Municipal leaders create sludge disposal authority to pursue facility plan
GREEN FOREST -- Municipal leaders from Holiday Island to Harrison took a big step forward Wednesday when they decided to pursue the possibility of building a regional sludge disposal facility for all to use.
If the project pans out, it might be one of the first such facilities in the state.
At the conclusion of a three-hour meeting in Green Forest, the Carroll Boone Sludge Disposal Authority was established, along with a committee of nine to pursue the feasibility of funding and building such a facility.
At the meeting were representatives from municipalities, government agencies, engineering firms and private industry.
Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney first proposed the idea as a means of sharing the cost of turning cumbersome wastewater sludge into dried granules.
The option sparked interest, especially with new phosphorus regulations hanging on the horizon that will increase the amount of sludge municipalities produce.
Add to that the dwindling supply of sites where sludge application is permitted.
After some discussion, the authority was formed and the committee established to pursue the idea further. Engineers will be asked to submit proposals for regional sludge disposal.
Committee members will initially meet monthly to keep the ball rolling. Their next meeting will be held prior to the Municipal League Convention in Hot Springs June 15-17, when they will mingle with state legislators.
Committee members include: Holiday Island District Manager Kevin Crosson, Eureka Springs Mayor Kathy Harrison, Berryville Public Works Director Kerby Murray, Green Forest Mayor Richard Deweese, Alpena Mayor Bobbie Bailey and Harrison Public Works Director Frank Gelinas.
Other committee members include: Shawna Miller with the Kings River Watershed Partnership; Christy Smith with Tyson Foods; and Northwest Arkansas Economic Development and Northwest Arkansas Solid Waste Management representatives to share a seat on the committee.
Frank Gelinas, public works director for the city of Harrison, said there was an industrial pre-treatment program already in place in Harrison, a program that produced death threats and threats to move industry out of town.
He said the timing for this was right, industry should share in the cost because the process starts at the effluent level. He volunteered to participate and serve on the committee.
Eureka Springs Mayor Kathy Harrison offered the services of her grant writers.
"I have incredible grant writers," she said. "We have the people who know how to go after the money."
Jay Stallard, with the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District, cautioned the group that it may take time and many "no" answers before grant funding is found.
"Patience and perseverance you'll absolutely have to have because it will take several years," he said. "Bond and loan funded projects move faster. Even with six or seven cities and a regional approach, you'll need some grant money."
"You'll have a better chance for funding as a regional project," said Jamal Solaimanian, with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
The price tag for such a project is around $4.2 million, with annual operating expenses estimated at $109,000. That was a price tossed out previously by engineers when talking about a sludge drying system, with the resultant residue becoming a Class A biosludge that can be applied as a fertilizer or bagged and sold.
It was noted that low interest loans may be available from Arkansas Soil and Water and that the United States Department of Agriculture might also have funds for such a project.
Martine Downs, with Sen. Mark Pryor's office, said she would continue to attend the meetings and report back to the senator because he was interested, willing to help figure out funding and "be of assistance."
Green Forest Mayor Richard Deweese, who was appointed chairman of the committee, said Green Forest will be the biggest beneficiary of the facility and he believed they could come up with a formula that would be fair for all.
The mission statement for the group, he said, "is to look into feasibility and look into options for sludge disposal with drying preferred."