In an effort to combat the annual dumping of 250,000 tons of sludge into the
Mediterranean Sea from the Dan Region Wastewater Treatment Plant, a network of
companies have come together to launch a technology that transforms it into
useable, fertilizing soil.
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The project, called DAN-VIRO, has been a
decade in the making and employs the patented system and machinery designed by
American company N-VIRO, which for 21 years has been transforming American
sludge into viable soil and is excited to have Israel as its first foreign
customer other than Canada.
Over the past couple of weeks, the DAN-VIRO
system officially started running its pilot program based at its facility within
the treatment plant (the Shafdan) and it has already begun distributing soil to
DAN-VIRO is 61 percent owned by Global Environmental
Solutions, a branch of Granite Carmel in the Azrieli Group, with the remaining
shares held by Shtang Construction & Engineering, CRM Military and Civilian
Technologies, MID company and Waxman Govrin Engineering.
“There is a
commitment to take the sludge from the sea and start to make it in the ground
process for land,” said Meir Carmel, director of both DAN-VIRO and CRM Military
and Civilian Technologies, during a tour of the facility on
“This is the first such system in the Shafdan, which in the
beginning will take 15% of the sludge.”
Meir noted that until now, that
the only solution for all of the sludge produced at the plant has been “dumping
[it] into the Mediterranean Sea” through a 5-km. pipe.
“It’s against what
we call the Mediterranean Barcelona treaty,” Meir added, referring to the
Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against
Pollution, signed in February 1976.
Leading a tour in the facility on
Tuesday, Meir gestured from the wastewater plant to the ground, pointing to
concealed pipes that carry the Shafdan sludge to the treatment facility – what
Meir called “the blending house” – where the mud is emptied into a “special
mixer that we brought in from the States.”
Into that same mixer then come
the soil “additives,” limestone and fly ash collected from Israeli power plants,
whose quantities are controlled by computers that sit below the sludge
“We can arrange the ratio between the additives and the sludge
according to what required end prod we need. It’s very flexible,” Meir said,
noting that depending on who is receiving the soil, the customer may prefer
different concentrations of limestone or fly ash.
“You have three
ingredients – you have sludge, fly ash and limestone all coming together and
being combined,” said Timothy Kasmoch, CEO and president of N-VIRO International
Corporation, who had come to Israel to observe the Israeli plant in its pilot
stage. “It’s a recipe of combining by-products to make beneficial reused
Meanwhile, because the limestone (calcium carbonate) and water
have an immediate exothermic reaction that raises the temperature 50 to 60
degrees Celsius, no additional energy is needed from outside sources to
pasteurize the sludge – to eliminate any pathogens, according to
Organic metals, however, are preserved because “this is very, very
important to agriculture,” added Lior Abukasis, the plant manager.
entire mixing process takes an average of five to 10 minutes, and the machine
has the capacity to mix 50 tons of sludge per hour, Meir said.
garbage bin filled with already produced soil samples, Kasmoch said “this is the
best part,” as he began running his bare hands through the “clean” dirt, which
he called “a full package of nutrients” and an ideal fertilizer.
say you can put it in a coffee pot and perk water through it – it’s that safe,”
Kasmoch added, noting that he had not tried this. “The N-VIRO process does
achieve Class-A stabilization, which is a complete elimination of any pathogenic
organisms, anything in sludge that could be harmful. When we finish the process,
this is a safe material.”
After remaining in the mixing facility 24 hours
for quality testing, the end product rides on a horizontal conveyor belt to
storage silos before making its way to a truck, which will cart it to its final
Loading the trucks in the garage – which smelled strongly
from what Meir and Kasmoch said was ammonia – takes about 15 to 20 minutes, and
each truck can take up to 32 tons, Meir said.
“To convert sludge into
fertilizer is very good,” said Dr. Raya Vulkan, laboratory manager at GILAT
Field Service Laboratory, who studied the reuse of organic wastes like sewage
sludge in agricultural soils as part of her doctoral degree at Ben-Gurion
While Vulkan could not comment on the DAN-VIRO project
directly, she said that sewage sludge has the potential to be an “excellent
fertilizer” in Israel’s farms – but not without limits.
“It should be
limited on several points,” Vulkan added.
“There should be a process of
getting rid of the pathogens and there could be a problem of phosphorous and
heavy metals” – both of which DAN-VIRO staff guarantee they are
Meir hopes that the current process will soon be extended
further, with greater quantities of sludge becoming soil in the near
“If you take about [two-and-ahalf] of [the mixing facilities] you
can process all the sludge of the Shafdan,” Meir said, explaining that the
Shafdan puts out about 250,000 tons of sludge per year – 10% of Israel’s total
sludge – and that each of these units has the total capacity to process about
100,000 tons annually.
In its pilot stages, the current unit won’t be
working to full capacity. The mixer, for the first few months, is only doing one
shift per day, and will increase throughout this period until it reaches 15% of
the Shafdan sludge, the current amount approved for processing by the
government, according to Meir.
The other 85% will continue to be dumped
into the Mediterranean Sea, until the country makes a decision about what to do
with it, Meir said.
“That’s a big debate,” he continued. “The
government is now discussing whether to take a few technologies, or if this
pilot is successful and there is no problem, then in a short time [we could
potentially] enlarge the capacity to cover the whole 100,000 tons per year or
even more, all 100% of the Shafdan sludge.”
If granted the authority by
the government, Meir said that the plant would be able to build additional
equipment within a year.
“It’s much easier – the initial development
process was a decade,” Kasmoch agreed.
“Now that we’re here it’s a perm
installation that’s much easier to expand. We believe it’s going to be much
easier to introduce our N-VIRO fuel technology to really utilize a complete
N-VIRO plants in Toledo, Ohio, and Daytona Beach, Florida –
where 75,000 and 250,000 tons of N-VIRO soil are produced annually – are also
producing biomass fuel as well, made from organic wastes blended with coal or
petroleum coke and burned as a coal substitute in coal-fired
DAN-VIRO is hoping to do the same soon. Meir said he is now
working with the Israel Electric Corporation to begin using sludge by-products
as a green fuel for Israel’s coal power plants.
“It’s a further
enhancement of what we have here today,” Kasmoch said. “That product can be
further used for the generation of electricity and again it stays in the same
category of creating safe, alternative, renewable energy.”
enthused to have an Israeli plant as its first foreign franchise, as he sees the
country as very forward-thinking in terms of renewable energies.
often feels as though in countries such as Israel you see an overwhelming
acceptance for green and renewable and alternative technologies,” he said. “It
almost feels sometimes that it’s more accepted in Israel than it is in the
Since a decade ago, when CRM Military and Civilian
Technologies manager Yoram Malchi first approached N-VIRO about using the
technology, Kasmoch said it has been “a successful partnership,” one that he
hopes to soon replicate in other countries.