October 22, 2021

Smell in Groton is from biosolids — 300 tons of it

GROTON – A distinct smell is coming from the village of Groton sewer treatment plant on Cayuga Street, and now the village is looking for ways to resolve the problem.

Village Mayor Chris Neville said he’s been approached about the smell by a couple of residents who live near the plant.

It comes from more than 300 tons of biosolids from the village’s sewage treatment plan, and the village is trying to figure out how to make it go away — including perhaps spreading it across farm fields.

Terrance Walpole, sewer commissioner and village board member, said the smell isn’t “overly permeating and not a major issue.”

“There’s been a little more of an odor than usual,” he said

Parts of a grinder used to process the biosolids broke last winter, Walpole said. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, it took two months to get the parts to make the repairs.

This led to a backup of solid waste, which led to the smell, he said.

“It’s been hot and humid of late and has led to the backup,” Walpole said.

The biosolids are stored in drying beds that spread across a 40-yard greenhouse-like structure without sides, Walpole said.

The solid waste goes through the grinder and is mixed with wood chips.

“It’s a standard process for all plants across the state,” Walpole said.

The processed waste is then sent to a landfill. If the waste contains more than 25% moisture, the waste has to be taken back to the plant and re-processed.

Neville said hauling the solid waste to the landfill costs the village up to $4,500 a month.

Neville and Walpole are looking at three alternatives to contain the smell:

  • Turn it into compost.
  • Spread the waste across land to reintroduce it to the environment.
  • Continue to send it to landfills.

Walpole said there are few other alternatives, due in part to not having access to places that stockpile the waste.

“We really don’t know what direction we’re going with this yet,” Neville said. “We might not be able to do so we might have to continue what we’re doing.” Walpole added that land spreading is “the most ideal situation.”

According to an Environmental Protection Agency study, Walpole said, 16% of the solid waste can be used for beneficial land use.

“If we can move the biosolids up to a land, we can move in a half a day as opposed to a couple of days when sending it to a landfill,” he said.

Neville, a farmer who has considered taking the waste to spread on his farm, said that could mean a considerable savings for village taxpayers.

“I’m just trying to save the taxpayers money any way I can,” he said.

The solid waste is tested for pathogens on a regular basis, Walpole said, and results “come back nearly perfect.”

“The biosolids are like peat moss material, it isn’t hazardous or toxic,” he said.

However, the village would need a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to land-spread the waste.

“We’re in pre-meetings with the DEC and haven’t reached a point of getting permits,” he said.

The village also has to file a request with the state Department of Health to check on the waste and see if it’s feasible to go with options other than sending it to a landfill, Walpole said.

The final decision could take a while, Walpole said.

“It depends how quickly the Health Department gets back to us, or if they make suggestions on how to improve on it,” he said.