What's That Cooking?
The Chicago Tribune reports today that a new machine at the Stickney sewage treatment plant is scheduled to go online soon, despite years of cost overruns, mechanical problems, missed deadlines and admissions by officials that the plant is no longer necessary.
When we toured the Stickney plant in 2008, our tour guides talked about the new plant as the future of waste treatment. Though we were not allowed to see the inner workings of the machine, the idea is that the wet sludge that is removed from the last settling ponds is pumped to this building, where intense heat kills bacteria and pathogens, cooking the sludge into small pellets which can then be used as fertilizer.
Since the contract was awarded for construction of the $217 million plant in 2000, the biosolids produced at the sewage plant have been spread on open air fields in nearby Hodgkins, where sunlight dries and sterilizes the sludge. In 2007 the Tribune ran an investigative article about the insider deals and failures of the company which built the pelletizer plant.