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Sewage proposal might help save money, environment

June 09, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Chambersburg borough officials are looking into a proposal that might help the environment and save them more than $9 million.

The borough council this week agreed to spend $15,000 on a study that will detail how nutrients can be removed from cow or swine manure. That study will be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to find out whether a participating farm's efforts can earn "credits" for protecting the Chesapeake Bay.

Council President William McLaughlin hopes the amount of those credits will be enough to keep the borough from having to expand its Hollywell Avenue sewage treatment plant as planned. That project will cost an estimated $9 million, or $13.8 million with loan interest.

"The potential is exciting," he said.

Integrity Ag Systems, which is based in the Cumberland Valley Business Park, will present the DEP with ideas using technology already popular in Europe. TeamAg Inc. of Ephrata, Pa., will validate the study's finding.

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"We have a lot of different tools in our toolbox for nutrient removal or sequestering," said Brad Whitsel, president of Integrity Ag Systems.

Among those are chemical treatments, filters and centrifuges, he said, explaining that nutrients are elements removed like particles.

Nutrients could be taken to western Pennsylvania, where the soil isn't as rich, McLaughlin said. Dried solids that remain could be used as animal bedding, he said.

Whitsel said farmers would benefit by not having to haul manure and by retaining just the amount needed for their own crops. McLaughlin said regional water quality would improve.

"Our job is to find the best alternative to a problem that makes the most economic sense," McLaughlin said.

The study is expected to be complete in three or four months.

Some expansion of the sewage treatment plant would still be required because of population growth, according to McLaughlin.

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