Biosolids SPOTLIGHT: A focus on the people of biosolids who work in our region

January 2023 - MABA Member Spotlight

featuring WSSC Water

Innovating Biosolids Management at WSSC Water

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC Water) is a bi-county agency and public corporation in Maryland, established in 1918 to provide water supply and wastewater services for Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.  WSSC Water is among the largest water and wastewater utilities in the nation, with a network of over 5,865 miles of drinking water pipeline and more than 5,865 miles of sewer pipeline, serving 1.9 million residents.

WSSC Water is nearing completion of an innovative regional biosolids processing facility (Bioenergy Facility)  located at WSSC Water’s Piscataway Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) in Accokeek, MD.  When fully operational in 2024, the largest and most technically advanced facility ever constructed by WSSC Water will receive over 100,000 wet tons (WT)/year of unstabilized biosolids from all six of WSSC Water’s WRRFs. The Bioenergy Facility will generate 2-3 MW of renewable energy and 50,000-60,000 WT/year of exceptional quality, Class A biosolids using thermal hydrolysis and anaerobic digestion (TH/AD).  

Anaerobic digesters


Digester gas will be captured and purified to renewable natural gas (rNG) standards and sold as a source of renewable energy.  A portion of the energy generated will be used to fuel Montgomery County’s compressed natural gas (CNG) bus fleet, thereby producing a locally sourced, renewable fuel.  Likewise, Class A biosolids will be beneficially reused via land application to provide a valuable fertilizer and soil amendment to regional farms.

Closer view gas handling

In anticipation of the upcoming transition, WSSC Water is also investigating and implementing innovative technologies and process control strategies designed to reduce energy consumption and treatment chemical usage while increasing the  energy value of biosolids fed to the Bioenergy Facility.  Initiatives include adding sidestream enhanced biological phosphorus removal (S2EBPR) at the Parkway WRRF to move away from chemical-based phosphorus removal; full-scale pilot testing of ammonia-based aeration control (ABAC) at the Seneca WRRF; and bench-scale evaluation of primary to waste activated sludge ratios required to maximize volatile solids reduction (VSR) potential as well as the impact of high aluminum content on the digestibility of the biosolids.  As these processes are further developed and optimized, WSSC Water is working to implement cost-saving and energy generating strategies across all of WSSC Water’s WRRFs.   

Aerial view - WSSC Water

Regulations & permitting surrounding land application of a Class A biosolids will be less restrictive than currently afforded with Class B. However, a variety of factors with the potential to impact the long-term viability and cost of land application exist. Key factors include: 

  • Biosolids processing will be centralized with limited onsite storage;
  • Regulations on land application restrict options in winter/wet weather;
  • Land application rates will continue to be limited by nutrient content;
  • Other large municipalities in DC Metro area creating similar Class A products could saturate markets; and
  • Emerging contaminants will continue to threaten long-term viability of land application.

In an effort to get ahead of these issues and meet them head-on, a comprehensive long-range biosolids master plan is being developed to ensure that WSSC Water can adjust to changing conditions and markets and continue to manage biosolids in a risk averse, sustainable, and economically viable manner. 

For additional information, contact Malcolm Taylor PhD, P.E. WSSC Water Engineering & Environmental Services
[email protected]


December 2022 - MABA Member Spotlight

featuring Chalfont-New Britain Township Joint Sewage Authority

Chalfont-New Britain Township Joint Sewage Authority team works to achieve dryer success,
new community land application program

The Chalfont-New Britain Township Joint Sewage Authority serves a community of approximately 8,500, with an average daily flow of 4.65 mgd, and in 2019 they found themselves considering the next dryer for their facility. With the new dryer selection, they were faced with the question of whether they should continue with a system and technology they had been familiar with for the previous 18 years or if they should consider moving toward a new technology.  The Fenton dryer they had in the past had reached the end of its lifetime, and they were eyeing the Gryphon dryer as a new option and opportunity.

Centrifuge cake being fed to drier. About 23-24% solids. (courtesy of Chalfont-New Britain


Centrifuge cake being fed to drier. About 23-24% solids. (courtesy of Chalfont-New Britain)


Tom Hauser, superintendent of now 25 years with Chalfont-New Britain says the potential positives in the Gryphon dryer were immediately apparent - a lower temperature and the use of air instead of heat transfer effluent, providing a significantly lower possibility of dangers and smells in the operation. The larger question he faced from executive director John Schmidt was the feasibility and functionality of the new Gryphon dryer.

“His question to me was, ‘if we’re going to make this investment - are we going to make this work?,’” said Hauser. 

Dan at the feed end during start-up. (courtesy of Chalfont-New Britain)

Dan Ranker at the feed end during start-up. (courtesy of Chalfont-New Britain)

Hauser and his team gave Schmidt an enthusiastic affirmative response, and began to follow through on that pledge as the dryer went online in June 2020.  The team of 9 individuals in plant operations, including 1 lab tech, put on their problem-solving hats in the months to come, and worked with the Gryphon customer service team to troubleshoot different issues and alarms as they presented.  Hauser says the team contacted the manufacturer, who could then go online and check the system to see where and how the process was experiencing an issue.  With each instance of outreach and troubleshooting the internal team has worked to create a checklist to assess any future issues prior to contacting the manufacturer.

