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Hollidaysburg eyes phosphorus in plant

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The borough sewer authority reported an increase in phosphorus entering its sewer plant.

The removal of phosphorus from a sewer plant is important to prevent decreased quality, and potential toxicity for humans, plants and other animals in receiving waters (rivers, streams, lakes, etc.), according to a 2018 article from peer-reviewed, Frontiers Journal.

Frank Hicks Jr., director of wastewater operations for the borough, said that the sewer plant is “operating like crazy” to stay under the phosphorus limits and that he is making sure to optimize wastewater treatment.

“For some reason this year, we have had more phosphorus coming into the system,” he said.

Due to the increase of phosphorus, Hicks said the sewer plant would be close to its phosphorus budget for 2020.

“It’s tighter than it’s been since I’ve been your manager,” he said.

The phosphorus budget is a yearly, state-mandated limit on phosphorus exiting the sewer plant, said Regis Nale, chairman of the borough sewer authority. A similar budget also exists for nitrogen.

In the past few years, Nale said Hicks has decreased the amount of phosphorus in the sewer plant. However, as the end of this year approaches, Nale said the projection is the sewer plant will be 400 pounds under the phosphorus budget, which he said “isn’t much.”

The increase, Nale said, could be from more people using fertilizers on home lawn and gardening projects this summer. Hicks said the increase could be from people at home longer (due to the pandemic) using more cleaning and laundry chemicals.

Hicks said he had reached out to other municipalities that also reported an increase in phosphorus levels in their sewer systems.

If the borough sewer system does exceed the limit, Hicks said the borough can seek phosphorus “credits” from other municipalities to reach state requirements. Nale said these credits correspond to an amount of phosphorus over or under state-mandated limits. Municipalities may trade credits for cash with the idea that the region will “break even” overall.

Hicks said Logan Township is a possible source for a trade, if needed. He added that the Hollidaysburg sewer plant has “a lot of nitrogen” credits that could be sold.

“If we get any interest, it should be a wash,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Dom Cuzzolina is at 946-7428.

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