SEASIDE — A state-of-the-art technique for treating sludge from Seaside’s sewer treatment plant will not only be cheaper, it will be beneficial, says Public Works Director Neal Wallace.

“I don’t think you’re going to see anything better for a long time,” he told the City Council at its meeting Monday night.

If the city buys a 10-year-old dryer to remove water from the sludge and create fertilizer pellets, annual operating costs would be reduced by about $106,000, Wallace said.

The council unanimously approved the purchase.

The Fenton Fenix Dryer, which would be added to the belt press the city already owns, would produce 200 tons of dried solids a year and would take only 20 large dump trucks to haul it away. The cost is estimated at $77,748 annually.

The city currently presses water from the solids, creating 1,250 tons a year and requiring 63 loads to be transported to a landfill in McMinnville, at a cost of $183,955, Wallace said.

The only other cheaper way to deal with the sludge is to spread it on the city’s farm on Lewis and Clark Road east of Seaside, as it used to do before neighbors began to protest, said Wallace, who estimated the annual cost at $66,000 a year. Although the city owns 100 acres, the sludge can be spread on only 40 acres because the rest of the land is environmentally sensitive and inaccessible.

The land could take 1 million gallons of sludge a year, but the city would still have to find another location to spread 1.5 million gallons more. Previous attempts at finding locations have proved unsuccessful, and the process itself is unpopular with the public.

The new process, which will continue to be regulated by the state Department of Environmental Quality, will not require some of the chemicals – including lime – that are used now to treat the mostly liquid sludge. The dryer will remove 90 percent of the water.

A $350,000 system that would automatically add lime to pretreated sludge was being considered for purchase, but the sludge dryer would make that system unnecessary.

To buy the used dryer, the city would pay $392,000; a new dryer would cost $1.2 million, Wallace said. Shipping and installation costs would bring the total initial price tag to $550,000.

Money for the purchase and installation will come from a $5 million sewer bond that the city sold last year to pay for the automated lime system and to make repairs – some required by the state – to the wastewater treatment plant. 

Although the dryer will produce pellets that could be safely used for fertilizer, the city isn’t going into the composting business, Wallace said. The amount produced is too small to be profitable and the cost to haul it to purchasers would be too expensive, he said. However, the pellets might be sold to those who could use them as a base to create commercial compost.

In other business, the council removed a portion of the Seaside Library’s meeting policy that prohibits religious gatherings in its meeting rooms. A lawsuit was filed against the city earlier this year by a national organization that claimed the prohibition discriminated against religious organizations.

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