Sustainability Projects at IAWWTP

Energy Upgrades Through Energy Performance Contract
In 2009, the IAWWTP began the process of developing an energy performance contract with Johnson Controls, Inc. (see the Energy Savings Performance Contract section for an explanation of this type of contract). The goals of this project are to cut energy costs, reduce greenhouse emissions, provide capital upgrades, and improve the energy efficiency and the reliability of the plant's mechanical and electrical systems.

One of the main areas the project is focused on is enhancing the plant's capacity to produce energy and heat from the conversion of high-strength organic wastes generated at the facility. Implemented measures include: co-generation system upgrade (including installation of microturbines at the combined heat and power [CHP] facility), HVAC improvements, new lighting, installation of a photovoltaic solar panel system, building envelope improvements, digester mixing and cover upgrades (will greatly increase the system's ability to convert biomass to biogas), new blowers and dissolved oxygen controls for the activated sludge system, and more.
Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Plant
The total project costs are estimated at about $8 million and will generate nearly $9.8 million in savings over the next 20 years, while at the same time reducing approximately 997 tons of eCO2 (greenhouse gas emissions). Some of the implemented measures are also supported by grants from NYSERDA and the ARRA funds. As of November 2011, most of this work has been completed, and the rest is expected to be finished by the end of 2012.

Truck Waste Receiving Station Upgrades
An additional project aimed to enhance energy production is the redesign of the plant's trucked waste receiving station. This facility is currently over-utilized and needs some structural improvements. The new building will have better odor control, as well as a new 20,000 gallon storage tank to augment the 2 existing tanks. With this new tank, the WWTP expects to increase the receipt of high-strength organic wastes, as a means to reduce waste and enhance biogas production for the new co-generation facility.

Community-Based Feedstocks
To further its goals of utilizing anaerobic digesters for energy production, the WWTP is working with several stakeholders to find new ways of utilizing various organic feedstocks. One of these efforts involves the Cornell University dining hall wastes, and a recent effort is targeting Ithaca Brewery fermentation waste. The plant also receives Cornell University's animal carcass digester waste (75% GHG reduction for Cornell) and grease trap waste, as well as several dairy waste streams from out of town. These wastes generate revenue through tipping fees, enhance the plant's biogas generation, and reduce pollution from regular waste disposal.

Looking Ahead
In 2013, the WWTP's biosolids (residual material from the wastewater treatment process) disposal contract expires. This contract currently provides for transportation and disposal of the plant's biosolids in Geneva (we have been exporting our biosolids ever since the Tompkins County landfills closed in the early 1990s). As this year marked the addition of the 7 billionth human on this planet, the lack of a local solution for renewal and reuse of our biosolids is a critical sustainability gap. It is incumbent upon the facility owners' – City of Ithaca, Town of Ithaca, and Town on Dryden – decision-makers and staff to seek alternatives to landfilling this valuable resource. Many communities have found ways to renew these materials for use as fertilizer, but it still remains one of the most important challenges for the IAWWTP's future.