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Zion sludge facility operations to be outsourced

North Shore Sanitary District's ZiSludge Recycling Facility Green Bay Road 9th Street. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

North Shore Sanitary District's Zion Sludge Recycling Facility at Green Bay Road and 9th Street. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 19, 2014 3:47AM

GURNEE — Trustees of the North Shore Sanitary District made two important decisions at Wednesday’s monthly meeting that will affect the future of its $50 million Zion Sludge Recycling Facility for the next ten years.

They decided to outsource the operations of the SRF that is now partially closed and being cleaned of mercury and arsenic dust contamination when some processing equipment malfunctioned.

In a search for outsourcing the situation, the District obtained bid proposals from two qualified companies. Both Veolia Water North America and Synagro made detailed presentations at a special meeting of the NSSD Board on Dec. 18. They also responded to further questions at the Jan.15 board meeting.

Operating services and costs between the two companies were quite similar, however, Veolia was the low bidder at roughly $1.7 million per year, or $17.2 million over the 10 year life span of the contract, that was recommended by District staff.

And trustees selected Veolia Water North America — Central, LLC to operate the SRF for a ten-year term. The final contractual details will be discussed by the Board of Trustees at their next meeting on Feb. 10.

“It was a tough decision,” said Trustee and Treasurer Tom Swarthout, who proposed the two actions.

“Both companies were very capable of doing the job. Veolia’s proposal was slightly less costly.”

For the past five years SRF operations have been provided by Donohue & Associates, a Wisconsin engineering consultant. However, Donohue decided not to renew its contact with the District when it ends on March 25.

The District then faced a choice of operating the facility using its own staff, or hiring a qualified biosolids operator who could process the sludge waste into a marketable product such as agricultural fertilizer, roadway aggregate, or possibly fuel pellets.

The waste is currently being buried in landfills. However, the Environmental Protection Agency is tightening up on landfill procedures.

While the five District trustees believe in-house staff has the expertise to operate the sludge plant, they lack the qualifications to commercially market a potential product from the sludge now being produced by District’s three treatment plants in Gurnee, Highland Park, and Waukegan.

Trustee Preston Carter asked why District staff couldn’t continue staffing the plant, but outsourcing the marketing and sale of any sludge-produced product.

Ensuing discussion convinced him that initially the same District personnel will continue to handle sludge disposal under direction of the new vendor.

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