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Behind the Biosolids: Columbus, Wisconsin

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

If your wastewater facility is looking at an upgrade in the near future, you know you have a lot of work in front of you. Wastewater facilities can work with a project engineer to design the project, consider funding options, and you will also need to vet the equipment you will use in the upgrade.

Guests listening to the presentation about the Shincci-USA Sludge Dehumidification System at the Columbus Open House.

When faced with a wastewater upgrade, many operators and engineers take into consideration the current equipment at the facility and if it makes sense to stick with the 'tried and true' technology. Are you disappointed with your current equipment? Does your equipment require too much 'babysitting'? Have the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit rules and regulations changed since the old wastewater system was installed? How do you meet the needs of your community now....and in the future? These were questions that Katie Anding, Lead Operator at the City of Columbus Wastewater Treatment Plant, took into consideration when the municipality reevaluated their sludge handling and storage at their facility.

In June, the team at the Columbus Wastewater Treatment Plant opened their doors to pilot the PWTech Volute Dewatering Press and Shincci-USA Sludge Dehumidification System. We took a moment to ask Katie Anding a couple of questions about her need to upgrade her biosolids program and what interested her in the technology from the ICS Group.

ICS Group: "Can you tell us about your project and how you decided the city needed to upgrade your biosolids program?"

KA: "In 2022, the purpose of our initial biosolids study was to better manage our storage facility. Wisconsin has a requirement that wastewater facilities have 180 days of sludge storage, and we marginally meet that. The initial biosolids study was to try to find a way to reduce the volume of solids and try to meet the 180-day requirement. We looked at different drying options and the one we ended up choosing was the Shincci-USA Sludge Dehumidification System and PWTech Volute Dewatering Press to better manage our biosolids."

Sludge storage room at the Columbus facility


ICS Group: "You had the opportunity to visit an installation of the PWTech Volute Dewatering Press and Shincci-USA system in Marinette. What were your thoughts when you initially saw the technology?"

KA: "It was a very nice and clean installation. What I couldn't believe was there was no sludge on the floor. With a belt press, usually you are always cleaning up sludge. The operators at Marinette who run the equipment were really helpful and they did not have any complaints whatsoever. They told me the dryer starts up before they arrive at the plant, it runs automatically, and usually they don’t have to attend to it other than taking samples. They were very positive, and we left the tour thinking that this biosolids technology is a good thing."

Katie Anding at the Marinette Wastewater Treatment Plant, checking out the PWTech Volute Dewatering Press


ICS Group: "Tell us about assessing or selecting the different types of equipment you were considering for your upgrade? How did you start that process?"

KA: "I went through a list with our engineer, Dave Arnott with Ruekert-Mielke, and we had some different options. We looked at heat air dryers, indirect heat dryers, solar dryers, and the Shincci-USA system. We had a company come out with a solar dryer and it ultimately didn’t fit our needs. Since we are in Wisconsin, we did not have enough drying days for the solar and the cost of the process vs. the minimal reduced volume in sludge it didn’t make sense to go with that dryer.

The other heat dryer and indirect heat dryers posed several problems with gas and safety concerns. Not only was the cost more significant for those heat dryers, but they also required more day-to-day maintenance, so the heat dryers weren’t viable options for us. At the end of the day, the cost of a heat dryers was more expensive in comparison to the Shincci-USA system."

Gabe Aschbacher of the Marinette Wastewater Treatment Plant, showing off the Shincci-USA technology.


ICS Group: "What percentage of solids are you getting off the belt press right now?"

KA: "About 15%. The PWTech has been getting as high as 22%, but we only need to meet 18% to go into the dryer. In order to reduce polymer usage, the technician is keeping it at 18% and it’s coming out of the dryer perfectly. This has been awesome. We are very excited about the installation of this dryer project."

Current belt filter press at the Columbus Wastewater Treatment Plant


ICS Group: "How many staff members do you have here at Columbus?"

KA: "We have three team members. I am the lead operator, and we have two other operators. Not only do we run the facility, but we also operate all the lift stations and the collection systems too. We are stretched a little thin. The fact that this is a very simple process, which doesn’t take a lot of manpower is huge."


ICS Group: "What were the key features and benefits you were you looking for in your upgrade? Obviously, you mentioned you were looking to reduce sludge volume, but what else were you looking for?"

KA: "Besides reducing volume, the cost of day to day running the dryer and simplicity of the system were big factors, and we have found both of those benefits in the Shincci-USA system. It is very easy to run, it’s simple and the system can be automated. Automation was definitely a draw."

"There is no explosion hazard and no need for natural gas. It was so much easier than coming up with the natural gas feed and all of that for the heat dryers. That was a big reason why we decided to go with Shincci-USA and PWTech. The simplicity and reduced cost of installing the system was a huge factor, we don't need to construct a new building, and the system has very few external parts. The footprint is much smaller. We have existing space, and we don’t have to add another building. It’s basically the dryer and dewatering press, hopper, feed system and some polymer and that’s it."

The modular design of the Shincci-USA system allows it to fit in a small footprint, reducing construction costs.


ICS Group: "What are some of the added benefits that you foresee with drying the solids around that 90% and over mark?"

KA: "The main benefit is to meet 180-day storage limit. With this new technology, we will reduce our sludge volume somewhere around 70%. The new dewatering press and dryer will change how we land spread to the farmer’s fields. At the end of the day, we knew we could improve our cake sludge and done it for less money, but we wanted to go with dried sludge so our facility could have the added benefits of using the dryer."

"Right now, our sludge is considered Class B, and we are required to incorporate the sludge within a 24-hour period for the farmers. Some of our farmers are no-till and they do not wish to till in their land after applying the sludge. So, we can’t apply to the no-till fields."

"With the potential of the new biosolids being Class A, the reduction of no fecal coliforms is huge. I feel like we will have an increased interest in our sludge and the possibility of getting a few more farmers taking our sludge."

The finished product from the PWTech Volute Dewatering Press and Shincci-USA Sludge Dehumidification System.


ICS Group: "What are the next steps in getting the equipment approved or getting this on the ground at Columbus?"

KA: "Our engineer has submitted the process to the DNR for approval. Once approved, then it will come back to us, and they will put together more of a plan. Next, we will look at construction costs and will have to go to the city commission to get it approved. As you know, it's just a little bit of process. We are looking at the end of 2025 for this to be formally installed. It has a little bit of time."


ICS Group: "Anything else you would like to add about the project or the process?"

KA: "The project has been really exciting. Just being able to see the PWTech Volute Dewatering Press reacting well with our sludge. We were nervous that maybe it wouldn’t work with our specific sludge, but it is working fantastic. We have spent a lot of time pressing our sludge with our existing belt press. It’s an aging system and it’s not working the way it should.

The minute that the trailers pulled in, we were excited that this was going to come true. This upgrade will make a huge difference in how we operate the plant and I think all of the operators here are very excited about this project."

If your facility is anticipating a biosolids upgrade, please reach out to the ICS Group for a presentation or to schedule a tour of our PWTech & Shincci-USA installations.

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