Selma’s water plant produces a lot of sludge, and the town is searching for a more-efficient way to get rid of it.
The town has hired Charlotte-based Pease Engineering and Architecture to explore new removal methods and uses for sludge produced at its water plant.
Selma already has a system in place to remove sludge from its water plant, but it’s a long process that can take up to two days. Town Manager John Barlow said wants to know if a more-efficient process exists.
“It’s not a personnel issue of whether we can or can’t; it’s what is the most cost-effective way to do it,” Barlow said at the Town Council’s October meeting.
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The sludge is essentially mud made up of minerals that settle during the water-treatment process. For years, Selma plant workers opened a drain so the sludge could run into the sewer line. But Selma stopped doing that at the request of the county, which treats the town’s sewage.
The sludge study would cost the town about $7,500, Barlow said.
At the October council meeting, Councilman William Overby said he was uncomfortable paying an outside firm to do a study when the town already knows how to get rid of its sludge.
“I’m concerned we’ll be spending $7,500 for someone to tell us what we already know,” he said.
Rather than hire a consultant, Councilman Tommy Holmes said it would be helpful if the town had a full-time water and sewer supervisor to assess these sorts of things internally. But Councilman Eric Sellers said the town couldn’t afford that, so hiring a consultant was the best option.
“I would like somebody’s expertise to say what’s the best way to get rid of this?” Sellers said.
Mayor Cheryl Oliver asked Barlow if there were other studies Selma could do alongside the sledge study. Barlow said he could think of a few.
“I think this is a good start,” he said. “But capital planning, rate studies for our water – those are things we don’t have.”
After removing the sludge from its water, Selma hauls it to the county’s water plant near Wilson’s Mills, where the county removes the remaining water for $700 per dry ton. At that point, the county either hauls the dry sludge it its landfill or pays an outside company to spray it onto farm fields. Sludge, it turns out, is a great fertilizer.
If the study will show the council how it can improve its sludge practices, it’s a worthwhile expense, Oliver said. “If somebody can hep us work smarter, the $7,500 might be a good investment,” she said.