Bio-Solids

The new bio-solids composting facility at 4142 Thicke Road is up and running. The plant is now processing bio-solids from Ladysmith’s waste water treatment plant and turning the material into Class A compost.

Bio-solids are nutrient-rich materials that result from the treatment of waste water (sewage). At Ladysmith's Waste Water Treatment Plant, we process waste water from kitchens, bathrooms and laundries. The treatment process removes the solid waste from the waste water, resulting in bio-solids. As part of our Waste Water Treatment System, Ladysmith is required to dispose of these bio-solids. Composting is a beneficial and viable option for the responsible management of bio-solids.  Check out our FAQs below.

Frequently Asked Questions about Our Composting
(Bio-Solids) Operation (updated March 15, 2018)

Scroll down to see the answers to the following questions, plus some links to research and other information:

Where is the new composting facility located?
Will neighbours of the new facility notice any odour?
What are some of the design elements of the new facility?
How often does Ladysmith test its bio-solids and what does it test for?
Why don’t you test for pharmaceuticals?
Will the composting facility be expanded as the Town grows?  Will the Town take bio-solids from other areas? 
At what stage is there the greatest potential for odor and/or water contamination?  What will be done to mitigate the risk at each stage? 
Technology regarding the treatment of bio-solids is progressing rapidly.  Is composting still the best method for dealing with the bio-solids? 
Is there potential for energy generation from the waste at the same time? Have other options been considered? 
How does the composting facility tie into Ladysmith’s “Sustainability Vision”? 
How much noise is generated by the facility?
How does the plant fit into the Vancouver Island Plan for bio-solids? 
What licensing does the composting facility need? Who will inspect it and report out? 
How does this facility compare with other operations, both in the Cowichan Region (Fisher Road and Coast Environmental) and further afield? 
Where does the product from this plant go? 


What are bio-solids, and why is Ladysmith composting them? (updated March 15, 2018)

Every time a resident flushes a toilet, runs a load of laundry or dishes, or empties a sink, everything that goes down the drain ends up going through Ladysmith’s Waste Water Treatment Plant, which provides secondary treatment.  There, any non-compostable items are screened out.  Then, the remaining waste water is treated and most solids are removed from the influent.  The remaining water (known as effluent) is discharged into the Ladysmith Harbour. Under provincial regulations (Organic Matter Recycling Regulation), operators of a Waste Water Treatment Plant are required to safely dispose of the plant’s by-products (the bio-solids).  Ladysmith has chosen to compost our own bio-solids.

Composting is currently accepted world-wide as the most effective, responsible and sustainable way to dispose of bio-solids.  The process results in a useful new product, effectively and safely returning bio-solids to the land.

Ladysmith had been composting bio-solids from the previous Waste Water Treatment Plant at the Public Works Yard since the 1990s.  However, the nature of the bio-solids changed when our new secondary treatment Waste Water Plant came on stream in the summer of 2016.  The water being discharged from the plant is cleaner, but the bio-solids smelled stronger than when they were treated in the Primary Treatment facility, and the Public Works location was no longer suitable for a composting operation.  This is when the Town purchased land on Thicke Road to build a new, state of the art facility to compost our bio-solids into Class A compost.

We do not mix household compostables in with the bio-solids.  The final product of our bio-solids composting is a high-quality top soil amendment (fertilizer) that meets Class A standards and is regularly tested to ensure it is safe to use as a fertilizer.

Where is the composting facility located? (updated March 15, 2018)

The new Bio-Solids Composting Facility is located at 4142 Thicke Road.  The existing zoning for the property is Industrial I-2 which is suitable for the municipal composting facility.  Public Utility Use is permitted in all zones which includes “the composting of municipal generated bio-solids”. Other associated uses (e.g. storage and sales of resulting soil) are supported by the I-2 zoning.

Will neighbours of the new facility notice any odour? (updated March 15, 2018)

The new facility has been designed to control odour throughout the composting process and was built to odour control standards required by the Province of Ontario (there are currently no such standards in BC).  The Town engaged the services of a bio-solids composting professional with extensive experience in the design of such facilities in a variety of sites and conditions.

