EVEN WHEN YOU DO EVERYTHING RIGHT, AND STILL CAN'T GET ANYTHING DONE: THE BOULDER BIOSOLIDS STORY
Abstract:The City of Boulder (City), Colorado has tried twice to move forward to improve the biosolids final use program in a sustainable, environmentally sound direction. Each time the public process has derailed the projects. The City conducted an award-winning, Class “B” biosolids land application program throughout the 1980s with excellent compliance of both EPA and State of Colorado Public Health and Environment biosolids regulations. All land application sites for the City biosolids program were within 10 miles from the WWTF, with the majority within 4 miles.
In 1995, the City seen that agricultural land in Boulder County was quickly changing by growing prairie castles instead of crops. The City saw the need to purchase land for long-term application. Several public meetings were held to address the existing Class “B” land application program, and City representatives were overwhelmed when it was interrupted within minutes by enraged local citizens, some of whom had recently moved to the area. Some community activists started a very vocal and well financed group called Neighbors Opposed to Biosolids (NoBS), a group 2,300 members strong intending to end all biosolids application near the area that they lived.
The City commissioned the formation of a Study Review Group (SRG) that was given the task of finding an acceptable method of biosolids management to present to the Boulder City Council. The City hired Rothberg, Tamburini & Winsor (RTW) Consulting Engineers to perform the technical evaluation of the biosolids management options bolstered trust from the SRG. The end result of the many months of public meetings and hard work was the recommendation of an interim biosolids management plan that included both Class “A” and Class “B” alternatives. Ten to Twenty percent of the City's biosolids would be composted at a private facility as a pilot program, while the remaining 80 to 90 percent of biosolids would continue to be land applied at the site 60 miles from the WWTP in a more agriculturally based county. This final interim plan recommendation, including all the monetary and non-monetary selection criteria set forth by the group and incorporated by the consultant, was truly representative of the group's overall consensus. The process had succeeded in producing an agreed-upon management program for the City's biosolids. Representatives from the NoBS group accepted the interim plan. A final plan of a city-owned and operated composting facility to produce a Class “A” biosolids product was also submitted and approved by City Council.
In 2002, the City and RTW Engineers, Inc. proceeded with the implementation of the agreed-upon final biosolids management program to design and construct a biosolids dewatering and composting facility located a close proximity from the WWTP as a long term solution. The City's Utilities Department staff had teamed with the City's Fire Department to jointly purchase a 100-acre site for Fire Training Center and a Biosolids Recycling Center. The site was a fluorspar flotation mill, and a closed hazardous waste site. Again, local residents strongly opposed the project in August 2006 and were able to prevent the project from moving forward through political and legal pressure. Most of the City's biosolids handling equipment was not replaced on the normal life cycle in anticipation of the new direction. The City was faced with aging equipment and liquid stream improvements under construction that would increase the solids at the WWTP by at least 30%. The current project that has been approved by the public and the City Council is to instruct a dewatering facility at the WWTP site and transport biosolids offsite to land application or composting operated by a private company as originally recommended in 1995 as an interim measure. This paper will detail key points and milestones that were effective to stop the City, and what steps were taken to get Boulder's biosolids program back on the track.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2007
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