Citizens Raise Concerns About Leachate Processing

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Citizens Leachate

Blairsville, Ga – Several residents of Union County attended the September Blairsville City Council Meeting to ask about the handling of leachate at the wastewater and treatment plant.

Five members of the Lake Nottely Improvement Association expressed concerns about adding the processed leachate back into local bodies of water.

Ross Malme, who owns a seasonal home on Lake Nottely, asked, “What’s in the leachate, and what’s the system’s ability to handle that? Thirdly, what kind of third-party testing is being done to ensure water quality?”

Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Jody Cook stated that Georgia’s Environmental Protection Agency governs Blairsville’s wastewater treatment plant, and it decides everything that goes into the water.

The main ingredient in leachate is ammonia. Blairsville chose to process the compound because the plant has the extra air capacity to handle the processing. The leachate comes from The Water Authority (TWA).

Cook said, “I had heavy metals testing done on it, and most are non-detected. The highest thing that came back was manganese. It’s not a health concern to people. It just discolors the water. We can see a little bit of discoloration in the water going out, but you’re talking about 100,000 gallons of water a day going into trillions of gallons of water.”

Mayor Jim Conley confirmed Mountain True will test once a week above and below stream for the next three months for water quality. The testing includes the bacterial population. The discharge site is also tested every day and twice a week for permit purposes.

“TVA has a limit for how many gallons per day that we can put into the stream, which is 50,000 gallons a day. We’ll never ever be processing that amount of leachate per day,” said Conley.

Currently, the plant handles 11,000 gallons a day of leachate at six to eight gallons a minute.
The city’s current plant permit processing allows for 400,000 gallons a day with no plans to increase that limit.

Images courtesy of Blairsville-ga.gov.

In reports from before and after Leachate processing, ammonia elevated from .18 to .226 milligrams per day. This falls well within the 19 kilograms per day in the permitted limit.

The slight increase is expected since leachate carries a lot of ammonia.

Fecal bacteria also increased from less than 4 CFG per 100 ml to 5 CFG per ml for the monthly average. The permit limit for fecal bacteria is 200ml.

The wastewater treatment plant doesn’t have to run it that low but does so to keep pathogens out of the water.

August marked the first month the city began processing leachate. After taking the initial samples, the water treatment department has adjusted chlorine to accommodate the increased bacterial loading.

The city sends monthly reports to Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division.

City council has the final say on how much leachate comes into the plant, and Cook monitors the intake to assure the plant isn’t overwhelmed.

The plant hasn’t exceeded its permit limit and typically processes about 300,000 to 350,000 gallons a day.

“We would stop treating leachate if at any time we are unable to properly treat it whether it be for bacteria or any other issues. We are obligated to treat all water that passes through our system to meet the requirements of our permit, and generally, our discharge water is well below those limits,” stated Cook.

Wastewater Plant Starts Processing Landfill Runoff

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Blairsville, Ga – Blairsville’s Wastewater (WWTP) plant to begin processing leachate from local landfills after City Council approves a partnership with The Water Authority (TWA).

TWA approached Superintendent of WWTP Jody Cook two months ago about allowing the company to use the plant for leachate processing. Blairsville’s WWTP makes a good candidate to take on processing due to the extra capacity in the tanks. TWA will pay the city $0.5 per gallon for the amount of leachate that the city accommodates.

“We’ve crunched the numbers and the amount of air available, we can treat it, and it would be a lot of revenue for the city,” explained Cook, “The only thing that we’ll have to purchase would be a pump because we don’t have an in-ground tank. We’re going to do a trial period, and they’ll give a pump until we get it approved by the city.”

In last month’s city council meeting, Cook and the council decided against adding leachate out of concerns that ammonia levels would be too high. However, after spending more time analyzing the procedure, Cook and TWA found that the WWTP can process leachate as long as enough air is available.

TWA’s proposal of $0.5 per gallon will provide the city in the worst case scenario with $526,600 a year if the plant only processes 28,800 gallons a day. The best-case scenario: if the plant can process 93,600 gallons a day, then TWA will pay the city $1,708,200 a year.

Councilman Tony Dyer asked, “This all is going to be hauled to us?”

Mayor Jim Conley confirmed, “It would be hauled to us and pumped into one of our digesters that is not in use at this time.”

The above ground tanks require the city to purchase a new pump to process the leachate.

It won’t alter the existing process at the WWTP, just act as an additive. It’s a chance for extra revenue for the city. Blairsville’s WWTP currently using approximately 30 percent of the facilities capacity at the moment.

“I don’t think they’ve tried it in an SVR plant before, which is why they want to have a trial,” said Cook, “We can’t violate our permit period, so if that happens then we don’t do it. I don’t foresee that, and we have no issue with ammonia, and we’re not using all the air in the tank now.”

The plan’s to start slow and let the organisms acclimate to the leachate with 5 gallons a minute for two weeks, then increase it to ten gallons a minute. Eventually, leachate will reach the 15 gallons a minute and maintain that setting.

Ellijay has implemented a similar process, and Cook visited the facility to see how it works and how Blairsville can undertake the process.

“I talked to the operator down there, and he said as long as you’ve got enough air, then you can treat it. There’s nothing else bad in it. It’s just high ammonia,” stated Cook.

TWA’s a Georgia Environmental Service Company and owned by several parties including State Senator Steve Gooch who explained that the treatment of leachate by under capacity plants’s a “good source of revenue for the city.”

“Typical municipal systems and septic waste systems take it,” said Gooch, “It’s a clean and effective way to dispose of the liquid and to treat it.”

Leachate consists of water, suspended materials, dissolved solids, nitrogen, and other organic substances, which makes it ideal to supplement the WWTP living ecosystem. The nitrogen will turn into ammonia during the aeration.

By adding leachate to the plant on days when the plant can’t maintain a level feeding schedule for the organisms in the WWTP. By using an empty process tank to store the leachate, it can readily meter the substance into the plant.

Until recently, most activated sludge plants operated at a max flow of 200mg/L BOD and TSS at 20mg/L ammonia loading. The TKN will be around 40-60mg/L. To better illustrate this example, TWA provided the following: A plant designed at 1.0 MGD should process 200mg/L BOD and 20mg/L and it can remove 1668 lbs/day of BOD and 166 lbs of ammonia. However, if the plant only operates at 0.35 mg/L with an average of 150mg/L and 15mg/L, then it’s only processing 437 lbs/day of BOD and 44 lbs/day of ammonia.

The leachate will keep the organisms at the WWTP eating at a slow rate by maintaining an even flow at all times.

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