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Tyrone declares destination for sludge

Material will go to Altoona Water Authority

TYRONE — Borough Council this week voted to send a non-binding letter stating its intent to deliver the sludge produced by Tyrone’s sewer plant to the Altoona Water Authority’s proposed Westerly Sewer Treatment Plant digester for drying.

It’s the first letter of intent from any of the organizations that the Altoona authority will be depending on for operation of the $35 million digester — sewer operators that will send sewer sludge and food processors and grease collectors that will deliver high-strength food waste, according to Todd Musser, director of wastewater operations for the AWA.

“The parties intend to enter into a binding, enforceable agreement at such time as the facilities are completed and operational,” the Tyrone letter states.

The future agreement would last for 10 years, with Tyrone having “first right” to extend it and Altoona reserving capacity until the agreement and the extensions expire, the letter states.

The cost for Tyrone would be 8 cents per gallon, with annual increases based on the consumer price index, according to the letter.

The borough pursued the deal as an alternative to building its own digester, according to Tyrone Manager Ardean Latchford.

Altoona hopes to begin the two-year project this fall.

Tyrone is one of four major sewer operators the authority hopes to secure as customers, along with the providers of high-strength waste, Musser said.

Tyrone is a “keystone to the long-term overall viability of the digester project,” although if Tyrone or one of the other potential customers backs out, the authority’s contractor, Energy Systems Group, will simply pursue alternatives, Musser said.

An incentive for Altoona to develop the project and the incentive for the sewer operators to deal with Altoona is the increasingly volatile setup for sludge disposal.

“This (the proposed agreement) gives (operators like Tyrone) a stable home for their biosolids short- and long-term,” Musser said.

Some operators, including Altoona, apply their sludge to farmland, but farmers can withdraw permission if they “change their mind or for whatever reason,” including a public outcry, Musser said.

Some operators landfill their sludge, but regulations have tightened in the past five years on quantities that landfills can accept relative to quantities of municipal waste, Musser said.

The high-strength organic waste will provide “fuel” for the bioreactor to produce methane gas, which the AWA will use to dry the sludge from the sewer plants, Musser said.

Some sludge comes in liquid form, including Tyrone’s, and it will contribute “nominally” to the production of gas, before it ends up in the dryer, he said.

Other sludge comes in “cake” form, and will simply go to the dryer directly, he indicated.

Sludge dried by the proposed operation could be sold as mulch.

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