Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Chicago’s Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Discuss Nutrient Recovery’s Crucial Role in Combatting Water Pollution

8 October 2013

CHICAGO, UNITED STATES and VANCOUVER, B.C., Oct. 8, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke today about the significant benefits that nutrient recovery will provide to Chicago area watersheds with the news that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) will begin recovering phosphorus and nitrogen from its Stickney Water Reclamation Plant in the fall of 2015.

"Nutrient pollution is one of the greatest challenges facing this country’s waterways," said Kennedy. "Ostara’s advanced nutrient recovery technology not only reduces nutrient load but helps protect precious area waterways that are part of Mississippi River basin."

He shared the stage at the Water Environment Federation’s 86th Annual Technical Exhibition & Conference (WEFTEC) with MWRD Chairman of Finance Mariyana Spyropoulos and Executive Director David St. Pierre, who officially announced that the MWRD will complete the installation of Ostara’s nutrient recovery technology at the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant in Cicero, IL, within two years, when WEFTEC returns to Chicago. Designed to treat up to 1.44 billion gallons of wastewater each day and serving over 2.4 million constituents, the Stickney plant is the largest wastewater treatment facility in the world.

"Managing the overabundance of phosphorus and nitrogen in our waterways is a challenge shared by all sectors of society," said Commissioner Spyropoulos. "With the installation of a nutrient recovery facility at the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant, the District is committed to advancing a long term, sustainable solution."

St. Pierre said, "This technology will transform these nutrients into an environmentally responsible fertilizer. It will recover a non-renewable resource, improve our water environment and provide a return on investment for our ratepayers. It is definitely a win-win-win."

According to the United Nations Environmental Program, nutrient pollution is among the biggest environmental problems of the 21st century, and the US Environmental Protection Agency has stated that the "the problem of nutrient pollution is nationally significant, expanding, and likely to substantially accelerate." Excess nutrients promote algae blooms and create dead zones, which can have devastating effects on local ecosystems and economies. The MWRD’s nutrient recovery facility will greatly reduce its nutrient effluent load to the Mississippi river basin, in turn, reducing its impact on hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ostara’s technology recovers phosphorus and nitrogen from municipal and industrial wastewater streams and transforms them into an environmentally responsible, enhanced efficiency fertilizer called Crystal Green, which is used by growers in the agriculture, turf and ornamental sectors throughout North America and in Europe.

The MWRD has partnered with Black & Veatch and Ostara to design and build the nutrient recovery facility at the Stickney Plant.  Once fully operational in 2015, the plant will be the largest such facility in the world, with the potential capacity to produce between 10,000 to 15,000 tons of Crystal Green fertilizer annually.

"The MWRD’s decision to install a nutrient recovery facility is at the forefront of a growing trend we’re seeing within the wastewater treatment sector," said F. Phillip Abrary, president and CEO of Ostara. "Increasingly, these utilities see themselves as more than simply water treatment plants. Rather, they are resource recovery centers, recycling water, energy and nutrients for beneficial reuse. Our technology helps them fulfill this mandate by recovering phosphorus and nitrogen in a way that is both economically and environmentally sustainable."

Advising the project team is Dr. James L. Barnard, Water Global Practice and Technology Leader at Black and Veatch, and often referred to as "The Father of Biological Nutrient Removal." According to Dr. Barnard, phosphorus is a non-renewable resource that is critical to farming and food production.  "Nothing grows without it but too much of it can negatively impact water quality," said Barnard. "Biological nutrient removal enables us to address water quality challenges and recover this precious nutrient for beneficial reuse purposes."

"Technologies like Ostara’s are really game-changing," added Kennedy.  "Not only does the Ostara process help protect waterways by removing the nutrients from wastewater streams, but the resulting fertilizer, Crystal Green, further reduces nutrient loss due to leaching and runoff because it is highly water-insoluble and instead releases nutrients in response to plant demand."