COLUMBIANA - The city has agreed to participate in a demonstration and research project that will be the first of its kind in the nation.
On Tuesday, council approved agreements with the Ohio Water Development Authority (OWDA), Youngstown State University and IMET Corporation for the $382,000 project to reduce sludge at the wastewater treatment plant.
The city was awarded a $190,000 OWDA grant for the project at the close of last year. Agreements were needed for YSU and IMET since the university has agreed to analyze the data from the project and submit it to the OWDA, and IMET is the Cleveland-based company providing the technology that will reduce the sludge.
Wastewater Superintendent Lance Willard said the city will be responsible for little more than $192,000, or 50 percent of the project cost through in-kind contributions.
Included in the project cost are the city's purchase of bioreactor technology from IMET and the construction of a wastewater unit on site next month or in early March.
The unit will consist of four digester tanks and 10 bioreactors and will treat 10,000 gallons of wastewater a week, he said.
The project already has been given the go-ahead by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Willard said the project is on a demonstration basis since the technology has not been used in the United States before, although it has proven successful in two other countries. Bioreactors are being used to reduce sludge at two wastewater treatment plants and a hotel in Turkey and a treatment plant in China.
Willard provided council with copies of recommendation letters from engineers in those countries who said the technology has significantly reduced sludge at those facilities.
The bioreactors will be used to treat one-tenth of the wastewater at the Columbiana plant on a demonstration and research basis until March 2014.
Should the project be successful, more bioreactors can be purchased in the future to treat the entire plant, he said.
He added that sludge is the "No. 1 problem at plants across the nation" and its reduction will mean a savings of millions of dollars in Ohio alone should the IMET technology enter the commercial market.
Currently, sludge treated at the city plant is hauled to area farmers participating in the EPA's beneficial use program. The treated sludge, or biosolids, is used by farmers to fertilize fields and the plant has been hauling biosolids to approved farms since 2005, he said.
The project will not result in an increase in sewage utility costs to customers, he said.
Finance Director and acting City Manager Mark Harold said the sewer fund is currently at about $500,000.