ISTC program marks big savings for Illinois wastewater treatment plants

Wastewater treatment plant

Illinois municipalities hoping to save money on energy costs for wastewater treatment turn to ISTC’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) for advice.

The Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Assistance Program started in 2018 with funding from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Partnering with the University of Illinois’ Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC), the TAP team visits publicly owned wastewater treatment plants across the state and drafts no-cost assessments with specific recommendations on how to lower energy costs. Similar assessments would cost between $6,000 and $12,000.

In four years, this project has developed 108 specialized energy efficiency assessments for individual wastewater treatment plants, identifying recommendations that can save municipalities over $2.8 million annually.

Wastewater treatment plants are one of the largest users of energy in cities. The costs are significant, particularly for plants with older infrastructure. The assessments typically include costs for equipment upgrades or retrofits, the time it takes for an upgrade to pay off in energy savings, and the amount of savings that could be realized with these upgrades.

Assessments also include utility incentives from companies such as Ameren and ComEd to offset as much as 75 percent of the costs for new and updated equipment, according to Mike Springman, retiring manager of the program.

To date, the program has assisted plants serving a total population of nearly 3 million with an annual energy cost savings of $500,000 each year. If the recommendations were all implemented, the savings would include 37.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity and greenhouse gas emissions at 32,590 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.

The most common areas that could be improved upon to save energy costs are controls on air blowers, variable speed drives on pumps, and indoor and outdoor lighting. Even small changes can make a big difference, Springman said.

Recently, more plant operators have posed questions about solar energy. Size of the facility and space availability are primary determining factors.

“The next assessment reports will include a discussion on solar energy so that they can make an educated decision,” Springman said.

Over time, Springman’s job has become more challenging.

“The opportunities for cost savings are becoming more complicated,” he said. “The low-hanging fruit has been picked. The easy, low-cost items have already been fixed.”

Springman says that the biggest challenge that treatment plants have faced this year is the biodegradeable wipes that end up in the sewer system. The wipes may eventually degrade in a landfill but they bind up the pumps at wastewater treatment plants, causing a big headache for staff.

The IEPA Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Assistance Program will continue for at least another three years and will be extended to wastewater treatment for potable water.

Email TAP at istc-info@illinois.edu and visit the TAP website here.

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Media contact: April Janssen Mahajan, 217-244-0469, alj5@illinois.edu
news@prairie.illinois.edu

ISTC Technical Assistance Program launches new webpages

TAP homepage

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) has a new web presence. You may now find information on TAP at https://go.illinois.edu/techassist.

TAP makes companies and communities more competitive and resilient with sustainable business practices, technologies, and solutions. TAP works at the intersection of industry, science, and government to help organizations achieve profitable, sustainable results.

The new website makes it easier to find information on TAP programs, services, and projects. Visitors can sign up for free site visits or learn about fee-for-service opportunities to engage our sustainability experts. Any Illinois organization, business, manufacturing facility, institute of higher learning, government entity, public utility, or institution may request one free site visit (per location) at no cost to the facility.

General inquiries may be addressed to istc-info@illinois.edu. You may also reach out to specific TAP team members for assistance in their areas of expertise.

Caseyville Wastewater Treatment Plant saves energy, money with ISTC assessment and Ameren Illinois incentives

The Caseyville Township Water Reclamation Facility recently received a free facility assessment through Illinois EPA’s Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Assessment Program. The program is a partnership between Illinois EPA, ISTC, and the University of Illinois’ Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC).

ISTC conducted the assessment in July 2019 and identified several ways to reduce energy use, including upgrading to LED lighting and  installing variable frequency drives on blower motors. The plant used Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Program incentives to help fund the upgrades.

Altogether, the lighting and motor upgrades will reduce the township’s energy use by more than 2.3 million kilowatt-hours every year and deliver six-figure savings in annual energy costs.

Read the full Ameren Illinois case study detailing the upgrades.

ISTC provides technical assistance from a distance

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) at the University of Illinois makes companies and communities more competitive and resilient with sustainable business practices, technologies, and solutions. TAP works at the intersection of industry, science and government to help clients achieve profitable, sustainable results.

