The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) has given its approval for the construction of the first phase of $250m project that will convert sewage into energy.

The $44m contract will allow WSSC to start with the design and early construction of the Piscataway Bio-Energy Project located at the Piscataway Water Resource Recovery Facility in Prince George’s County.

The contract was awarded to PC Construction Company. Phase One services include design and early construction and includes demolition of existing on-site facilities and relocation of existing utilities. Phase Two is scheduled to be awarded next year. The entire project is expected to be completed and operational in the spring of 2024.

The facility is said to be the largest and most technically advanced project constructed by WSSC in its 100 year history.

This Bio-Energy Project will transform how WSSC handles biosolids, the nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the wastewater treatment process. The material will come from five of WSSC’s existing water resource recovery facilities.

Using ‘cutting-edge green’ technology, WSSC says that its new facility could significantly reduce the amount of biosolids left over from the treatment process and can reduce costs to haul and dispose of the product.

The remaining biosolids are claimed to be Class A and significantly cleaner, making their disposal much easier and allows the final product to be sold and distributed as fertilizer.

Cleaner Class A biosolids, can also help the water utility save money by eliminating the use of lime, which is presently applied to Class B biosolids to control odor.

Another advantage of using the process of creating Class A biosolids is that it can generate renewable fuel to help run the plant. This process produces methane gas, which can be captured to provide the facility with reliable power source which is completely off the grid. The process is expected to reduce WSSC’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15%.

WSSC general manager and CEO Carla A. Reid said: “The Piscataway Bio-Energy Project will save our customers more than $3m per year and underscores our commitment to green energy.

“WSSC has always been at the forefront of innovation and this transformative project continues our innovative spirit. Through cutting-edge technology, we will be able to recover vital resources from the wastewater treatment process and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”