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Local Wastewater Plant To Harness The Power Of... Poop

A wastewater treatment plant in Cabarrus County will soon be turning human waste into electricity. When wastewater enters the Rocky River plant, all the solids are separated and then treated with bacteria. The technical term for that waste is called sludge. It's kind-of like processed poop, but don't call it that around Van Rowell, the Engineering Director for the Water and Sewer Authority of Cabarrus County. "Sludge is a byproduct of the wastewater treatment process," explains Rowell. That sludge then goes into an incinerator where it's burned up, which creates a lot of heat and, of course, energy. That energy is going to waste. "The new process is taking the heat generated from the multi-hearth furnace or incinerator and then converting it into power," says Rowell. It will generate enough electricity to power about 1,400 homes a day. That power will be sold back to the grid. Rowell expects the new revenue stream will bring in about $1.5 million a year. It costs about $12 million to install the equipment. Other communities can truck their dry sludge to the plant for processing. The water and sewer authority expects to begin producing power by the spring of 2014.