New treatment plant turns waste into jobs

The largest biosolids drying plant of its type in the southern hemisphere, located near Breamlea, will create 12 new jobs for the Geelong region while providing an environmentally friendly solution for managing waste by-products.

The $77 million fully-enclosed thermal drying facility adjacent to Barwon Water’s Black Rock water reclamation plant was officially opened by Water Minister Peter Walsh today.

The drying plant will convert biosolids – a by-product of the sewage treatment process – into nutrient-rich farm fertiliser.

“The plant will treat up to 60,000 tonnes of biosolids a year and will significantly reduce greenhouse gas generation compared with alternative treatment methods,” Mr Walsh said.\

“It is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent and cut heavy truck movements by 1,000 a year, while largely reducing the land area required for biosolids processing."

The Black Rock water reclamation plant is the Geelong region’s largest sewage treatment and water recycling facility and produces almost 140 tonnes of biosolids every day. Before this new facility, biosolids were transported in closed trucks to large drying bays in Werribee to dry in the sun and wind before being transported for use as fertiliser.

The new drying facility receives wet biosolids via a pipeline from the nearby water reclamation plant and by truck from other Barwon Water reclamation plants.

The natural gas fuelled drying process begins by seeding wet biosolids with dry biosolids pellets. The mixture is raked across a succession of heated plates until it dries and forms into larger pellets.

The pellets will meet the highest standards set by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the plant process will be cooled by recycled water from the Black Rock plant. That water will then be returned to the Black Rock plant to be re-treated.

“The completion of the project is an important step in Barwon Water’s long-term goal to have ‘no-waste’ sewerage systems where 100 per cent of recycled water and biosolids are committed to sustainable use,” Mr Walsh said.

The facility will be operated by Plenary Environment as a public-private partnership.