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Marketing Biosolids for Beneficial Use in the Chicago Metropolitan Area

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The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (District) services Chicago and 124 suburban communities in Cook County, Illinois. The District collects and treats wastewater from a population equivalent to 11 million people and generates approximately 180,000 dry tons of biosolids annually. The District is committed to managing biosolids beneficially and economically. The District operates a diverse biosolids management program which consists of applying biosolids to strip mined land at its 15,006 acre site in Fulton County for the production of grain crops; applying biosolids to agricultural land in northeastern Illinois also for the production of grain crops; and using biosolids as a soil conditioner or soil substitute in the Chicago Metropolitan Area (Chicagoland).

The use of biosolids in Chicagoland is attractive because it is the most economical management option, and it offers benefits to the District's local constituency. The local market includes the following uses of biosolids:

Final protective layer of landfill covers

Daily landfill cover

Construction and renovation of recreational facilities (e.g. public parks, golf courses, athletic fields)

Brownfield reclamation

Commercial landscaping

Roadside landscaping

In order to be able to utilize biosolids in this market, the District had to address several regulatory requirements. The most important of these are the state and federal regulations for the land application of biosolids and biosolids use at Illinois landfills. In order for biosolids to be used with a minimum of regulatory and operational restrictions, the District made a commitment to only produce the highest quality biosolids for this market.

The District undertook extraordinary measures to enforce its industrial waste control ordinances, and sought to obtain certification from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for its standard biosolids processing trains as equivalent to PFRP. As a result, the District produces EQ biosolids. The District also obtained Adjusted Standard 95–4 from the Illinois Pollution Control Board for the use of biosolids as a topsoil substitute in the final protective layer of landfills in Illinois. The District has established a partnership with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and it operates the local land application program under a unique umbrella permit that covers all projects and minimizes regulatory hurdles for its customers.

The District has undertaken several initiatives to increase public acceptance and demand for biosolids in Chicagoland. These initiatives have included constructing a large greenhouse for conducting research to support the local uses of biosolids and year-round demonstrations for public education and promotion. The District received the 2001 Research and Technology Award from the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies for the research and demonstrational activities it has done in the greenhouse. The District has established several visible field research and demonstration projects in Chicagoland. The most notable is a large demonstration of the use of biosolids for reclaiming brownfield sites having steel mill slag based soils (the southeast side of Chicago contains several thousand acres of these brownfields). The study was undertaken in partnership with the Chicago Park District. It has been conducted since 2000, and it includes a significant research component. The project and the two field days that have been held at the site have promoted interest in the District's biosolids. The District has also produced a promotional brochure, which it distributes to prospective new users at first time meetings, or at displays presented at local conferences, meetings, or other public events. The District has also expanded the staff of the Biosolids Utilization and Soil Science Section of its R&D Department to provide technical support to local biosolids users and to follow the conduct of each local project. The District has been producing short case studies of selected local use projects, and it recently published its first booklet of case studies for promotional use. The booklet has been very popular, and it has been successful in generating increased interest in the biosolids.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2005

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