What are some of the design elements of the new facility? (updated March 15, 2018)

The design of the new facility includes:

  • Enclosed processing area on a concrete floor
  • Air handling system complete with a bio-filtration system
  • Aeration system to ensure the process remains aerobic
  • Leachate collection system
  • Automated compost turner/mixer system

How often does Ladysmith test its bio-solids and what does it test for? (updated March 15, 2018)

The Town is required to test the bio-solids during the composting process, and to test the finished product to ensure it meets Class A compost standards as defined in the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation. 

The acceptable standards and testing requirements are laid out in the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation.

We follow a strict protocol for taking samples.  The samples are analyzed by an independent and qualified laboratory. The tests meet internationally accepted standards.

Why don’t you test for pharmaceuticals? (updated March 15, 2018)

The Organic Matter Recycling Regulation, which governs all aspects of Ladysmith’s bio-solids composting system, does not require testing for pharmaceuticals.  Research worldwide has shown that the heat and time involved in the composting process results in significant degradation of pharmaceuticals - other compounds also degrade many of these types of materials.  The most important thing to bear in mind with respect to pharmaceuticals is that left-over prescriptions and other pharmaceuticals should never be flushed or poured down the drain. Ladysmith is proud to be taking responsibility for its own bio-solids, and processing them in a manner that is accepted worldwide as a sustainable way to recycle the organic matter and nutrients. 

Will the composting facility be expanded as the Town grows?  Will the Town take bio-solids from other areas?  (updated March 15, 2018)

All local governments are responsible for disposing of their own bio-solids.  Expansion or offering composting services to neighbouring local governments would be up to Council to decide.  If demand from our own community meant that we would need to expand the plant, we would continue to carry out the work indoors, and to employ odour control technology that is appropriate for the size of the operation. 

If Ladysmith’s facility had excess capacity to assist another local government with composting, and it made economic sense, it could be something Council might consider.  

At what stage is there the greatest potential for odor and/or water contamination?  What will be done to mitigate the risk at each stage? (updated March 15, 2018)

The whole operation is designed to control odour. The Town has carefully designed an enclosed operation that minimizes the odor when trucks dump the material into the facility (which is done indoors) and throughout the composting process.  This includes negative air and other odour control measures. 

The facility has been built on concrete, and includes a leachate collection system to prevent runoff.  The Town has protocols and procedures to deal with operational issues at the facility, including odour.

Technology regarding the treatment of bio-solids is progressing rapidly.  Is composting still the best method for dealing with the bio-solids?  Is there potential for energy generation from the waste at the same time? Have other options been considered? (updated March 15, 2018)

Council has considered many different options for disposing of the bio-solids produced by our Waste Water Treatment Plant.  Composting is currently accepted world-wide as the most effective, responsible and sustainable way to dispose of bio-solids.  The process results in a useful product, effectively and safely returning bio-solids to the land.  We do not produce sufficient bio-solids to justify the investment in energy generation.  Of course we will continue to stay abreast of developments in the bio-solids management field.

How does the composting facility tie into Ladysmith’s “Sustainability Vision”? (updated March 15, 2018)

Our operation is socially responsible, economically viable, and sustainable.

Ladysmith is legally responsible to dispose of the bio-solids from our new, secondary Waste Water Treatment Plant.  Composting is currently accepted world-wide as the most effective, responsible and sustainable way to dispose of bio-solids.  The process is sustainable as it results in a Class A topsoil amendment/fertilizer, thus returning our bio-solids back to the ground.

One of the pillars of our Sustainability Vision is ‘innovative infrastructure’.  The new facility uses the best technology available for this type of operation.  We continue to be leaders in dealing with the bio-solids disposal issue in a responsible and sustainable matter.

Sending our bio-solids to a facility outside our community is not consistent with our Sustainability Vision as it will result in production of more greenhouse gases through transportation.

