The Englewood/Littleton Wastewater Treatment Plant became the first facility in the nation to receive the Environmental Protection Agency’s gold-level award for the work being done with biosolids.
Biosolids are the nutrient-rich organic material resulting from the treatment of domestic sewage.
“This gold award from the EPA is for establishing and meeting all the EPA requirements needed to establish a biosolids management program. We are the first wastewater plant in the nation to receive this new level award,” Jim Tallent, plant treatment division manager, said during the June 26 awards ceremony. “The management program didn’t require major changes to the biosolids treatment system we were using. We just had to formalize the process according to the EPA requirements.”
A flag signifying the achievement was presented to Tallent by Dick Kuchenrither, who is affiliated with the National Biosolids Partnership.
In the presentation, Kruchenrither said the award was a result of hard work by all the plant employees. He said their effort has enabled the Englewood/Littleton Wastewater Treatment Plant to go one step beyond the EPA-mandated regulatory program for managing biosolids.
Tallent noted the plant has received numerous EPA awards for biosolids management. He said the new system was introduced in 2011, and plant employees attended a year-long training program on the new system, funded by the EPA.
When the training was over, the employees began implementing what they learned.
“This is the first flag produced and came to us straight from the company that created it,” Tallent said as he held up the flag. “There now are four gold-tier award winners but we were the first and we are the first to receive the flag.”
Managing biosolids is a challenge for wastewater treatment plants. For more than 30 years, the Englewood/Littleton Wastewater Treatment Plant’s solution to managing biosolids had been to place it as fertilizer on dry-land wheat farms.
“We have worked with Colorado State University to have them test the soil, groundwater and air regularly since we began applying the biosolids to farmland,” Tallent said. “The annual CSU reports consistently reported the biosolids did not pollute the air, ground water or soil. It just provides the nutrients to grow great wheat crops.”
As the name indicates, the Englewood/Littleton Wastewater Treatment Plant is jointly owned by the two cities. It is a regional facility that serves about 300,000 customers in the south metro area.
Several years ago, the plant bought 7,000 acres of farmland about 25 miles east of Byers in order to better manage application of biosolids. The land is leased to farmers who raise wheat and corn. The plant received about $52,500 a year in lease payments.
Tallent said each year, about half the land is farmed while about half the land remains untilled. It takes about 1,016 truckloads to haul the 3,354 tons of biosolids to the farmland each year.
He said the next step is to undergo another independent audit in October and, if the audit is successful, the treatment plant will receive EPA certification for it biosolids management plan.