Information & Environmental Management System
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, biosolids are the nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of domestic sewage at a wastewater treatment facility. Through biosolids management, solid residue from wastewater treatment is processed to reduce or eliminate pathogens and minimize odors, forming a safe, beneficial agricultural product.
Are biosolids safe?
Recycling biosolids is good for the environment. Organic matter has been recycled for centuries to improve soil fertility and productivity. When properly applied and managed, biosolids can provide essential plant nutrients; improve soil structure and tilth; add organic matter; enhance moisture retention; and reduce soil erosion. Biosolids recycling is regulated and encouraged by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and state and local authorities. Research and years of recycling experience have demonstrated that properly managed land application of biosolids is an environmentally safe option for communities.
Resource: Water Environment Federation
Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility Biosolids Program
The City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department's Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility provides wastewater treatment to Raleigh and the surrounding communities of Garner, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell, Knightdale and Zebulon. It is a 60 MGD plant located in southeast Raleigh, the capital city of North Carolina. The plant produces 35 - 40 dry tons of biosolids per day, which is made into a Class A product known as Raleigh Plus that is land applied on privately owned agricultural land or turned into a Class A compost product by a private industry.
During 2002, several issues were raised involving the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility and its biosolids program. The City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department was fined several thousand dollars for over application of biosolids on City-owned farm land at the facility and other deficiencies in its biosolids management program. A very in-depth review of the plant was undertaken and as a result, the City decided to become a National Biosolids Partnership demonstration agency, and committed to the development and implementation of an Environmental Management System (EMS) for biosolids.
A key to the success in turning around the biosolids program at the NRWWTP is diversification in biosolids products and distribution. Prior to the development of the EMS at the plant, land application was the only method used for disposal and Class B biosolids was the only product produced. Today, the program produces and distributes Class A biosolids to area agricultural and institutional land, sends dewatered sludge to a commercial composting facility for use in a Class A compost/mulch product and land applies Class B biosolids on private farm land. A contingency landfill contract is in place as an emergency alternative should any of the other outlets become unavailable.
Through the EMS process the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility biosolids management program has been able to go from one of many problems to a model program.
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Environmental Management Systems (EMS)
An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a management framework for integrating environmental considerations into day-to-day operations and decision-making, and for improving organizational performance over time.
The City of Raleigh's Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility (formerly NRWWTP) participates in the National Biosolids Partnership's (NBP) Biosolids EMS program, created to advance environmentally sound and accepted biosolids management practices. The facility has developed an EMS to continually improve the environmental performance of its biosolids management activities and demonstrate this performance to stakeholders.
The biosolids EMS at the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility was first verified through the independent third party process in December of 2006 to become an NBP certified agency, making the biosolids program at the plant an accredited model program. The following year the biosolids EMS earned the designation of Platinum Level Certification. The Platinum Level designation represents the highest achievement of biosolids management and environmental stewardship. Subsequent audits continue to verify that the system meets NBP expectations and requirements for maintaining certification.
To coincide with its biosolids EMS, the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility implemented an ISO 14001 EMS for the wastewater treatment operations at the plant. In February of 2014, the facility received ISO 14001:2004 certification for its wastewater EMS.
Policy Statement - February 2014
“The City of Raleigh’s Wastewater Environmental Management System (WEMS) for the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility will provide a sustainable wastewater management program for customers while protecting the environment and maintaining public health at a fair and reasonable cost. In order to do this, the City of Raleigh will uphold the principles of conduct specified in the National Biosolids Partnership Code of Good Practice and to any other requirements to which the organization subscribes.”
Approved by: John R. Carman - Director of Public Utilities
Code of Good Practice
The "Code of Good Practice," adopted from the National Biosolids Partnership, is a broad framework of goals and commitments to guide the production, management, transportation, storage and end-use of biosolids. The City of Raleigh has adopted this code and to that end, our environmental management system for our biosolids includes the following:
- Compliance: To commit to compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local requirements regarding production at our Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility, including management, transportation, storage, and end-use of biosolids.
- Product: To provide biosolids that meet the applicable standards for their intended use.
- Environmental Management System: To develop an environmental management system for our biosolids that includes a method of independent third-party verification to ensure effective ongoing biosolids operations.
