The Great Neck Water Pollution Control District wants to build a $2 million receiving station to handle grease from area restaurants, which would leave less sludge to be hauled off and create biogas that would power new energy-producing microturbines.
By getting into the grease-treating business, the district wants to attract commercial haulers who remove grease from traps at restaurants and food-preparation sites.
Shawn Kearns of Help Cesspool and Sewer Service in Hicksville says the company pumps grease traps for restaurants and has grease hauled to a private company in Babylon. "Having a place up in Great Neck to get rid of grease would be an advantage to the county, to having a place to go," he said.
The grease would be fed into anaerobic digesters in the facility. The reaction from mixing grease with the sludge would reduce the plant's total output of sludge, which the district spends $400,000 annually to have hauled, officials said.
The district, with a roughly $9 million annual budget, projects a 30 percent savings.
The addition of grease would also generate more biogas -- in the form of methane -- than in the past and would help power a new microturbine facility, generating more electricity and heat.
"We're a small plant . . . it's a win-win-win," said Christopher Murphy, the district's superintendent. "We get revenue that will offset taxes from taking the grease, we'll reduce our sludge hauling costs, and we reduce our electrical costs."
Officials expect to handle "brown grease" from traps and interceptors, along with "yellow grease," usually from deep fryers and including cooking oil and free fatty acids.
The district this year unveiled $60 million in upgrades to its East Shore Road sewage treatment plant, having absorbed services from the Village of Great Neck, which operated a waste treatment site in an adjacent building, until it was demolished in recent years.
Advocates said the facility is much needed in Nassau County.
Speaking generally about the science, Harold Walker, a professor of civil engineering at Stony Brook University, said in an email, "it is possible and desirable to convert biosolids, fat, oil, and grease into methane via anaerobic digestion and we should encourage efforts to develop this practice."
Kearns said there are private contractors on Long Island and sewage treatment plants that can accept grease but do not.
The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant stopped accepting grease about seven years ago, said Michael Martino, a spokesman for the Nassau County Department of Public Works.
Murphy said his district can receive grease at the head of its sewage treatment plant but only "in small quantities; it costs more money to treat, and it causes problems," he said, noting without a "specific system coming in . . . it's more trouble than it's worth."
North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a statement the town has grease-conversion equipment in place "but would require additional staff to run such a receiving station. However, it is on our radar and it fits with the town's environmental mission."
The proposed grease receiving station
-- Expected cost: $2 million
-- Process: Grease sludge from restaurant traps is added to sewage sludge, and during digestion process, more methane gas is produced
-- Benefits: Reduced sludge output, more methane gas produced, reduced electrical bills
SOURCE: GREAT NECK WATER POLLUTION CONTROL DISTRICT