Wastewater from household and industrial facilities yield primarily organic by-products known as biosolids. Biosolids possess many beneficial qualities that render them as useful for agriculture and alternative energy production. They contain nutrients that improve the soil quality and also have fuel properties that can be used to generate energy. Biosolids are analyzed and regulated to meet the maximum allowable concentration rates of heavy metals and pathogens.
More than a decade ago, the Niagara region undertook a biosolids master planning project. During that period, all the biosolids generated were liquid land applied. But because of fluctuating weather conditions and limited land availability, the local government needed to diversify the use of biosolids. The Niagara Region generates about 9,500 dt/year of biosolids and it currently has 13 wastewater treatment plants.
Most of the liquid biosolids from wastewater treatment plants in Niagara are brought to the Garner Road facility using tanker trucks. The sludge is then discharged into receiving lagoons where they are allowed to settle. While heavier materials drop to the bottom of the lagoon, a clear liquid called supernatant remains at the top. At this point only about 3% percent is solid. Centrifuges are utilized to dewater it to about 30% solids. Some of the liquid biosolids are made directly available to farmers while a portion of the dewatered biosolids (100 to 165 tons every weekday) are transported to N-Viro (owned subsidiary of Walker Environmental), a biosolids processing facility in Thorold, Ontario.
N-Viro mixes the biosolids with primarily calcium oxide kiln dust and places them in a rotary dryer. The ratio is about 30 percent kiln dust to 70 percent wet biosolids. The dust is extremely volatile producing an alkaline admixture that generates heat. The procedure also increases the pH levels to about 12. The byproduct is then conveyed to a heat pulse cell, where the mixture is cured for 12 hours. Afterwards, they are placed in storage and cured another 60 hours.
This results in a valuable fertilizer product known as N-Viro Soil™ which contains 35% calcium and 8% potash. N-Viro Soil™ is sold to farmers through licensed distributors who sell the material and provide direct application service to farmers in Ontario. The Thorold biosolids facility is a public-private partnership wherein it is being operated by a private company rather than by the Niagara Region municipality.
Niagara’s land application program is managed by us, Thomas Nutrient Solutions. We are responsible for identifying and partnering with farmers on the application of biosolids to their fields.
The process to apply biosolids to a field is rigorous and overseen by the Ministry of the Environment. Only once the MOE has signed off, under what is called a Non-Agricultural Source Material Plan (NASM Plan) can the application of biosolids proceed.
The application of biosolids to farmer’s fields follows strict biosolids land application guidelines in accordance with provincial regulations. Land application standards specify procedures for land application, including setback distances, application rates, application methods, application timing, and harvest and grazing waiting periods.
The transportation of biosolids and the utilization and disposal of biosolids products requires additional certification and approval under acts and regulations under the Environmental Protection Act depending on the destination of the product.
A 2017 Niagara Region Financial Update shows that the Water and Wastewater Operations Divisions treated 57.0 billion liters of water through six water treatment plants and 316 km of water mains, as well as 76.7 billion liters of wastewater through eleven plants and one biosolids storage facility, with collection through 123 pump stations and 283 km of forcemains and gravity sewers.
Niagara continues to develop its Biosolids Management Master Plan (BMMP) to better meet challenges in the political, regulatory, and market environments with regards to managing biosolids in the region.
If you are a farmer in the Niagara Region and are interested in considering biosolids as a potential application to your fields, please call us on 1 (877) 479-1388. There is no cost for us to apply to the MOE or to spread biosolids on your field. These costs are covered by the Region of Niagara.