Are the problems at the plant caused by Anuvia or did they aggravate a pre-existing condition?
The Apopka wastewater treatment plant has been in the news a lot during the past year. In July the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), accused the City of improperly discharging treated effluent from the City’s wastewater treatment plant. In December FDEP sent the City a letter that listed 14 violations at the plant.
The December letter prompted the City to hire an independent engineering firm, Woodard & Curran, to review and evaluate the wastewater plant. The engineering firm concluded that some of the problems at the plant related to the amount of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) and/or Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) arriving at the plant. The report indicated that the COD and BOD were responsible for the accelerated accumulation of biosolids in the plant which are causing operational problems. The source of the elevated levels of BOD and/or COD was determined to be Anuvia Plant Nutrients’ fertilizer production facility on Jones Road in Zellwood.
Why was Anuvia allowed to discharge BOD and/or COD into Apopka’s sewer system?
In 2014 the City of Apopka issued a permit to Anuvia allowing them to discharge wastewater containing up to 6,300 mg/L of BOD. The permit set no limit on the amount of COD. Anuvia has told The Apopka Voice that their BOD discharge has been less than 4,500 mg/L, well within compliance with the BOD limit required by the permit.
The Woodard & Curran (draft) report indicated that the City was not removing biosolids from the plant quickly enough and that a backlog of biosolids had been allowed to accumulate. The report went on to state that if the backlog of biosolids inventory was not removed, the plant’s ability to maintain compliance with FDEP regulations would be at risk. The City currently removes approximately 120 cubic yards of biosolids per week (six 20-cubic yard loads).
On March 1st, 2017, the City Council agreed to spend $63,400 to have approximately 1,200 cubic yards of “excess” biosolids removed over the course of the next 12 weeks. Prior to and after that vote, members of the Council made it clear they expected Anuvia to absorb some portion of the cost.
During the March 1st meeting City Administrator Glenn Irby was asked how long it had taken for the backlog of biowaste to accumulate. He responded, “I have been told anywhere from months to years.” Mr. Irby also said, “We make quite a bit of money processing their (Anuvia’s) waste.”
Anuvia has been in compliance with the discharge permit issued by the City with respect to BOD and COD. Yes, the BOD and/or COD from Anuvia has accelerated the accumulation of biosolids, but the accumulation of excess biosolids occurred over a long period of time that may well pre-date Anuvia.
Should Anuvia pay to have the excess sludge removed from the plant?
We say no.
It certainly appears that the amount of COD and/or BOD in Anuvia’s wastewater might have increased the City’s required rate of biosolids removal, but is that one extra load a week or more? The engineering report suggests that BOD coming into the plant may have increased by 30%. If there is a direct relationship between the BOD intake and biosolids accumulation one might conclude the Anuvia discharge could be responsible for two extra loads of sludge per week, but no one knows for sure. And how is the City’s cost of biosolids removal, not just the cost of doing business? And how much did the pre-Anuvia biosolids accumulation contribute to the problems?
The City agreed to process Anuvia’s wastewater and issued a permit. Anuvia paid a $1.5 million impact fee and has stayed within the parameters of the permit (which expires on March 6th). If the City has a problem with them, whether it be COD, BOD or any other substance they deem problematic that arrives at the plant, it should be addressed in the new permit.