In service to the State of Illinois, ISTC provides all Illinois organizations, businesses, manufacturing facilities, institutions and governments the opportunity for one free site visit and sustainability assessment from TAP. However, in light of the Governor’s stay-at-home order and restrictions on non-essential travel for University personnel as we face the COVID-19 pandemic, TAP staff members are currently not conducting in-person site visits.

But this does not mean that we are not still here to serve you. Our staff members are working remotely, and are available to help your business or community with:

  • Answers to questions related to waste reduction, water and energy efficiency and conservation
  • Guidance on institutional water treatment, particularly given recent changes to building use patterns
  • Greening your supply chain
  • Sustainability visioning, goal setting, planning and communication with stakeholders
  • Information on alternative technologies and processes to reduce resource consumption, hazardous material use, and emissions
  • General recommendations for process improvement, which can increase your productivity while reducing your negative environmental footprint

Learn more about TAP services and impacts on the ISTC web site. If you are interested in scheduling a site visit in the future, when travel restrictions have been lifted, fill out our form to request a site visit.  Questions can also be directed to istc-info@illinois.edu, to receive immediate assistance.

Subscribe to our monthly e-mail newsletter on sustainability for food and beverage manufacturers at https://groups.webservices.illinois.edu/subscribe/115948.

You can also keep up to date on TAP projects and services, case studies, and guidance by subscribing to the ISTC blog (look for the “subscribe” box for email input on the main blog page) or exploring the blog’s Technical Assistance category. Our web site also provides a list of fact sheets, case studies and other publications which may provide inspiration for your efforts. In the coming months, TAP will also be developing a new web site to more fully describe recent projects, successes, and services; this will be linked to directly from the main ISTC web site. Be on the lookout for it!

Finally, on April 9th, at 12 PM Central, we invite you to join us for a webinar, Ann Arbor Summer Festival (A2SF) Festival Footprint: Going Zero Waste. Learn more and register at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4557515682919003659. If it inspires you to pursue zero waste at your facility or in your community, we’d love to discuss opportunities and ideas with you! Reach out to our zero waste team at istc-zerowaste@illinois.edu.  If you want to receive notifications of future webinars from ISTC, you can sign up at https://groups.webservices.illinois.edu/subscribe/53516.

Stay safe and know that we are here to support your organization’s sustainability efforts during this difficult time.

ISTC wins another big DOE grant to help reduce wastewater treatment plant pollutants

Organic solids are the main pollutants in wastewater. Removing these solids from wastewater is an energy intensive process. ISTC researcher Lance Schideman has received a $1.98 M grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help solve this problem.

In this project, “Maximizing Bio-Renewable Energy from Wet Wastes (M-BREWW),” Schideman’s team will investigate the use of a new type of anaerobic membrane bioreactor at wastewater treatment plants.

The project team includes collaborators at Ohio University, Colorado State University, the US Army Corp of Engineers’ Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), Mainstream Engineering, and Aqua-Aerobic Systems.

They will build on previous work by combining the components of their distributed low-energy wastewater treatment (D-LEWT) system into a fully functioning pilot-scale unit. The D-LEWT system converts wastewater organic solids and ammonia into two harvestable fuels for biopower production (specifically methane and hydrogen gases).

The integrated D-LEWT system and the improvements made to the system components in this project could increase the net energy production at wastewater treatment plants by up to ten times that of current systems.

Flow diagram of traditional wastewater treatment plant processing (image by Leonard G. at English Wikipedia -- CC BY-SA 2.5)
Flow diagram of traditional wastewater treatment plant processing (image by Leonard G. at English Wikipedia — CC BY-SA 2.5)

Registration is Open for Emerging Contaminants Conference

Join us on May 21-22 for the 2019 Emerging Contaminants in the Environment Conference (ECEC19). Registration will be open until May 3. View the draft agenda on the ECEC19 website.

About the Conference

ECEC19 will be held on May 21-22, 2019, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign, IL. This year the conference will expand beyond the aquatic environment to also include air and soil studies along with effects on human and animal health.

The conference will feature presentations and posters on the latest in emerging contaminant research, policies, and outreach. In addition, there will be plenty of opportunities for discussion and networking with those interested in all aspects of emerging contaminants in the environment.

