Tyrone consultant says digester need supported

Altoona Water Authority also considering one

TYRONE — A consultant hired to evaluate whether there are enough biosolids available to justify construction of a digester at the borough’s sewer plant has returned with good news, according to an official who spoke to Borough Council recently.

Material Matters Inc. of Elizabethtown checked with about a dozen parties involved in biosolids disposal and those generally expressed “strong interest” in bringing their materials to Tyrone, if Tyrone builds a digester, said consulting engineer Kevin Nester of GHD in Huntingdon.

“It looks very promising,” Nester said.

Tyrone, however, isn’t the only jurisdiction in the area thinking about a digester.

The Altoona Water Authority’s director of sewer treatment operations, Todd Musser, is at least flirting with the notion of using the authority’s sewer capabilities for digester functions.

The authority has been losing revenue because of a steady long-term reduction in water consumption, and could use an additional revenue stream, authority officials have indicated.

Asked about the possibility that Altoona may be considering its own digester project, Nester in Tyrone said, “It might be something we should think about.”

There is the possibility that both agencies could work together, he said.

Asked about Tyrone’s plans — which are explicit, but not definite — Altoona’s Musser said, “There’s always competition.”

Currently, there is a surplus of biosolids in western Pennsylvania, Musser said.

There seems to be many alternative ways for sewer plants to handle biosolids, requiring varying degrees of investment.

One possibility for Altoona is to accept certain types of food waste as an enhancement to the biological processes that already digest the regular nutrients that come into the sewer plant, Musser indicated.

Another possibility is facility enhancement to allow the authority to accept larger amounts and different types of biosolids, he indicated.

Biosolids, which sewer plants produce in the form of sludge, can also come in the form of sludge from other sewer plants and in the form of food waste, including oil and grease, from restaurants, institutions like hospitals and nursing homes and from food processing plants.

Digesters can process the biosolids to produce gas, which can be burned to produce electricity to run the sewer plants.

Digesters can also produce compost that can be sold to landscapers and gardeners.

Aside from exploring the possibility of generating revenue by accepting biosolids, the Altoona authority was recently working on a deal by which it would charge for accepting brine collected on the tarps that cover rock salt piles at a facility in a nearby county.

Authority officials were also discussing the possibility of accepting wastewater generated by pipeline companies — including clean hydrostatic test water that nevertheless can’t be returned to streams and muddy water from boring operations under rivers, Musser said.

“We’re working hard to keep up the revenue stream,” Musser said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.