City puts a new spin on waste disposal |

City puts a new spin on waste disposal

Ryan Graff
Special to the Post Independent
January 30, Glenwood Springs Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Glenwood Springs Water and Wastewater Department doesn’t deal sludge anymore.

Thanks to a new technology, the city’s sewage treatment plant produces a solid, black manure rather than a liquid sludge.

In May 2003, the department invested $300,000 in a centrifuge to help cut down on the cost of hauling wastes from the plant to area ranches.

“We are able to haul as many solids in one day as we could in five days of hauling sludge,” said water and wastewater program director Buddy Burns.

Before the department purchased the centrifuge, it hauled waste solids in sludge form to local farms in a 4,000-gallon tank truck and sprayed it onto the land.

Since the centrifuge was purchased, holding tanks for sludge at the plant have been filled in with concrete to create a flat pad. Piles of what looks like fluffy, black soil now sit on the pads waiting to be loaded into dump trucks and delivered to ranches.

Only 3 percent of the sludge was solid waste, said Ben Tipton, a senior operator at the waste water treatment facility. With the centrifuge, the waste water department is able to haul a completely solid by-product from the plant, instead of the sludge, making the hauling process more efficient.

The big benefit to hauling solids is that it saves the department from having one worker dedicated to hauling waste from the plant.

“It is like having another operator in the plant,” said Tipton.

“It’s an incredible machine, maintenance free, cleans itself,” he said. “It’s all-state-of-the-art.”

Compared to the house-sized holding tanks and trucks at the waste water department, the tube-shaped centrifuge is small. It is 12 feet long and two feet wide, with a few pipes poking out of each of its ends.

On the wall next to the machine is a gray touch screen computer used to control the centrifuge. It has multiple sensors that monitor its operation. The sensors are so sensitive and advanced that even an incorrect vibration will shut the machine down, said Tipton.

The technology frees workers to do other chores around the plant, he said.

“I’m not just stuck here baby-sitting it,” Tipton said.

The centrifuge is much more than a spinning container using g-forces to separate liquids and solids.

The machine has a tube, called a bowl, and a sort of screw in the middle, called a scroll, said Tipton.

The two pieces spin in the same direction but at different speeds. The bowl spins at about 3,000 revolutions per minute and the scroll spins at one-third that speed. The different speeds create pressure that separates liquids and solids, said Tipton.

Once the solids are separated out, they are fed out the bottom of the machine onto a conveyor belt which carries the solid waste into the back of a dump truck.

Hauling solid manure instead of sludge is much more efficient.

“You’d be doing good to get a ton of solids out in a day,” before the centrifuge, said Tipton. With the centrifuge the department can move five or six tons of solids a day.

In addition to helping the plant run more smoothly, the centrifuge also cuts down on the smell coming from the plant, said Tipton.

Ranchers also seem to appreciate having the waste, which they use as a fertilizer, in solid form.

“Aesthetically its easier to apply that way,” said Tipton.

Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 534

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