Starkville is getting an upgrade to the city’s wastewater treatment system.
Starkville Utilities Department plans to reuse the water and sewage and turn it into fertilizer.
SUD General Manager Terry Kemp said “sludge” has been discharged for decades into a lagoon at its wastewater plant on Sand Road, creating extreme buildup over time. Now, the waste will go through machines called “screw presses” and come out as sustainable soil for growing plants.
“What this allows us to do is to divert the sludge from not going into the lagoon anymore,” Kemp said. “It actually goes through a process of what they call ‘screw presses’ and then into a drying operation and a treatment operation so that the outcome would be a ‘Class A’ usable product similar to topsoil.”
The lagoon where the current waste is released is nearing capacity, and Kemp said SUD needed a new solution. After analyzing several other options, such as expanding the lagoon or dredging it, Kemp said the city and SUD decided investing in technology would be the most cost-effective and beneficial alternative for Starkville.
“I think we have come up with a sustainable solution for the long term with sludge,” Kemp said. “It provides us a great option to fulfill our responsibility to ensure we have a safe, environmentally-sensitive process in place and will serve us well into the future. … We fully anticipate huge benefits coming back to the city, short-term and long-term.”
There will be two screw presses to treat and dry the waste and make it usable. Kemp said if SUD decides to operate both, the machines will produce 2,800 dry tons per year, which would exceed the flow currently being discharged into the lagoon.
The project is being funded through a $10 million bond approved by the board of aldermen in 2019. Kemp said this upgrade will not raise taxes or impact customer rates.
SUD has been constructing and developing this project over the last two years and is in the final stages of system testing. Kemp said it should be in full production within the next 30 to 60 days.
Kemp said SUD will take much of the produced fertilizer to Mississippi State University for application to green areas on campus.
“We’re working closely with Mississippi State as a joint effort from the regional approach,” Kemp said. “Mississippi State will be using it for pasture land, bidding materials, things that you typically would use topsoil for.”
Mayor Lynn Spruill said the byproducts will also be used to enrich the city’s parks and landscape. As the first city in Mississippi to reuse waste water, she said she is proud of the “cutting-edge technology” pushing Starkville toward a sustainable future.
“We have tried to do things proactively to reduce our carbon footprint,” Spruill said. “This is another one of those methods. It also takes us into the next century. … This is a sustainable process that will keep us from having to expand the lagoon capacity and instead create a reusing capacity which is just great to me for our future.”