By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Hermitage Municipal Authority on Wednesday approved the final certificates of substantial completion for contractors hired to expand the water pollution control plant.
Some of the contractors have “punch list” items to finish, while others will be on-site regularly to help employees start up the new anaerobic digestion system, said consulting engineer Joseph P. Pacchioni.
The $32 million plant expansion was undertaken to expand the plant’s capacity and eliminate the occasional release of untreated or partly treated water and sludge during heavy rains.
The expansion also installed an ultraviolet disinfection system, eliminating chlorine treatment of water, and the digestion system to create a higher quality sludge to be used for fertilizer or fill and generate a biogas to be burned to create electricity to be sold to the power grid.
The ultraviolet disinfection system has been “doing well,” Pacchioni said, while testing continues for the digestion system.
The plant’s employees have “taken ownership” of the new system and their familiarity with it has prompted new questions and training in addition to training sessions that already were set, officials said.
The digestion system is being tested with water and pressure to make sure pipe connections are sound and controls are working. Officials expect to start putting sludge into it next month, with food waste from Joy Cone Co., Dean Dairy Products and Charlie’s Specialties to follow sometime shortly thereafter, Pacchioni said.
“The sooner the better,” Pacchioni said of the addition of food waste.
Pacchioni said he’s not sure when the high quality sludge will be produced, and he expects there will be a continuing need to send sludge to a landfill for the near future. Officials expect to reach a point where no sludge is trucked to a landfill.
Authority members said they were happy that the goals for the plant that had been in the works for years will soon be realized.
Officials started planning the expansion in 2003, when they signed a consent decree and order with the state Department of Environmental Protection to address overflows.
During the planning process, they decided to upgrade the anaerobic digestion process to create a more environmentally friendly way of dealing with waste and generate revenue for the authority and the city.
“Exciting stuff,” said authority board member Greg Ceremuga, a sentiment seconded by authority member Kathleen Pepe.