The City of Lincoln recently distributed the one-millionth cubic yard of biosolid material in Lancaster County as part of the biosolids land application program. The nutrient-rich organic material is produced from the treatment of domestic wastewater at the Theresa Street wastewater treatment plant. Farmers apply the biosolids on farm ground as a substitute for commercial fertilizer.
The City began the program in 1992 after egg-shaped anaerobic digesters were installed at the Theresa Street facility to process biosolids for land application. The material was previously buried in the Bluff Road Landfill. The biosolids meet strict federal quality standards before they are delivered to area farmer's fields.
"By anaerobically digesting the biosolids, the City reduces pathogens, minimizes odors and produces an agricultural product that stimulates plant growth and increases crop yield," said Steve Crisler, Superintendent of the Wastewater Division of the Public Works and Utilities Department. "This enables the City to manage the material and benefits farmers in an economical and environmentally-sound way. This public-private partnership is a 'win-win' for everyone involved."
Crisler said the City also benefits by avoiding landfill disposal costs, currently at $25 per ton, and by extending the life of the Bluff Road Landfill. The cost to transport the material to farm properties within 15 miles of the treatment facility is less than $7 per ton.
The City contracts with Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County to work with farmers to conduct soil tests and insure that the biosolids are applied properly. UNL Extension has worked with 45 farmers over the last 23 years to apply biosolids on 24,160 acres. "When the program started in 1992, the City paid farmers a small fee to apply the biosolids," said Karen Wobig, Extension Educator. "But now, farmers see the benefits of utilizing biosolids and are paying the City a nominal amount."
Dave Smith, Biosolids Coordinator for Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County, said that biosolids are a good source of nitrogen fertilizer, are high in organic matter and provide valuable nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium. "We estimate that farmers receiving the biosolids see a nutrient value equal to $400 per acre," Smith said. "There is a strong demand for biosolids from area farmers, who are now paying the City as much as one dollar per cubic yard for the biosolids delivered to their fields."
More information on the City's wastewater operations is available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: wastewater).