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MERCURY IN MSW

J. Turnbull1) A.Lepine2) L.Otten2) G. Edwards2) G.Dharwarkar2) 1) Wet/Dry Composting Facility, City of Guelph 2) School of Engineering, University of Guelph The Composting Conference Council of Canada Annual Conference Halifax, ON

approval was granted for one final year. the Provincial Ministry of the Environment (MOE) upholds a different set of standards for finished compost quality. it is challenging for this facility to meet the MOE requirements on a routine basis. Water addition and aeration were other process streams identified as possible sources of contamination. This agreement was given on the condition that the City would investigate the potential sources of mercury. The limit for mercury content in finished compost is 0. ending September 30.Background Compost produced at the City of Guelph Wet-Dry Recycling Centre has been of high quality on a consistent basis.3 ppm. marketable finished compost that is fit for unrestricted and continuous use. often contain trace levels of heavy metals and other contaminants. Oils and greases. In recent years the MOE has shown an interest in updating their guidelines to be more in-line with the national standards. the Ontario standard for unrestricted use compost is more difficult for composting facilities to meet. This was suspected due to the large volumes that are added to the system daily. Therefore. 2002. . In Ontario however. Previous investigations into the subject had suggested that the screening process might be a source of contamination. Contact of the compost with processing equipment was identified as one potential source of contamination. upon appeal.15 ppm in the future. Of the various substances accounted for in both the CCME and MOE guidelines mercury has posed the greatest challenge for the City of Guelph. potential sources of mercury contamination were reconsidered.8 ppm and 0. Since the Guelph compost mercury content average is about 0. there was a change of direction regarding the Ministry’s intentions surrounding finished compost guidelines. then. respectively. particularly those facilities that compost residential organic municipal solid waste. Historically the finished compost has been able to meet the limits for heavy metals and other parameters as set out in Category “A” of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Guidelines. a nationally recognised Canadian standard for finished compost quality. Some of the limits for the different parameters are lower than those found in the CCME Guidelines. Investigation In 2001. and take corrective measures to meet the Interim Guideline limit of 0. To begin the investigation. used by machinery. This allows the city of Guelph to continue producing high quality. Because of this interest the City of Guelph has been given temporary approval to be governed by the CCME guidelines.15 ppm under the CCME and MOE Guidelines. When added in the large volumes this can account for a significant amount of mercury. The City of Guelph’s Certificate of Approval for operating the composting facility states that the Interim Guidelines for finished compost must be followed for the production and un-restricted use of the Centre’s compost. The City of Guelph’s request for CCME limits was initially denied.

The items included in the wet sorting list were also re-examined. Ontario. Changes in the operation were made to eliminate any suspected sources of contamination. This involves using one bag for organics. There were also many telephone conversations with various knowledgeable and expert parties to share ideas. paint. Ontario.. contaminated soils. the City opted for the 2-stream one (Otten et al. This included reviewing the findings of research carried out at the Guelph facility by McCartney (1999). The incidence of contamination in the incoming waste stream was examined in detail and discussions about the importance of proper household waste sorting and collection consistency took place. as well as gathering any information available regarding mercury in compost or waste streams from other sources. Actions and Initiatives To obtain a better understanding of the problem certain actions and initiatives were undertaken. In the development of the wet/dry centre.Of course. specifically speaking – vacuum cleaner bag contents and floor sweepings. When handling the bypass material this loader could perhaps come in contact with hazardous materials containing elevated concentrations of metals. The timing of this project was ideal in the sense that it allowed for the easy removal of these potentially problematic items from the allowable items on the “wet” sorting list. 1993). An example of such a change was the discontinuation of the use of the compost facility loader for picking up bypass wastes from the household hazardous waste depot on site. School of Engineering. An Integrated Waste Management System . information and theories for further insight into the matter. University of Guelph.1 1 Otten et al. Past mercury research was re-visited. Many consumer products and even food wastes contain trace levels of mercury and it is possible that the accumulation of all of these sources adds up to be an unacceptable amount of mercury in the finished compost. for example. switching from the current 2stream system to a 3-stream system. one for recyclables and one for residual waste. but because of the high cost of the 3-stream collection process. There was also some information gathered on household wastes which are considered contaminants in the wet waste stream. a pilot study in the early 1990s involved both 2. Published by Wellington Applied Sciences Ltd. .Data and Recommendation for Guelph. such as batteries. These issues are complex and involve the co-operation of all citizens to ensure a clean waste stream. Guelph. the City of Guelph is in the process of adopting a new waste management program.and 3-streams collection. it is well-known that the most significant source of mercury is the feedstock itself. etc. 193. Meetings with other staff produced ideas and leads for further investigating the issue. Coincidentally. Past and present screening contractors were interviewed to determine what other substances their screening plants had come in contact. as well as various collection containers. thermometers. This was because it had become evident that a couple of the items on the current sorting list had a reputation for containing higher levels of mercury.

which is currently collected in Guelph. Through the literature review it was determined that many household products and foods contain trace values of mercury. Two batches contained residentially originated organic wastes and one was a ‘clean’ batch. a several samples remain at the lab and are undergoing analysis. were ground and sent for analysis. The entire sample. the vacuum bag concentrations and the analysis around the screener. This could possibly leave out potential sources of mercury. Distance in Channel. This graph shows the concentrations of the mercury in the three channels (2 residential and 1 “clean”) as it moves through the system. Dr. After the samples were obtained they were dried in an oven to determine their moisture content and to prepare them for analysis. and the pilot three stream “wet” feedstock were sampled and compared. at a location determined by the turning schedule. The compost was sampled three times weekly. to ensure no metal contamination. the 2 and 3 stream feed stock concentrations. This was done by sampling the compost before screening as well as the under and over fractions. the City decided to conduct additional work during the summer of 2002. consisting only of organics known to be free of specific types of contamination commonly found in curb side-collected organics. The air and water were also sampled and analysed for mercury content. While this batch was going through the system.Mercury Concentration vs. Sample preparation is extremely important in ensuring accurate analysis. The purpose of this was so that a mass balance could be constructed and the amount of mercury entering and leaving the system could be determined. except for the particles too big for the grinder (>10 cm). The screening process was also examined. The results for the samples that have been analysed are presented in Figure 1 . It was noted that in past investigations the compost was screened prior to analysis. a mass balance . The combination of all the products could cause a significant source of contamination. The experimental phase of the project involved the development of a sampling procedure that followed three batches of waste through the primary composter during the “high rate” stage of composting. Results At this time. The first step was to review the literature to see if any new information on mercury or heavy metals in compost had been published in recent years. Upon completion of sample analysis. In addition all of the plant’s compost quality data and pilot project data were reexamined. and is known for its precision and consistency. the volume of water and air that was added was recorded. The dried samples were ground using a ceramic plated grinder. The un-ground fraction was properly stored and saved in case further analysis was needed. All the samples were sent to the University of Guelph Lab Services. The two-stream “wet” feedstock.Current Investigation In view of the MOE requirement. Grant Edwards and Gireesh Dharwarkar analysed the air for gaseous elemental mercury. There can be no personal bias on where the sample is taken.

15 0.50 0. FIGURE 1 – Mercury Concentration Vs Distance in Channel 0.45 0.00 15 65 115 165 Distance Down Channel (ft) C3 2 Stream unders C4 3 stream overs C5 feed Vacuum Bags .35 0.25 0.05 0.30 0.20 0.40 Hg Concentration (PPM) 0.10 0.will be performed to determine the affect of the process air and water and final conclusions will be formed.