Oregon Plant Recycles Nutrients into Fertilizer

A wastewater treatment plant in metropolitan Portland will become the first facility in the United States to incorporate innovative new technology that removes phosphorus and other nutrients from wastewater and recycles them into environmentally safe commercial fertilizer, according to a Sept. 23 press release from Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies Inc.

. The new technology, expected to begin operating in early spring 2009, will bring increases in efficiency and effectiveness to the Durham Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility in Tigard, Ore., already recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as one of the top wastewater treatment facilities in the country. The Durham facility is owned and operated by Clean Water Services, the water resource management utility serving more than 500,000 customers in urban Washington County west of Portland. The new technology, developed by Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies Inc. of Vancouver under license from the University of British Columbia, brings environmental benefits, increases plant capacity, and reduces maintenance costs, while also creating a revenue-generating product.

Clean Water Services signed a contract with Ostara on Sept. 8, for construction of a $2.5 million multi-reactor Ostara plant at the Durham facility. Clean Water Services will own and operate the reactors and will also share revenue with Ostara from the commercial sale of the fertilizer byproduct, to be marketed throughout Oregon and the Pacific Northwest by Ostara under the brand name Crystal Green™.

Bill Gaffi, general manager at Clean Water Services, said that partnering with Ostara provides a solid return on investment.

"This technology will save our ratepayers money by extracting nutrients which would otherwise clog our pipes and reduce our plant's treatment capacity, while also creating a unique and environmentally safe commercial fertilizer product," said Gaffi. "We anticipate a net payback of the initial investment within five years."

Phillip Abrary, president and chief executive officer of Ostara, said Clean Water Services' Durham facility is the first in the United States to incorporate the Ostara technology, although a commercial reactor has been operating at a municipal plant in Edmonton, Alberta, for more than a year. Several other commercial facilities are in planning and design stages after successful field trials in 2007 by municipalities, ethanol biofuel plants, and food processing plants in the United States and Canada.

Abrary said treatment systems typically separate sewage sludge solids from liquids. Treated solids can be recycled as soil amendments, as the Durham facility does. Liquids are typically reprocessed back through the wastewater system, which adds costs to the system by clogging pipes with a concrete-like scale called struvite -- the result of phosphorus and ammonia (nitrogen) combining with magnesium -- and by consuming up to 25 percent of the system's capacity.

"Our technology integrates into the treatment system, processes the sludge liquids, and recovers phosphorus and other nutrients -- and then converts them into a high-quality environmentally friendly commercial fertilizer that can generate revenue for the local utility," said Abrary.