Finally, composting our own bio-solids ensures that we are self-reliant and need not rely on others for our bio-solids disposal, and will manage our own operations over the long term.  You may have heard that Vancouver Island University has recently decided that it will no longer accept bio-solids for land application at its woodlot.  This has created a significant issue for other local governments which have been relying on this means of disposing their bio-solids, and must now find other solutions with little lead time.

How much noise is generated by the facility? (updated March 15, 2018)

There is no noticeable noise unless you are right next to the bio filters and trucks are going in and out of the facility.  Composting operations are enclosed and automated.

How does the plant fit into the Vancouver Island Plan for bio-solids? (updated March 15, 2018)

We are not aware of any such plan in place at this time.  Ladysmith will continue to explore any and all opportunities for partnerships and we will take part in discussions about strategies to deal with bio-solids.  We believe an Island-wide solution could be ideal.  However, a Vancouver Island plan could take years to develop and implement, and we must deal responsibly with our bio-solids now and every day, as long as people flush toilets and drain sinks. 

What licensing does the composting facility need? Who will inspect it and report out? (updated March 15, 2018)

The Town’s composting facility is governed by the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation, and overseen by the Ministry of Environment.  Because of the relatively low volume of bio-solids we produce, the Town doesn’t need a licence; however, we did require authorization from the Ministry to operate.  The regulation lays out the types and frequency of tests we must do during composting and on the finished product and we follow those guidelines.  Our testing follows strict protocols and is analyzed by an independent laboratory. 

How does this facility compare with other operations, both in the Cowichan Region (Fisher Road and Coast Environmental) and further afield? (updated March 15, 2018)

Ladysmith staff visited facilities such as the one in Cumberland, and others in BC, to investigate odour control operations and ensure we were employing the best technology. 

Between the size of our operations and the make-up of our bio-solids, comparing Ladysmith’s operation the nearby facilities on Fisher Road in Cobble Hill, and Coast Environmental in Chemainus is a bit like comparing a pumpkin to a strawberry.  Ladysmith’s composting facility takes only a single source of bio-solids (remains from our waste water treatment plant), unlike the other facilities.  We do not mix household waste in our composting process.  Our volumes are significantly lower than those facilities; in fact, we aren’t even in the same ballpark.  We understand that the Fisher Road facility has the capacity to process up to 18,000 tons annually.  We further understand that the composting facility at Chemainus processes about 12,000 tons annually.  Ladysmith will process about 1,500 tons a year.

Where does the product from this plant go? (updated March 15, 2018)

The final product is a Class A topsoil amendment/fertilizer as defined under the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation of BC.  The Town currently utilizes all the topsoil for our own landscaping.  This saves considerable money we would otherwise have to spend on purchasing the topsoil.  If we don’t use it all on our own landscaping, we would consider selling it. Again, that would be up to Council to decide.

Below are some links to research, reports and regulations relating to bio-solids composting.

Two European perspectives:

  1. http://www.phosphorusplatform.eu/scope-in-print/news/1363-outcomes-onoutcomes-online-espp-workshop-pharmaceuticals-in-sewage-biosolidsline-espp-workshop-pharmaceuticals
  2. http://www.phosphorusplatform.eu/images/download/Malmo-pharmaceuticals-workshop/Rye-Ottosen-Malm%C3%B6-27-10-16.pdf

Canadian research suggesting that composting is an effective treatment of bio-solids in terms of reducing potential risk to humans and the environment
http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/waste-management/recycling/organics/biosolids/lit-review-biosolids-nicola-valley.pdf

General background on bio-solids use in agriculture in Canada:
http://www.cwn-rce.ca/assets/resources/pdf/McCarthy-Risks-Biosolids-2015.pdf

Results of a 2009 Canadian study on the use of bio-solids:
http://www.ccme.ca/files/Resources/waste/biosolids/pn_1440_contam_invt_rvw.pdf

BC Organic Matter Recycling Regulation (OMRR)

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