility serving 14,000 residences, businesses and industries in Starkville, Mississippi as well as Mississippi State University. Its mission is to supply safe, reliable, and cost-effective electric and water service of superior quality and value that improves the lives of its customers.