Researchers, educators, businesses, government officials, regulatory agencies, policy makers, outreach and extension professionals, environmental groups, members of the general public, and medical, veterinary, and public health professionals are encouraged to attend the conference.

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant are cohosting this conference.

Keynote Speakers

  • Thomas Bruton – PFAS Research and Policy Lead, Green Science Policy Institute
  • Robert C. Hale – Professor of Marine Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
  • Susan D. Richardson – Arthur Sease Williams Professor of Chemistry, University of South Carolina

Read more about the keynotes.

Panelists

  • Thomas Burton – PFAS Research and Policy Lead, Green Science Policy Institute
  • Iseult Lynch – Professor and Chair of Environmental Nanosciences at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham
  • Yujie Men – Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Katie Nyquist – Principal Planner for the Contaminants of Emerging Concern Initiative at the Minnesota Department of Health
  • Heiko Schoenfuss – Director of Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory and Professor of Anatomy at St. Cloud State University
  • Krista Wigginton – Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan

Read more about the panelists.

 

New publication: Advancing Pilot-Scale Integrated Systems for Algal Carbon Capture and Biofuel Production

In this research study, funded by ISTC’s Sponsored Research Program, Lance Schideman and his team partnered with Abbott Power Plant and the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District to address critical challenges to practical demonstrations of biological CO2 capture systems and subsequent thermochemical conversion of biomass to biofuels.

The researchers developed the capability to harvest and store actual power plant flue gas samples in pressurized cylinders, then used these samples to study acclimation in algae cultivation systems dosed with flue gas. The project also demonstrated the use of anaerobic digestion to recover residual energy from the aqueous byproduct of hydrothermal liquefaction (HTLaq), which is generated during the conversion of algae or other organic feedstocks to biofuels.

This study showed that mixed culture algae are capable of using CO2 in flue gas, and the impact of the flue gas on algal growth rates was positive. Because higher flue gas injection rates resulted in higher productivity and lower CO2 removal efficiency, higher flue gas injection rates are preferable when the CO2 source is cheap and algae are considered the main product. Low flue gas injection rates would be preferable when the CO2 source is expensive or the CO2 removal efficiency is important. Heavy metal analysis showed that algal biomass will accumulate Zn, Pb, and Cu from flue gas, which can exceed certain animal feed regulatory limits.

This work also demonstrated that anaerobic treatment of HTLaq in combination with sewage sludge is feasible in both lab- and full-scale applications, which highlights the potential for enhancing energy recovery from sewage sludge through integration of hydrothermal liquefaction  (HTL) technology with municipal wastewater treatment. Overall, this study highlights that integrating HTL technology with existing municipal sludge anaerobic digesters could significantly improve the bioenergy production of municipal wastewater treatment systems by 50 to 70% at a cost that is favorable compared to other alternatives.

Download the full report at http://hdl.handle.net/2142/102363.

 

 

New Legislative Request Regarding Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Illinois Wastewater Effluent

The Illinois governor recently signed House Bill IL-HB5741 that amends the University of Illinois Scientific Surveys Act. The new section 21 asks the Prairie Research Institute (PRI), which was established under the Scientific Surveys Act in 2008, to conduct a scientific literature review of chemicals identified in wastewater treatment plant effluents that are recognized as contaminants of emerging concern. It also requests that PRI compile a listing of the specific actions recommended by various state and federal agencies to address the environmental or public health concerns associated with the chemicals. PRI will provide its impartial report to the General Assembly by June 30, 2020.

Because of its long history of pollution prevention expertise, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, will take the lead on this new effort. ISTC researchers have studied a variety of inorganic and organic environmental contaminants as well as developed methods for waste and pollution prevention. Recently much of their water quality research and public engagement activities have focused on chemicals of emerging concern in wastewater, surface water, and groundwater. ISTC staff members Nancy Holm, Laura Barnes, and Elizabeth Meschewski will be compiling the report.

Although the law requests a literature review of contaminants of emerging concern associated with wastewater treatment plant effluent, these contaminants also enter the environment from other sources. These include non-point sources, such as agricultural fields, and other point sources, such as large animal feeding operations, septic systems, and industrial operations.