- Quality Monitoring: To enhance the monitoring of biosolids production and management practices.
- Quality Practices: To require good housekeeping practices for biosolids production, processing, transport, and storage, and during final use operations.
- Contingency and Emergency Response Plans: To develop and maintain response plans for unanticipated events such as inclement weather, spills, and equipment malfunctions.
- Sustainable Management Practices: To enhance the environment by committing to sustainable, environmentally acceptable biosolids management practices and operations through an environmental management system.
- Preventive Maintenance: To enhance our preventive maintenance program on equipment used to manage biosolids and wastewater solids.
- Continual Improvement: To seek continual improvements in all aspects of biosolids management.
- Communication: To provide methods of effective communication with gatekeepers, stakeholders, and interested citizens regarding the key elements of the environmental management system; including information relative to system performance.
The cost of participation in the EMS is priceless. It has proved to be a valuable tool in restoring confidence in our program, increasing employee moral and participation, saving money in our capital improvements projects and having the satisfaction that the biosolids management program at the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility has drastically improved from where it was a few years ago and will continue to improve. The time and effort put in by the staff is too numerous to measure and give a dollar figure. The benefits reaped are invaluable and cannot be adequately measured.
Some of the beneficial outcomes realized through the EMS include (in no specific order):
- Voluntary reduction of metals ceiling for Class A EQ from 75% regulatory limit to 50% limit
- 100% beneficial reuse of biosolids
- Development of Master Plan has led to environmental impact assessment for various technical options considered for future growth and the basis for CIP funds
- Acceptance by users of "Raleigh Plus" material continues to expand
- Addition of product transfer hoppers has increased operating flexibility, improved productivity and eliminated potential for cross contamination of biosolids
- Conversion of storage tanks to digesters and addition of jet mixers has increased efficiency and flexibility, showing a batch to batch improvement in quality and resulting in substantial energy cost decrease (approximately $100K/year)
- Reduced energy use from energy efficient blowers
- Reduced pretreatment NOVs (from 41 in 2006 to 18 in 2009)
- LEED certification for Administration/Training building - demonstrates commitment to environmental performance
- Addition of centrifuge has increased dewatering capacity (+50%) and led to higher cake solids content (+5%) resulting in lower energy use
- Three constructed wetlands are in place for reducing nitrate runoff from the facility - a $70M saving in remediation cost + $6M/year cap & trade benefit, demonstrating a commitment to environmental improvement. Neuse River keeper indicated this is best practice.
- Addition of denitrification filters and upgraded reuse water distribution system has reduced demand for potable water and deferred need for additional water plant by 10 years (cost $7/gal vs. $20/gal new plant)
- Recognized improved public perception by regulators, neighbors
- Neighbors have noted that plant management is more receptive to their input/concerns, resulting in fewer complaints and better relations. Stakeholders have classified the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility as a "good neighbor"
- Sanitary sewer overflows have reduced from approximately 95 to approximately 35 in the past 8 years
- Management system planning and discussion has improved inter-Division communication, improving efficiency and making more resources available
- Expanded use of the Management of Change procedure has improved planning and communication of changes
- The internal audit process developed as part of the management system is being used to find deep causes of operating problems
- An EPA audit in 2011 found no negative findings or comments within the treatment plant operations
- Actuators have been installed on louvers in the blower room and sound blankets have been installed on blowers to reduce noise in response to public requests
- Recognition for the management system has increased Wastewater Division credibility to a point where it is being used as an example for management system development throughout the Department.
In 2007, the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility received the prestigious Platinum Level Certification for their EMS. "The Platinum Level designation represents the highest achievement of biosolids management and environmental stewardship." The Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility has received recertification for their Biosolids EMS on February 22, 2012. Per the requirements of the National Biosolids Partnership (NBP), the City's EMS has to be re-verified by an independent third party auditor every five years to maintain the distinction of being certified. The EMS re-verification certifies the City as having an effective biosolids environmental management system that supports continual improvement to environmental performance, meeting regulatory compliance obligations, using good management practices, and creating meaningful opportunities for public participation, and is in conformance with the requirements of the National Biosolids Partnership (NBP).