Dewatered sludge from screw presses falls from a conveyor belt into a trailer in May at the Greater Augusta Utilities District’s wastewater treatment plant in Augusta. Waste Management Disposal Services is planning a $35 million biosolids processing facility at the Crossroads Landfill it operates in Norridgewock. It’s meant to be operational by the end of 2025 and would accept sludge from municipalities across the state such as Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

NORRIDGEWOCK — Waste Management Disposal Services is working to secure approval for a $35 million biosolids processing facility at its landfill in Norridgewock that would offer a long-term solution to the state’s sludge disposal crisis.

The town’s planning board last week approved a site plan for a plant that each day would dry, treat and landfill 200 wet tons of wastewater sludge sent there by cities and towns across the state.

The 18,000-square-foot facility would be constructed at the Crossroads Landfill operated by Waste Management on Mercer Road. The intention is to have it operational by the end of 2025.

The 933-acre site is home to a landfill that already accepts some sludge — the semi-solid byproduct of wastewater treatment plants — as well as municipal solid waste, special wastes and demolition and construction debris. There is also a transport facility, community transfer station, wood waste recycling program and renewable energy power plant.

Sherwood McKenney, a district engineer for Waste Management, said Tuesday that the processing facility would take the 200 wet tons of sludge and reduce it to 50 tons of dried solid output for landfill.

The dehumidification process works using three 100-foot-long ovens, powered by a 3.2-megawatt gas-to-energy electricity plant that’s onsite. The purpose is to reduce the volume and water content of the waste that will be landfilled, McKenney said, increasing the landfill’s capacity to take on more municipal wastewater sludge at a time when the state is seeing an urgent need for the disposal of biosolids.


“It’s a big solution to an even bigger problem,” Norridgewock Town Manager Richard LaBelle said.

State lawmakers have been searching for several months for a solution to the disposal of sludge since the operator of the state-owned Juniper Ridge — the landfill near Old Town that’s the only one in the state that can accept large volumes of sludge — early this year reduced the amount of sludge it could accept from three dozen municipal waste treatment plants by 60 percent.

Casella Waste Systems, the operator of Juniper Ridge, said two environmental laws Maine passed last year — one banning the use of sewage sludge for fertilizing agricultural fields and the other prohibiting out-of-state waste at Maine landfills — drove up sludge volumes at Juniper Ridge by 1,000 tons a month while eliminating a reliable source of dry waste needed to safely bury the sludge.

Sludge is known to contain harmful forever chemicals that state lawmakers decided last year should prevent it from being used as an agricultural fertilizer in Maine, preferring to landfill it instead.

As a temporary solution, Casella began to truck its municipal sludge up to disposal sites in New Brunswick, Canada, but the quick fix drove up costs for many towns to get it there.

The biosolids, however, are no longer being taken to New Brunswick because state lawmakers agreed in June to allow Casella to accept up to 25,000 tons of out-of-state waste a year for the next two years that will allow it to solidify the landfill and safely store sludge at Juniper Ridge.


The law was intended to buy time to seek permanent solutions, which is what Waste Management hopes to offer with its Norridgewock biosolids facility.

The only by-product created by the facility would be water condensate, about 150 tons of it daily, which according to Waste Management’s site plan application would be collected and pumped to an above-ground tank, and then returned to local wastewater facilities or transported off-site for PFAS treatment.

McKenney said Tuesday that Waste Management has preliminary plans in the works to construct an additional facility in Maine for PFAS treatment, but couldn’t provide any further details on that project.

Waste Management is now working to secure a couple of permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. It also needs approval from Norridgewock’s code enforcement officer for a septic tank on the project site.

The biosolids facility would be built on the already-developed site of a former tire processing facility that closed last year.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story