New technology will turn water pollution into fertilizer

Oct 9, 2013

Medill Reports

One man’s waste is another man’s fertilizer.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and a representative of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District announced Tuesday that a new technology planned for the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant will remove nutrient pollution from wastewater and convert it to pellets to be sold as fertilizer for crops and lawns.

The technology developed by Canadian-based Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technology, Inc., will be installed and operational in 2015 at an estimated cost of $30 million and a payback time of as little as three years.

“Ostara’s advanced nutrient recovery technology not only reduces nutrient load but helps protect precious area waterways that are part of Mississippi River basin,” said Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy and member of Ostara’s board of directors.

The announcement was made at the Water Environment Federation’s 86th Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference at McCormick Place.

This technology should produce approximately 10,000 – 15,000 tons of fertilizer annually, according the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which serves Cook County. Crystal Green, Ostara’s fertilizer company, will purchase the product at $400 per ton from the water reclamation district.

This revenue should offset the operation costs of the facility, said Ahren Britton, Ostara’s chief technology officer and company co-founder. Crystal Green will bag the fertilizer and sell it to consumers ranging from farmers to gardeners to golf course managers.

Ostara’s technology works by crystallizing phosphorus and nitrogen found in wastewater, turning the nutrients into small pellets, which are recovered from the facility to be used as their fertilizer product.

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