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Study: Wastewater treatment additive could save millions of dollars

Magnetic mineral essentially concentrates sewage so less tank space is required

January 11, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY — A Washington County pilot study of a wastewater treatment additive called BioMag has confirmed the magnetic mineral could save the county millions of dollars and inspired other jurisdictions to consider it as well, a county official reported Tuesday.

The pilot study, which ran from July 2009 through June 2010, was conducted at the suggestion of the Maryland Department of the Environment, said Julie A. Pippel, director of the county Division of Environmental Management.

 MDE officials had recently been introduced to the new technology and asked Washington County to study whether it could reduce the costs of upgrading wastewater treatment plants to comply with the state's new Enhanced Nutrient Removal standards, she said.

The study confirmed that BioMag "is a viable technology which does perform at ENR treatment levels resulting in a reduction of capital upgrade costs," Pippel wrote in a report to the commissioners.

The process works by essentially concentrating sewage so that less tank space is required, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray has said.

Since the completion of the pilot study, other jurisdictions in the state have begun looking at it as well, he said.

The study was conducted on the county's Winebrenner Wastewater Treatment Plant, where analysis showed it would result in a cost savings of about $4.6 million over the upgrade plan originally proposed, Pippel said.

In December, the commissioners approved a $78,700 change order for the contractor to modify the preliminary design report for upgrades at that plant to include BioMag.

The next step is to evaluate its potential use at the Conococheague and Smithsburg wastewater treatment plants and modify the plans for those plants to include it, Pippel said.

Preliminary evaluations show BioMag could reduce the cost of the upgrades at the Conocococheague plant by $15 million or more, she said.

Previously estimated at $36 million, the cost of that upgrade project could drop to $20 million, Murray said.

The commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a $95,872 change order to modify the plans for upgrades at the Concocheague and Smithsburg plants to include BioMag.

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