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Since 1985, the Water Works and Sanitary Sewer Board of the City of Montgomery, Alabama (Board), has developed one of the premier beneficial reuse programs in the United States. In 2000, the Board's biosolids management program won EPA Region IV's Beneficial Reuse Award (tied for first place) and EPA's National Beneficial Reuse Award (honorable mention). Originally developed as a cooperative land application program in 1985, the Board began to lose some cooperative farmland to development and decided that it needed more control over the biosolids program. To achieve the desired level of control, in 1989 the Board purchased approximately 1,990 acres of land northwest of Montgomery to develop a Board-owned biosolids land application facility. After clearing and converting the land to hay fields, the Board opened what is now known as the Agrarian Center site on August 9, 1990.

The Agrarian Center, which is divided into two sites, was purchased from two local farm families. Both sites were previously used to grow soybeans and had erosion problems and nutrient-depleted soils. Over the last 11 years, through the application of biosolids and implementation of other best management practices, the Agrarian Center has been restored and converted into a productive hay farming operation. The Agrarian Center attracts tours from school groups, environmental groups, the Cattleman's Association, and other agricultural groups, and is used by the Board to promote reuse concepts and environmental stewardship. The Agrarian Center, which consists of approximately 2,000 acres of useable land, can treat biosolids produced from a wastewater flow of approximately 35 million gallons per day (mgd) on a maximum month average daily basis and 31.5 mgd on an average daily basis. It is currently being loaded to approximately 63% of its design capacity.

The Agrarian Center has been fully operational since 1991, and hay production has increased each year as a result of improved farming practices and the biosolids applications. In 1991, the program produced 538 bales of hay, compared to 10,147 bales in 1999. The recovery of operating costs is also increasing each year with the increased production of hay.

The Board's program has never violated any federal, state, or local regulations and it maintains an excellent relationship with regulatory personnel. Also, due to its proactive public relations program and commitment to environmental stewardship, there has been no public opposition to the program and it continues to garner widespread public support. Much of the Board's success can also be attributed to its focus on developing and retaining a well-trained, motivated staff by focusing on cross-training of all employees and formal continuing education programs. The Board's commitment to environmental sustainability is also evident in its decision to participate in the Environmental Management System (EMS) Demonstration Program being sponsored by the National Biosolids Partnership (NBP). The Board sees this as an opportunity to improve its current operations and strengthen its credibility with the public and regulatory communities. Finally, another key ingredient to the success of the Board's biosolids program has been its commitment to using the latest technologies to improve operations and lower operating costs. A prime example of this commitment was its decision in the early 1990s to switch from a paper reporting/filing system for operating the biosolids program to a computerized management and tracking system (CyberSolids). The Board was one of the first utilities in Alabama to convert to a computerized system and has had an operational system since 1994. The Board has demonstrated that these tools are essential to cost-effectively operating its biosolids management program while obtaining the ten goals in the NBP Code of Good Practice.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-01-01

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