Lakeland plans composting facility that would process treated human waste

Wastewater treatment plant. Reservoir for purification of sewage.

Officials in Lakeland are weighing the prospect of transforming human waste into a profitable commodity. The city commissioners have voted to hire Tampa-based Geosyntec Consultants Inc. to conduct a cost-benefit analysis on the feasibility of opening a composting facility.

The proposed facility would combine biosolids, or treated human waste, with yard waste and convert the mixture into usable compost through a multi-day process. According to Robert Kniss, Lakeland Water Utilities Engineering Manager, “Mix them over the course of several days. That will lead to pathogen destruction in that waste and end up with a material that’s a lot like topsoil to make a soil amendment.”

Currently, the city utilizes its biosolids as a low-grade fertilizer, but when the waste fails to meet Class AA standards, Lakeland must bear the cost of hauling it to the landfill. David Bayhan, Director of Lakeland Water Utilities, explained, “There is a cost that we have to pay to dispose of the product even though it’s fertilizer. So, if we can break even or generate any kind of revenue and be a positive revenue source instead of a cost to us, that would be the goal.”

The proposed composting facility aims to transform this waste stream into a nutrient-rich compost product that could be sold to farmers, potentially turning a cost center into a revenue generator for the city.

As part of the six-month feasibility study, which will cost the city approximately $120,000, Lakeland Water Utilities staff will visit similar composting facilities in nearby municipalities, such as those in Lee County and Hillsborough County, which have successfully operated profitable composting operations for several years.

The study by Geosyntec Consultants Inc. will evaluate the potential benefits, feasibility, and potential market for the compost product, providing Lakeland with valuable insights into this innovative approach to waste management and revenue generation.

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