“Our team is really driven by a lot of problem solving,” said Hauser, “And with that kind of attitude - it’s hard to make it fail.”

Side view of dryer. (Courtesy of Chalfont-New Britain)

Side view of dryer. (Courtesy of Chalfont-New Britain)

Hauser says that for the most part the Gryphon dryer has been reliable and runs well.  Additionally, he says that he and his team continue to experience great customer service and support from Gryphon – no matter the day or time.  

And with higher levels of copper in the influent, due to aggressive groundwater in the region and the previous anaerobic digestion process, the plant had at times created a Class B biosolids product that required regular emptying of the digesters and limited options for disposal.  Now, with no anaerobic digestion, they are producing a dried Class A product, with the use of a circular chart recorder, proving the biosolids are at or above 176 degrees for 72 seconds to destroy pathogens.  

The next step for Hauser and his team was to create a beneficial reuse program.  And through their work, and work with Diane Garvey of Garvey Resources, they have built a robust community reuse initiative.  Hauser says that he and his operator Dan took several days to do some community outreach, taking with them some of the biosolids as well as their informational sheets.  The community was incredibly interested in the product, and Hauser and his team worked to facilitate a symbiotic relationship for all involved. 

The first material coming off drier during start-up. (Courtesy of Chalfont-New Britain)

The first material coming off drier during start-up. (Courtesy of Chalfont-New Britain)

Hauser says they give away the biosolids as a free product, dubbed See-N-Be Green, and rent a dump truck to take it to nearby farms – about one month's production. This provides the plant with enough storage space to work for another month.  They have also purchased a broadcast spreader that farmers can use free of charge to spread the product on their fields, and they drop it off 2-3 days ahead of the biosolids delivery day.  Hauser says the farmers are mostly friends or fellow church goers and they then pass the spreader between them. 

“Most of our ‘customers’ use it to fertilize their hay fields,” says Hauser, “We call them customers. We treat them like customers.”

See-N-Be Green Storage. (Courtesy of Chalfont-New Britain)

See-N-Be Green Storage. (Courtesy of Chalfont-New Britain)

Hauser says that through the reuse program the plant’s annual sludge disposal cost is around $1,000 per month of biosolids, which is primarily the rental of the dump truck for the day.  Sometimes winter creates a backup based on the ground conditions. In those winter months, the plant sends the biosolids to a composting facility which comes at a greater cost, but Hauser says they generally only need one shipment to the composting facility each winter.  The plant has a covered building and silo for use for storage, and they are working to create an automatic switch for overflow.  

With over 35 years of experience in operating treatment plants, Hauser says that he and his team are proud to see the improvement from twenty years ago when the biosolids disposal cost was $250,000 annually for liquid hauling and landfilling, to the current practice and technologies yielding a Class A product and a relationship with the community that results in zero disposal costs replaced with a marketing cost of around 5% of that.

For additional information, contact Thomas Hauser, Superintendent, Chalfont-New Britain Township Joint Sewage Authority at 215-345-1225, or [email protected]


November 2022 - MABA Member Spotlight 

featuring McGill Environmental Systems

McGill Environmental Systems specializes in manufacturing premium compost, soil, and mulch products through the processing and recycling of residuals from municipal, industrial and agribusiness sources. We also design, build, and operate state-of-the-art indoor facilities — either McGill-owned or customer-owned. All McGill operations provide reliable, weather-independent production year-round. 

McGill has a well-established customer base in bulk sales to the landscaping, construction, and erosion-control industries, as well as bulk and bagged sales to soil products retailers. Our product line includes mulches, composts and compost-based mixes and blends, including enriched topsoil and compost formulated for conventional agriculture.


McGill Operated Facilities


McGill Highlights 

  • 200+ Employees
  • 500,000 tons per year composted
  • 5 McGill Owned and Operated Facilities
  • 2 Facilities McGill Operates for public/private entities
  • 1,000,000+ cubic yards of products sold annually
  • 300,000+ tons of greenhouse gases avoided each year through diversion
  • 70,000+ tons of carbon sequestered yearly through our composted soil amendments 

McGill Merry Oaks Facility

McGill Merry Oaks 

The McGill Regional Composting Facility at Merry Oaks, opened in 2002, is located about 30 minutes south of Raleigh. With over 110,000 square feet of enclosed operational area, the McGill team processes over 100,000 tons of organics annually. 

Merry Oaks Facility Facts


McGill utilizes a proprietary modification of the aerated static pile composting process that has served as the scientific standard for the industry since it was developed at Rutgers University. Computerized-control of the air delivery and extraction system optimizes composting conditions by maintaining ideal temperatures for the specific microbes responsible for biodegradation.

McGill accepts and processes residuals from municipal, industrial and agribusiness generators. All feedstocks must be pre-approved to meet regulatory and internal acceptance protocols. 

Compost Products

McGill’s line of branded Premium Compost products includes McGill SoilBuilder, McGill SportsTurf, McGill LandscapeMix, McGill ErosionControl and McGill AG. Each has been developed to meet the needs of specific professional markets. We have over 50 authorized resellers in the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states, including landscape supply yards, landscape contractors and erosion control companies. McGill is a proud participant of the US Composting Council’s Seal of Testing Assurance program, which dictates product quality standards and testing requirements.

For additional information, contact Katie Sullivan, McGill Environmental Systems at [email protected]


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