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Clean-up operation for sewage

Water authorities are running out of options for the disposal of sewage sludges. Europe's first industrial-scale composting plant goes into operation in Luxembourg in October, to demonstrate that safe disposal also makes economic sense.

Background

The traditional methods fo...
Water authorities are running out of options for the disposal of sewage sludges. Europe's first industrial-scale composting plant goes into operation in Luxembourg in October, to demonstrate that safe disposal also makes economic sense.

Background

The traditional methods for disposing of sludge residues from municipal waste-water treatment facilities are environmentally unsustainable. Dumping at sea has already been banned, and burial in landfill sites will be outlawed in all EU Member States by 2010 at the latest, and much sooner in some countries. The authorities will be faced with mounting costs. Recycling this sludge offers not just a way to get rid of problematic waste, but a means of converting it into a new raw material of commercial value. Sewage sludge compost can provide the basis for fertilisers and soil conditioners which can be used on agricultural land or in landscaping and reclamation schemes.

Description, impact and results

Composting takes place in silos covered by a membrane, over which a specially-designed mixing machine is able to ride. Sludge is thoroughly mixed with leafy waste, tree bark and sand, composted at a high temperature under forced ventilation, and matured. Within 12-16 weeks the system produces a hygienic, odourless compost.

Construction of the full-scale plant, at Diekirch in Luxembourg, is due to be completed in early July. When it goes into operation in October it will handle between 12,000 and 15,000 tonnes of sewage sludge each year. Siden (Syndicat Intercommunal de Depollution des Eaux Residuaires du Nord), for whom Soil Concept will operate the site, expects it to produce a payback within four years.

Soil Concept is also managing a parallel `Accompanying Measure' project, to disseminate the results of the development work to water authorities, potential distributors and end-users of compost products throughout Europe.

Working partnerships

In the course of a three-year Innovation project, a small Luxembourg-based company, Soil Concept Sarl, has already demonstrated its new composting system at two small-scale pilot plants. Working closely with two public water authorities in the Saar-Lux region, and with academic and marketing partners from France, Belgium and Germany, the company has also developed a range of ready-to-use mixes, formulated for different applications, for which it is now establishing markets and distribution chains.


Source: European Commission, DG XIII/D.4 - Information and dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge

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