Wednesday, December 16, 2015

DWSD Sludge and NEFCO

Throughout its existence, the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department (DWSD) has disposed of most of its sewage sludge (aka biosolids) by incineration or in landfills.  (Small amounts have gone to farms as fertilizer.)

The high cost of maintaining and rebuilding the incinerators, more strict air quality standards and limitations imposed by landfills caused DWSD in 2013 to contract with the New England Fertilizer Company (NEFCO) to design, build and operate a plant in Detroit to dry and pelletize a significant portion of the sludge for use as fertilizer and power plant fuel.  

Image result for artists drawing of nefco plant in detroit
NEFCO photo: construction in Detroit

Under DWSD’s contract with NEFCO, sewer system ratepayers will be on the hook for nearly $700,000,000 over 20 years.

Last month, DWSD executive director Sue McCormick reported that substantial completion of NEFCO’s Detroit facility is expected this month (December 2015).

The NEFCO plant will replace the six oldest of 14 incinerators.  The facility is expected to process incoming sludge at a modest rate of 300 (relatively dry) tons per day (dtpd), 400 in a pinch.  DWSD’s average sludge production the past year has been about 400 dtpd.  (If memory serves, sludge production was required to be at least 450 dtpd under the Second Amended Consent Judgement when DWSD was overseen by a federal judge.)

The daily tonnage that isn’t removed from wastewater ends up in the Detroit River and then Lake Erie.  So, if there are 550 tons of biosolids in the wastewater on the average day and DWSD removes 400 (perhaps 300 of which will go to NEFCO for pelletizing; 100 incinerated), that means that the remaining 150 tons daily or 54,750 tons annually will feed the algae in Lake Erie. (If there’s more to this calculation than meets the eye, DWSD hasn’t been forthcoming about it.)

There are plans to phase out the remaining eight incinerators in ten years. That’s enough time to install around the region several Janicki wastewater processors, which produce pure water, significant amounts of electricity and a small pile of ash (NO sludge).  The Detroit wastewater treatment plant and the NEFCO facility would no longer be necessary.

*****     **jl**     *****

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

DWSD's New Data Center

The Detroit Water & Sewerage Department is featured in a Data Center Journal article, “Case Study: Data Center Infrastructure in Detroit,” by Anil Gosine, December 8, 2015.


The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), completed a $6 million data center modernization project that consists of highly automated standardized infrastructure...Power and cooling, the physical backbone of the data center, was designed and constructed to be flexible enough to keep up with automated, virtualized, dynamic technologies while balancing capacity constraints, efficiency demands and budgets…

IT operations are a crucial aspect of most organizational operations around the world and at DWSD. One of the main concerns is business continuity...It was necessary to provide a reliable infrastructure for IT operations to minimize any chance of disruption. As information security was a major concern this data center upgrade had to offer a secure environment, minimizing the chances of a breach…
Wastewater Treatment Plant (Photo by Voice of Detroit)

The purpose of the project was to upgrade DWSD’s data centers to industry standards for improved reliability and uptime, operational sustainability, and supportability...As a result of the increased demand for computers, data and telephones, the department had to develop a reliable, secure and available communications infrastructure to its mission...The overall object was to create a cleaner, safer and more organized data center environment so that DWSD could maintain and service the equipment, facility and users in a more cost-effective manner. The result allows DWSD personnel to function more efficiently during future relocations, additions and changes, reducing downtime…
This upgrade now gives DWSD the capability to optimize the equipment housed in these data centers, strengthen the network infrastructure and work with partners to integrate their data...DWSD’s future challenges are to ensure that every asset is utilized optimally; to eliminate fragmented operations, tools and information; and to collate and analyze the metrics needed to bridge the data center divide.

…[T]he data center management team must know the vendors and internal and external customers; maintenance practices and procedures must be rigid, centralized and authenticated.

Another important task is to ensure that the IT division avoids becoming understaffed and overworked…[V]irtual perfection is expected…[A]dministrators must avoid technical shortcuts, which can take their toll on support procedures and compromise overall security.

DWSD can now plan, deploy and maintain a sound virtual infrastructure. The interest of the department is now less in bottom-line costs and more on extracting business value.

(Mr. Gosine “...has been involved in the water/wastewater industry for over 10 years...He is currently the industrial control system (ICS) administrator at Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, where he manages and administers the department-wide controls systems, ICS network infrastructure and cybersecurity.”)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Take Caution! Fish Advisories for Southeast Michigan

The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS) publishes advisories about consumption of fish from various lakes and streams in Michigan.

(Throughout the websites and brochures cited in this post, any mention of MDCH, the Michigan Department of Community Health, refers to one of MDHHS’ predecessor agencies.)

Image result for tom sawyer fishing
In Michigan, as in just about every other state in the Union, fish are contaminated with chemicals in the water that move up through the food chain.  Among the more prominent are mercury, dioxin and PCBs.
The Michigan Eat Safe Fish Guide says (p. 71):

Chemicals that cause Michigan’s Eat Safe Fish guidelines are DDT, dioxins, mercury, PCBs, PFOS, selenium, and toxaphene. A lot of these chemicals were put into our environment before we knew the long-term problems these chemicals caused.

Even though many of these chemicals are no longer used, they still remain in our environment. These chemicals can travel through the air and be carried by rain run-off and storm drains into our lakes, rivers, and wetlands. Once these chemicals are in the water, they sink to the bottom and become a part of the fish food chain.

Generally, the older and bigger that fish get, the more contaminated they are.  Also, a lot depends on the species, the water body, how you clean the fish and how you cook it.

The MDHHS guide for southeast Michigan waters has separate sections for 17 counties, Lake Huron and Lake Erie, plus information about many other lakes and streams in the region.

Note especially, that the state recommends that you eat nothing caught in the South Branch of the Shiawassee River because of PCB contamination.  The same applies to the Lange and Revere canals on Lake St. Clair.  Indeed, the state urges more strict limitations on consumption of fish caught within two miles of the Lange and Revere canals than in Lake St. Clair generally.

Musky taken from Lake St. Clair shouldn’t be eaten.  Ditto for carp and catfish in Saginaw Bay.

In most locations, more servings per month of panfish are approved than larger fish.