Sludge Removal and Diffuser Membrane: Replacement Wastewater Treatment Lagoon at a Pumpkin Processing Plant

In 1999, Environmental Dynamics International (EDI) installed a partial mix, submerged aeration system with EDI’s FlexAir™ MagnumTM Fine Bubble Tube Diffusers at one of the two wastewater treatment lagoons for ‘Chiquita Processed Foods’ Pumpkin processing facility in Princeville, IL. In 2001, EDI installed another aeration system with MagnumTM non-buoyant diffusers in the second lagoon.

In 2003, ‘Seneca Foods’ completely acquired ‘Chiquita Processed Foods’ and continued with the pumpkin production, processing, and waste-treatment operations at the 267,000 sq. ft. (appx) plant at Princeville, IL. EDI’s aeration systems continued to treat the wastewater through the two lagoons at that facility.

In late 2017, the Seneca Food authority at the Princeville plant contacted EDI. The ductile iron air headers that connected the blower pipes with the aeration system laterals were rusted out and leaking air. Even though the air headers were not a part of EDI’s installations at that plant, EDI’s aftermarket services division AerationWorks (AW) immediately responded to solve the issue. AW also took this opportunity to examine the existing aeration system at one of the lagoons that was not showing sufficient air bubbles on the surface. After draining the basin, it was found out that all the diffusers were almost buried under 12 to 24 inches of sludge and grit on the clay floor lagoon. After 18 years of continuous operation without any maintenance, the diffuser membranes were overdue for replacement to restore the system performance. But the structural integrity of EDI’s aeration system laterals at that basin was still high. The aeration system at the second lagoon that EDI installed in 2001, though due for maintenance, is still functioning without problem.

AW assessed that the system required: air header replacement, sludge and grit removal, leveling of the diffuser units, and diffuser membrane replacement. With its wide-ranging partner network, AW was able to offer a ‘turnkey solution’ for all these services and associated equipment. Along with AW’s best-in-class inhouse capability of system alignment and diffuser membrane replacement; EDI will provide the sludge and grit removal service through its Biosolids Management partner ‘Merrell Brothers’ (Kokomo, IN). AW also helped the plant authority to get the project approved from Seneca Environment and Conservation division. Seneca’s Environment and Conservation division emphasizes on bioconversion of food processing wastes into useful products. They usually belt press the waste sludge to take the moisture out and transfer the sludge byproduct to a compost facility for land application. They were skeptical whether this uniquely high sludge aggregation at this pumpkin processing plant will have the right composition of elements for compost application. AW’s account manager for this project, Lynn Douglass, personally harvested and transported around 15 gallons of sludge to a testing facility at Kokomo, IN during the freezing weather of February 2018. The test results were consistent with the required concentration of the sludge, and the project was a ‘go’. EDI also planned the execution of this $721,000 project over a one-year period, aligned with the budget availability timeline of the Princeville plant of Seneca Foods.