SEASIDE — The Seaside City Council agreed Monday night to spend $1 million to transform sludge into ash.

In the meantime, the council will eliminate a problem that has been plaguing the city for years: what to do with the biosolids from Seaside’s wastewater treatment plant.

But, Public Works Director Neal Wallace told the council, the city eventually would save money using the process he proposed.

Wallace suggested that the city first use the press that it already has purchased to press water from the biosolids solution resulting from the wastewater treatment process.

Then, Wallace said, a 10-year-old dryer the city would buy from Fenton Environmental Technologies for $395,000 would eliminate most of the rest, so the biosolids would be at least 90 percent dry.

“It would be a huge step forward for the city in how it handles biosolids,” Wallace said. “We could turn them into a Class A product that is biodegradable. It’s about as good and ‘green’ solution that we can hope for,” he added.

To dispose of the biosolids now, the city presses the water from its solids and hauls the annual 1,250 tons a year to a landfill in McMinnville at a cost of $183,955. Other attempts to spread it on farmland rented from property owners has met with opposition from surrounding neighbors.

About 200 tons of dried solids would be produced annually. Because the biosolids would be heated to 2.5 million BTUs, any pathogens would be killed, Wallace said. Some of the biosolids could be mixed with bark chips and used as mulch, while the rest would be hauled to the landfill. Transportation costs would be greatly reduced, Wallace said.

Wallace said that both the press and the dryer would need to be housed in a 7,680-square-foot building, costing an estimated $388,000. Another $20,000 would be spent on an electrical upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant.

Additional costs include $20,000 to ship the dryer from Brownwood, Texas. The city already earlier agreed to buy the press for about $200,000.

The city also will pay $24,500 annually for gas to heat the dryer, $3,937 per year for electricity and $4,800 for maintenance and labor.

To pay for the dryer and building, the city will use $225,000 in bond money that was to be used to build an automated lime system. The system is no longer needed to stabilize the biosolids because the heating process is being used. Because the sludge will no longer be applied to farmland, either on the city’s own farm or on others’ properties, the city’s tanker truck could be sold, as well as the farm, which has an estimated value of $200,000, Wallace said. Another $300,000, which had been earmarked for a generator to operate the sewage treatment plant, will be diverted to purchase the dryer and building. The city will use three generators it has now to keep most of the plant operating in power outages.

Although the dryer didn’t perform well on initial tests this summer, other tests improved greatly after city crews adjusted the process they used at the wastewater treatment plant, according to a memo Wallace distributed to the council.

Mayor Don Larson praised Wallace’s proposal.

“What we have is an extremely green solution. We will get rid of the lime, get rid of the farm and the trucks. It will be green all the way around,” Larson said.

In other business, the council heard a presentation by Pearl Rasmussen, from the North Coast State Forest Coalition. Rasmussen described efforts by the coalition to develop “high value” conservation areas within timberlands owned by the state Department of Forestry. Included in the proposal areas along the Kilchis River, Miami River, Gnat and Plympton creeks, God’s Valley along the Lower Nehalem River and Gales Creek Canyon. At least 13 conservation areas are proposed in the local region.

The council also approved a $79,641 contract to Bob McEwan Construction for a construction project at 12th Avenue and Wahanna Road. The project involves widening the intersection on the west side and installation of two stormwater catch basins to improve drainage.

A new outfall also will be constructed on 12th Avenue east of Wahanna on property owned by the Community Action Team.

Sidewalks also will be constructed.

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