Some Massachusetts river enthusiasts were concerned about the amount of rainwater runoff that goes into the big sewage-treatment plant on Boston’s Deer Island and then out to sea. So they came up with a different concept.
Jon Chesto reports at the Boston Globe, “The massive Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant was once hailed as an environmental victory, one that would revive a then-defiled Boston Harbor while processing sewage for more than 40 cities and towns. But roughly 15 years after the plant’s completion, one local group still isn’t ready to celebrate.
“The Charles River Watershed Association has instead proposed an unusual alternative to the hulking plant: smaller, neighborhood treatment centers that would convert waste water and discarded food into energy. That energy would then be sold to help defray the cost of the projects.
“The nonprofit group’s primary aim in developing the concept was to limit the vast amounts of rainwater and ground water that get sucked into sewer pipes to be washed out to sea via Deer Island, a phenomenon that is harming the Charles River by decreasing its water volume. …
“These plants would first need to attract customers. Some of their business would come from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, which would redirect some of its waste water to the facilities to be processed. More income would come from a food processing business that would rely on large customers such as colleges, hospitals, and big restaurants to ship discarded food to the facilities.
“Like the waste-water residue, the food trash can be placed in an anaerobic digester system that breaks down the organic material and converts it to methane gas to generate electricity. That power could reduce a facility’s operating costs and be sold into the region’s grid. The remnants could be converted into fertilizers.
“ ‘We’re throwing away a lot of potential revenue as if it were waste, as if it were a bad thing,’ [Charles River Watershed executive director Bob] Zimmerman said. ‘It’s only waste water if you waste it.’ ”
Infographic: David Butler/Globe Staff
Source: Charles River Watershed Association