Possible septage unit to be added

A new service is being considered for septage disposal from septic systems, portable toilets, and possibly recreational vehicles at Marietta’s wastewater treatment plant.

“We have the capacity to add a septage unit into the treatment plant upgrade design,” said Councilman Mike McCauley who chairs council’s water, sewer and sanitation committee.

He said city engineer Joe Tucker and wastewater superintendent Steve Elliott have mentioned the possibility of adding equipment to handle septage to the third phase plans for the wastewater treatment plant project.

“And the ability to treat septage could bring some revenue to help pay for the treatment plant operation,” McCauley added.

Elliott said before any design changes are made for installation of septage-handling equipment at the plant, he and Tucker want to get some input from area septage haulers.

“We’ve planned a demonstration of a septage unit around 2 p.m. on Oct. 16 and are inviting area septage haulers to let them see the operation first-hand,” he said. “And we want to hear what kind of septage facilities they would like to have so if we build this it will meet their needs.”

Elliott explained that the unit would allow haulers to dump material from septic systems or portable toilets into tanks at the wastewater plant specially designed to filter out inorganic materials like rags, stones or other debris.

The remaining septage would then be treated with the rest of the sewage passing through the plant.

“We would have the capacity to treat 21,000 gallons a day,” Elliott said. “Most septage trucks can carry about 2,000 gallons.”

He said one of the driving forces behind the addition of septage-handling equipment at the plant is the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that is encouraging municipal wastewater plants throughout the state to have the units installed.

“Right now in the local area the Ohio Department of Health allows haulers to land-apply septage or sludge,” Elliott said, but noted ODH is also joining with Ohio EPA in encouraging the development of septage-handling units at municipal wastewater plants.

Tucker said he and Elliott have looked at other communities that are using or developing septage units at their wastewater treatment facilities.

“Athens has facilities currently under construction, and will be handling septage there,” he said. “We’ve also looked at Bowling Green and Napoleon, Ohio’s systems. Bowling Green has a much larger plant than ours, but in that area of the state land application is not allowed by septage haulers. So Bowling Green’s plant gets quite a bit of the material, and brings in around $140,000 a year in fees charged to haulers.”

He said most Ohio plants charge a fee of between 4 and 5 cents a gallon to handle the septage.

“At our plant we would mainly charge just to cover our operating costs,” Tucker said.

He said the cost of installing a septage unit at the Marietta plant has not yet been determined and would depend on what is needed by local haulers.

“That’s why we really need input from the haulers, so we can design the project to make it easy for them to get in and out,” Tucker said.

Because the city’s upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant is currently underway, he said now would be the time to have a septage unit included with the design plans for the third phase of the project.

Tucker also noted that Ohio EPA and the state health department may be leaning toward prohibiting land application of septage statewide, which would require a facility for local haulers to dump their septage in the future.

Another advantage of installing a septage unit is an incentive from Ohio EPA that would cover the entire cost of the unit through a reduction of interest rates on the loan the city has obtained for the wastewater plant upgrade, Tucker said.

Although the current focus is on providing the service for septage haulers, Elliott said it’s possible that the proposed septage disposal unit could be made available to recreational vehicles also, but that could require the hiring of more personnel to monitor the service.

Additional employees would not be needed to serve commercial septage haulers only.