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56,000 rain barrels and planted 7,000 trees supplied by the MWRD in the last year to help prevent 
flooding, reduce water usage, and improve air and water quality. They have also submitted nearly 500 
pounds of medications during Drug Takeback Days to reduce harmful contaminants in the water, and a 
permanent program for collection has now been implemented. Broadening its audience, the MWRD has 
even traveled to and received visits from Australia, China, Denmark, India, Israel, Nigeria, and other 
countries to share expertise on wastewater treatment.  

Additional education exists in developing a potential workforce. College internships encourage 
wastewater treatment careers and provide jobs to the community, and vendor outreach fairs introduce 
local minority-owned, women-owned, and small businesses to opportunities for growth.   

With excellence and collaboration, innovation is naturally interwoven throughout. The strategic plan 
lists innovation as a value, and non-traditional techniques have been developed to achieve resource 
recovery goals, making it the official vehicle for innovation. Biosolids was an obvious choice to reimagine 
as a resource, so the MWRD partnered with others to successfully amend legislation to qualify 
exceptional quality biosolids as a sustainable fertilizer for public use. In the next year, 10,000 tons of 
safe, beneficial, and renewable composted biosolids will be produced, with incorporation into 72 
community gardens and other landscaping. The MWRD leads the industry in biosolids for beneficial 
reuse.   

With the goal of energy neutrality by 2023, development of two major technologies will ultimately 
reduce needs, costs, and greenhouse gases. The first reduces energy consumption in nitrogen removal 
through the use of beneficial bacteria to convert ammonia into nitrogen. This deammonification 
process, called ANITA Mox, could reduce energy usage by 120 million kWh annually – enough energy for 
4,500 homes. The second leading-edge development is a membrane-aerated biofilm reactor technology 
called ZeeLung, which could expand existing aeration tank capacity without adding infrastructure, 
accomplishing nitrification in a smaller tank volume. This technology has the potential to reduce annual 
energy consumption for aeration at the O’Brien WRP by 30%, or 11 million kWh.   

While technology progresses, energy conservation has begun in more immediate ways. Energy audit 
recommendations of equipment replacements and installations are being implemented, with a 
projected savings of $800,000 annually. The MWRD also participates in a voluntary energy curtailment 
program to reduce loads during peak demand periods, resulting in $1.9 million in curtailment rebate 
revenue in 2016.  

Energy generation, meanwhile, does not falter. The MWRD plans to increase biogas production using 
outside liquid organic wastes, which can then be processed for sale as biomethane – an alternative to 
gasoline – producing revenues and reducing greenhouse gases. Approximately 900 mmBTU can be 
produced daily, translating into $6 million in total annual revenues. Other forms of generated energy 
include hydroelectricity from an elevation drop at the Lockport Powerhouse, producing 40 million kWh 
per year; 2,040 therms of solar energy generated annually, providing for hot water needs at the Egan 
WRP; and thermal energy capture, dubbed “sewerthermal,” using plant water as a heat source/sink, 
reducing electricity usage at the Kirie WRP administration building by 50%.  

In addition to being harnessed, water is also reused directly. Every day, 15.1 million gallons are reused in 
pipeline flushing, blower motor cooling, post-centrifuge centrate flushing, and tank cleaning. To further 
reduce usage, the MWRD is pursuing reuse applications for the high quality water its plants produce.