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Recycling Wastewater Sludge into Fertilizer
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

 

BAY STATE FERTILIZER
4-3-0 Slow Release Formula

photo of Bay State Fertilizer in cart

Fertilizer details


FORE RIVER RAILROAD
Fore River RR "Mystery Train" photo


Our fertilzer is transported via the historic Fore River Railroad.

Fore River R.R. History

Before 1991, the solids and scum removed during sewage treatment were treated in a very different manner from the way they are today. As part of primary treatment, wastewater is channeled into settling tanks, where heavy particles (sludge) sink to the bottom of the tank. Anything that floats, such as plastics, fats, cooking oils, and sticks, is called scum.

Before the Boston Harbor Project, the sewage solids and floating material was digested–broken down by bacteria – to reduce its volume and oxygen-demanding organic matter. Then, the digested sludge and scum were simply re-combined with chlorinated effluent and discharged into the harbor on the outgoing tide. The sludge-scum mixture from the old Nut Island treatment plant was digested and then pumped to an outfall about 5 miles away off Long Island. This black, smelly substance, adorned with pieces of trash, represented the worst results of the old treatment plants, and the most memorable ones for boaters.

Today, scum is landfilled. Sludge is processed into fertilizer pellets for gardening and landscaping. The days of scum and sludge in the harbor are, fortunately, long-gone.

High Temperatures Kill Bacteria

Using rotating, high-temperature dryers, the plant produces a small, hard granule that is approximately 60% organic matter. The pellets contain several important nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium, sulfur and iron, and because the nitrogen in the fertilizer is in an organic form, it feeds plants slowly over time and minimizes the risk of nitrate pollution.


Fertilizer Marketed Nearby and Nationwide

While most of MWRA's fertilizer is marketed in bulk by New England Fertilizer Company, a small portion is packaged and distributed as Bay State Fertilizer. The product meets all state and federal standards for biosolids (sludge-derived) fertilizer, including the strictest limits on metals. Bay State Fertilizer benefits lawns and gardens in several ways. Like compost, Bay State Fertilizer adds organic matter to the soil, helping to improve its texture and moisture-holding capacity. Unlike compost, however, Bay State Fertilizer is a significant source of nutrients and can be easily applied to lawns using conventional spreaders.

Bay State Fertilizer is purchased wholesale by golf courses and landscapers throughout New England and has been available locally through garden centers and nurseries since 1995. Many communities within the MWRA sewerage district use the fertilizer on their parks, athletic fields, and municipal landscaping.

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Updated September 30, 2014