In September, the Stevens Point Wastewater Treatment Plant received a certificate of recognition for “innovative and forward thinking practices that are providing sustainable, efficient and value-added services to the community.”
The certification evaluated public and private utilities from across the United States, Canada and Denmark on their sustainability programs. The utilities were evaluated on their programs that addressed local environmental and community impacts.
Joelle Erickson, senior communications and public relations major, said, “That’s how it should be, we should be doing initiatives to make our utilities more self-sustaining.”
The recognition certificate celebrates the progress and exceptional performance of wastewater utilities.
The Stevens Point water treatment plant received the award due to their use of biogas and their reclamation of biosolids.
The wastewater treatment plant produces about 85 to 95 percent of their power on site with a biogas engine.
Anaerobic digestion, which takes place in the water treatment process, produces biogas. This biogas is harnessed by the facility to create electricity to power the operation.
Air compressors are needed to aerate the water tanks and break down the waste. The aeration system is the biggest energy user at the facility according to Chris Lefebvre, the Wastewater Superintendent.
The amount of energy created depends on the amount of waste sent to the treatment center. When the students from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point are on break, the energy demand decreases since the amount of waste decreases.
The biogas project began in 2011, went online in 2012 and has been in use ever since. Currently there are no plans to have 100 percent of the energy produced by the plant on site.
Lefebvre said, “We’re doing what we can now, being a municipal setting. Our main concern is meeting permit, and keeping our rates stable. I can’t put ahead a project saying we want to be energy neutral if it doesn’t have a payback.”
In addition to a majority of their power coming from their own plant, the facility has plans to expand its biosolids program.
Class A biosolids can be used as fertilizer. Using the residual solids from the treatment facility can be used after they are treated for pathogens. The finished product is applied as a fertilizer instead of mining for phosphorus.
Four of the six employees of the plant are graduates of UWSP, therefore sustainability is a priority for the municipal utility.
The sewage treatment plant creates a full circle with their system by harnessing the methane that would be produced anyway through the water treatment process and using it for biogas energy. Along with their energy sources, the Stevens Point wastewater treatment facility also uses the residual solids to be used as fertilizer.