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Asparagus may be culprit for problems at port's wastewater plant

For the past few years the Port of Sunnyside's wastewater treatment plant has had trouble with solids discharged to the wastewater treatment plant during the spring.

This year is no exception, according to Port of Sunnyside Engineer Bob Farrell.

"We are struggling with solids at the dewatering facility," he told Port of Sunnyside commissioners Monday.

Farrell said staff at the wastewater treatment plant have kept records of the issue, which seemingly has lasted longer this year.

The problem is removing liquids from the solids to separate those waste products more easily from the water treated at the facility.

"I think asparagus processing may be diluting our saline," said Farrell, stating the staff's theories are just that.

The Port of Sunnyside is still trying to isolate the issue that prevents polymers from binding with negative charges of the biology, which prevents clumping of solid waste.

"Under normal circumstances, a little trial and error will determine the appropriate polymer dosing...in the current situation, a polymer dosage level will seem to be producing good flocculation (the process of clumping) only to result in water coming out the end of the screw press, rather than dewatered cake," Farrell told the commissioners.

Port of Sunnyside Director Amber Hansen said if asparagus is the culprit, the reason the problem has lasted longer this year is perhaps because asparagus processing has lasted longer into the year.

Farrell said, "We'll keep banging away at it...nothing's constant and we see it's not the same day in and day out."

He said he doesn't want to spring any surprises on the commissioners.

Solids are also at the heart of reduced storage at the Port of Sunnyside's lagoons, according to Farrell.

The Port of Sunnyside has operated one of its lagoons for 20 years and another for 17 years without removing sludge that builds up.

Farrell said he is obtaining information regarding how that sludge might be removed for the purpose of increasing water storage capacity.

Dredging the lagoons, he said, can be completed via different methods.

Farrell said a dredging contractor from Idaho happened to stop by the wastewater treatment facility last month and believes the work can be completed at a cost that will fit within the Port of Sunnyside's budget.

Farrell said the need to dredge the lagoons is not dire, however the sooner the Port of Sunnyside can improve its storage capacity, the better.

He estimates the work would take a few years because it would be completed in increments.

Farrell's recommendation will be to have the work completed with a dredge that is operated on board because the operator can best judge whether or not an obstacle is encountered.

In addition, the sludge that is removed will need to be taken care of. Farrell said he is also exploring options for drying the sludge, distributing it onto farmland or bagging it.

"Anything we do will have to be approved by the Department of Health," said Farrell.

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