Listen: George Sprouse on Managing Biosolids in Uncertain Times
"Episode tackling the issue of Bio solids. It's a it's a very hot issue for the water sector right now. There's a lot of angles and sides to this topic to explore. So I'm very happy to have with me George Spouse. He is manager of Process Engineering and Research and development at the Metropolitan Council of the twin cities he is also the CO chair of West residuals and bio solids conference which is coming up March thirty first to April third in Minneapolis. George thanks for coming on the PODCAST. Thanks very much for having me absolutely So I I started out talking about. Why did by ourselves is a hot issue? Y in your mind are bio solids such an important resource for water utilities and and their communities while the bio solids really represent a kind of a key collection point or a point of concentration for the energy and nutrients moving through a community. So if you think about wastewater or just households that's kind of dispeat- dispersed throughout in a community or a collection system area and really a come together and concentrate and concentrate through through our processes until the point where. I all solids and you know. There's no point in in in that whole flow of energy nutrients where things are quite as concentrated as they are in the Bio solids. So at that point it's really easier and probably most efficient to extract every claim the energy and the nutrients that basically is cycling through a community. And so it's that extraction that allows us to kind of captured things refine them and then return them to the community and this is kind of a key key. Idea for being sustainable. You know that whole circular world rather than ask through world basically and I think bio solids are really kind of nexus point that it it allows at all to happen. Yeah and I think a challenge or maybe some marching orders for a lot of utilities or for our sector is to to do more education around that idea of the these circular nature of Bio solids the way that they are a resource that you just articulated that so well. I think we can definitely do more to try to articulate that to our to the customers out there. So could you talk As far as the Metropolitan Council and they're in the twin cities how you all use your bio solids So I work for the Met Council in our division is environmental services that we provide the way Swat. We provide the wastewater treatment and solids processing for metropolitan area of the twin cities. And we have. We have nine plants. But we've really consolidated are solids processing to wear those plants in by far far away what we do with most of our bio solids is is actually burned them in. Recover the energy directly into Steve. Zoe We have State of the art incineration and air pollution control systems. The heat off of that incineration goes directly into Steam System. That we That we used for plant purposes. He buildings in these called. Minnesota winters but also power the things in in the lab Salata steam and we have two generators so we produce Electricity and offset our electricity use by quite a bit. That's by far and away what we do with most of our bio solids but we do at two of our plants also do the the production of an agricultural material and cultural and biding used by farmers and so we. We have were involved in that as well. I think. One of the great things about this year's Residual I also conference. Is that we. We have to tourists and so one tower will be visiting our facility. The the Energy Recovery Facility here at Metro plant which is which is where we have state of the art Air Kush Two generators producing energy. But we also have associated with the conference second tour where city of Saint Cloud which is just little outside. The on. The twin cities will be offering a tour where they both highlight their land application processes. So they'll cover kind at that side of it and they're not only involved in this land application of Iowa Salads but they're also kind of cutting edge or leading way in nutrient recovery from those energy management recovery. So I think we've got you know that's how in the region that kind of covers both ways or at least two of the main ways I'll are us and so we've Adam both covered at sears a residual I'll salads tour offerings That's interesting to hear that you do that. Much energy generation with your bio solids. That's that's terrific It's it's certainly feeds into that. Circular circular notion. The theme this year for the conference is creative approaches to managing bio solids in an uncertain future. What led you all to to go with that theme really when the Co Chair Anna Monson and I were working on this or thinking about it we. We've we kind of said two things that we really wanted to hit was to help. Attendees it information would help them. Address uncertainty and and understand what the future holds for bio solids programs and then we really wanted to emphasize case studies that share success stories stories. Are you know more engaging in also more enlightening than some some more technical or dry talks in there also from the people who've lived at basically so so those were kind of the two things that I think really drove us to that idea for the team at the Conference Scher Makes a lot of sense when when this phrase uncertain future I have some ideas about what's what's meant there but I'm curious about When when you say uncertain future as it relates to bio solids. What do you mean by that by a vast majority at this point are by far and away emerging contaminants? Are you know how we will be dealing with those in? The future is certainly one of the biggest uncertainties So I think that that's kind of a key one but I think there's also a more there's also more subtle things related to uncertainty about how we will generate the resources or have the resources to actually address emerging contaminant somewhat. They cause as well as just the other unforeseen the unknown unknowns in so I by far enough away emerging contaminant sources at least in my mind in the world. I'm living in right now. The biggest unknown but this idea of like also resources and how to at will be able to actually accomplish things. It's amazing yeah absolutely. And so as we head toward the uncertain future as we grapple with emerging contaminants and resource issues. Why do you think creative approaches will be needed kind of that other part of your theme empowered? Because they're all new and so there's no there's no set solution right now so we're going to have to be creative solutions. I think that's that's kind of a big part of it. I think that I've also heard people mention a lot in. Who Deal or plan or or are involved with bio solids projects that you know nope plant or no bio solids area or no community is are not the same so each each each time. You're dealing with something. You have to be creative buffets. No situation is the same so So it's both the things are new and then the conditions of each situation are unique in. Both of those things require creative thinking. There's no. There's NO COOKIE CUTTER. There's no design guideline that. You just go away the solution in throw it on a sheet basically."