The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

April 23, 2014

Not even waste will be wasted

Dean Dairy products put digester to test

HERMITAGE — Tom Darby admits he wishes the startup of the anaerobic digestion process at the Hermitage Water Pollution Control Plant had moved along much faster.

However, the plant superintendent also acknowledged that each step creates something new for him and his workers to learn, with guidelines to be developed along the way.

Plant workers on Tuesday dumped their first shipment of goods from Dean Dairy Products into the digestion process, the organic matter from the food waste an essential part of the process.

Dean delivered a truckload of about 30,000 pounds of damaged and expired white and chocolate milk, iced tea, yogurt and orange juice in plastic jugs, paper cartons and plastic bags.

Workers dumped each milk crate full of material into a hopper. A conveyor belt carried the containers into a crusher that freed the food content, and the leftover packaging was compressed and baled for eventual recycling.

The food waste is being treated through the normal water treatment process before entering the digesters.

“Eventually, we’ll be putting it directly into the digesters,” said Darby, who also manages Hermitage Municipal Authority, which owns the plant.

While treating the food waste robs the material of some of its gas-generating capability, workers chose not to enter the material directly into the digesters to give themselves the opportunity to learn to use the equipment, and make sure it is functioning properly while still under warranty, Darby said.

Waste batter from Joy Cone Co. has been dumped into a manhole upstream of the plant for six to eight months, and it also eventually will be pumped directly into the digesters.

At some point, waste from Charlie’s Specialties will be brought in, and plant officials will look for other food waste.

The digesters “cook” the food waste and sludge to kill pathogens. When the process is completed, the so-called class A sludge could be handled for landscape application. Currently, the plant trucks its treated sludge to a landfill.

The digestion process also produces a biogas that can be burned to create electricity to sell to the power grid.

Dean’s waste is significant because the company expects to deliver one or two truckloads a week, a steady stream of organic material ideal for optimum digestion, Darby said.

The digesters currently are being loaded with sludge and the cooking process has begun.

“They’re producing a very minimal amount (of gas) that we’re flaring off at the moment,” Darby said.

No gas will be flared off when the process is working at full capacity, a benchmark Darby said he hopes to reach in about six months.

The implementation process has been slowed by the loss of key people, including John Vornous, project manager for consulting engineer Herbert, Rowland and Grubic, who died last summer; material delivery delays; and the slow pace of getting permits. Darby noted the state Department of Environmental Protection had to determine what air-quality permits were needed before Hermitage Municipal Authority could apply for them.

“It’s such a new process,” Darby said. “We’re all learning as we’ve gone along. Even what we’re doing today, no municipal treatment plant is doing this in Pennsylvania, that I know of.”

To help ease the learning curve, the authority last month hired Jason Wert as a consultant. Wert, who used to work for Herbert, Rowland and Grubic, was the lead design engineer for the digestion expansion project. He now works for Rettew and Associates, Lancaster, Pa.

Darby said he expects Wert will work for the authority for eight months to a year working with plant employees and contractors on the startup and implementation.

When the digesters are functioning at full capacity, it will be worth the effort, he said, from creating usable product from what has been considered waste to helping out local food industries.

“I’m excited about it: the whole environmental aspect of it; keeping a quarter million tons (of sludge) from a landfill; getting to a class-A biosolid, which allows land application,” Darby said.

Text Only
Local News
  • Sharon man 'stable' after being shot in his West Hill home

    A Sharon man was in stable condition this morning after being shot by one of several men he had let into his West Hill home, police said.

    July 23, 2014

  • GJR killer not eligible for parole, court rules

    State Superior Court on Tuesday reversed a local judge’s decision that the sentence for one of two men who killed a night supervisor at George Junior Republic, Pine Township, was unconstitutional.

    July 23, 2014

  • Duplicated files, former worker confesses

    A Mercer woman accused of stealing customer lists, billing information and other data from her former employer headed off trial Monday by pleading guilty to a charge of unlawful duplication.

    July 23, 2014

  • Starved house Vandals vent their emotions

    Vandals kept police busy Sunday and Monday nights at a home in Greenville where the Mercer County District Attorney’s office said a boy was starved and beaten by his mom.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Couple, another man charged in thefts

    Pennsylvania State Police have filed charges of burglary, theft, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief against an East Palestine, Ohio, couple and another man in connection with two robberies in rural Mercer County.

    July 22, 2014

  • Taking stock Where’s the beef? Bull’s still missing

    Is it possible that an alien abduction took place in the Mercer area last week? A solid red, 2-year-old Watusi bull with 3-foot-long horns has been missing since July 14 with no trace of its existence left on earth.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Buhl Day honorees

    The Buhl Day committee has chosen for this year’s celebration five honored guests whose volunteer work they feel best showcases the legacy of philanthropic work left behind by Frank and Julia Buhl a century ago.

    July 22, 2014

  • GC pair not hurt in accident injuring 2

    Two drivers were taken to a hospital after an accident at the intersection of state routes 965 and 173 in Worth Township, police said.

    July 21, 2014

  • WaterFire crowds WaterFire doused

    Sharon’s WaterFire wasn’t lacking either of its elements on Saturday. There was steady, day-long rain but the day concluded with the Shenango River ablaze.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • ‘Starved’ boy released from hospital

    A 7-year-old boy allegedly starved and beaten by his mother is out of the hospital and ordered out of his Greenville home by Mercer County Common Pleas President Judge Thomas R. Dobson.

    July 20, 2014

  • WaterFire walking tour Time traveling

    A group of more 50 people walked between the raindrops Saturday during an historical tour of downtown Sharon during the city’s WaterFire celebration.

    July 20, 2014 6 Photos 1 Story

  • News briefs from July 19, 2014

    Michigan man charged with assaulting girl here

    Sharon man charged with raping woman

    July 19, 2014

  • For sale Realty transfer tax hike headed for ballot

    Sharon voters will be deciding through a referendum whether city council can raise the realty transfer tax. Council gave first reading Thursday to an ordinance that phrases the question that will be printed on the November ballot.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bella recovering Vet: Dog lucky to be alive, should survive

    Although a veterinarian said an underweight dog found Thursday with a gruesome neck wound was lucky to be alive, her prognosis for recovery is good.

    July 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Alleged hit-run driver arrested

    Sharon police said Friday afternoon they had arrested a man believed to have driven a vehicle that struck an 11-year-old boy Thursday and left the scene.

    July 19, 2014