A planned upgrade to DuPage County's wastewater treatment facility in Woodridge could make it easier and less expensive for towns to dispose of soggy debris they remove from storm sewers.
To prevent flooding, municipalities regularly use vacuum tanker trucks to clear dead leaves, silt, dirt and other material from storm drains. Because water is used in the process, the waste that's collected ends up being a mixture of water and solids.
"It's just a mess to deal with," said Nicholas Kottmeyer, superintendent of the county's public works department. "You can't take it to a landfill like that because it's too wet. Landfills won't accept it."
So before they can take the waste to a landfill, municipal workers must take the time and effort to dry it out.
That's what inspired DuPage to draw up plans for a special disposal station at its Woodridge Greene Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant along Route 53.
Once the facility is operational, vacuum tanker trucks can empty their cargo inside the one-story building. Water will be drained from the waste and flow directly into the plant for treatment. The remaining dry material will be taken by the county to a landfill.
"We wanted to try to create something that the municipalities in our service area could benefit from," said Kottmeyer. He said the process is environmentally friendly because the water is cleaned before being discharged into the East Branch of the DuPage River.
Jim Healy, chairman of the county board's public works committee, said DuPage is trying to get grant money to help pay for the estimated $800,000 facility.
"We would love to get state or federal dollars for this," Healy said. "I think it's an easy sell."
Even if grant money isn't available, Healy said construction is expected to start this summer. The goal is to open the disposal station in the fall.
Officials said they believe the facility would be one of the first of its kind in the state. Some towns, including Woodridge and Naperville, already have expressed interest in using it.
"I think it will be very popular," Kottmeyer said.
Towns would be charged a fee to make drop-offs. Proceeds from the fees would pay for the facility's operating expenses.
While the fees haven't been determined, officials said they will cost towns less than they spend now to dispose of the watery waste.
Public works crews also will be more effective with the storm sewer cleaning operations because they won't have to devote time to disposal efforts.
"So they will be out there doing the operations," Kottmeyer said, "instead of worrying about how to deal with the end material."