Ithaca Times

Improved Waste Water Tech Tried at Ithaca Plant

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Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 8:49 am, Wed Feb 19, 2014.

Rochester-based ClearCove Systems has received a $300,000 grant from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to demonstrate its new “Flatline” primary treatment technology at the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility (IAWWTF) and the Nott Road Wastewater Treatment Plant in the Town of Guilderland. ClearCove’s technology is designed to improve the primary treatment of wastewater to make more organic material available to Ithaca’s anaerobic digesters, increasing the amount of biogas created at the facility, and decreasing the energy consumption currently utilized in the secondary phases of treatment. 

The demonstration, slated to begin at the end of March or early April, gives ClearCove the ability to prove the effectiveness of the Flatline technology and assists IAWWTF Chief Operator Dan Ramer in deciding on full-scale implementation. “One of the key components in deciding if I want to buy this technology is how fast it will pay for itself,” said Ramer. “We need better numbers to come up with a rigorous conclusion. We’re pretty confident we’ll improve energy consumption on the aeration side, but we don’t have good numbers yet for the biogas side.”

The IAWWTF currently utilizes a gravity system for primary treatment, removing approximately 20-30 percent of organic matter from incoming wastewater. The solid organic material is then sent to anaerobic digesters where it is converted into biogas, producing around 50 percent of the energy required to run the facility. The remaining 70-80 percent of wastewater is then treated through a high-energy-consuming process of aeration. The ClearCove technology increases the amount of organic material removed from incoming wastewater through a gravity-fed screening process.

“ClearCove believes the Flatline screening technology can double the volume of organic matter removed during primary treatment,” said Ramer. This would not only reduce the energy cost of aeration, it should also increase the organic material available for biogas production.

ClearCove CEO Greg Westbrook credits Ramer for leading the way in making wastewater treatment not only safer for the environment but a potential source of income for the community. “We chose Ithaca because of the vision of the Chief Operator Dan Ramer to transform the IAWWTF into a renewable energy resource, to fully satisfy his own onsite energy demands and then produce excess energy to be utilized by Ithaca and the surrounding community,” said Westbrook. “It provides an incredible opportunity for Ithaca to monetize their wastewater treatment plant and bring them a source of revenue and significant savings.” 

Ramer noted another potential positive of the new technology: increased carbon sequestration. “A nuance of anaerobic digestion is that when we process organic material to create biogas, we sequester the carbon,” said Ramer. “If that same material were put out in the environment and exposed to oxygen the carbon would oxidize and become the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.” Meaning IAWWTF is already reducing Ithaca’s greenhouse gas emissions and the Flatline technology could lead to even further reductions.

ClearCove Sales and Marketing Strategist Alex Wright, who worked with Ramer to secure the NYSERDA grant, explained: “Our goal is to validate this in Dan Ramer’s eyes, get him comfortable with the technology and answer any questions he might have as we demonstrate our technology for an extended period of time. Our technology reduces energy consumption by up to 65 percent. When we put our Flatline in at full scale, he’ll eventually be able to triple the amount of energy they can produce.”

If the demonstration proves successful, the technology could result in another local economic benefit: “We are a Rochester company,” said Wright. “This is a New York technology, we will produce this here. It will be built and manufactured in New York, for New York, by New York.”• 

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