Adventures in Sludge

July 1, 2007
Poop. When it comes down to it, that’s what we’re talking about when we refer to sludge most often.

by Carlos David Mogollón

Poop. When it comes down to it, that’s what we’re talking about when we refer to sludge most often. But when it comes to industrial applications, it’s not necessarily so. In food processing - the Trends & Technologies theme, or industry focus, of this issue of Industrial WaterWorld - there can be any number of constituents that make up sludge, from animal rendering to vegetable scraps, dairy products to excess flour and yeast, not to mention FOG (fats, oils & grease).

Still, “poop” is what most people think of when it comes to sewage sludge, which brings me to the subject of this column. Readers will recall that, in this space in the last issue, I was fending off questions from my 5-year-old son about wastewater treatment plants.

Click here to enlarge image

Well, now, I have a tool to better explain it to him, courtesy of a book by Sam Riddleburger, “The Qwikpick Adventure Society,” a short novel for middle-schoolers about a trio of kids’ secret trip to see a “sludge fountain” at their local wastewater treatment plant before it’s replaced with a more modern aeration system increasing its sewage handling capacity to 12 MGD. The new system was needed due to residential and industrial growth in the fictional town of Crickenburg.

Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of the Penguin Group, and available at, it’s written by a Roanoke Times newspaper columnist and “a semi-professional juggler,” Tom Angleberger, aka Riddleburger, who lives near Christianburg, VA, and was one of the last people to see and report on a similar facility in his town.

The story is told from the perspective of one of the kids, Lyle Hertzog, who’s just gotten a typewriter for Christmas and whose parents, employed by the QwikPick gas and convenience store, are working on Christmas Day. He and society members, Marilla Anderson (ironically wearing a Carolina Mudcats baseball cap) and Dave Raskin hatch their idea to visit the site before the new aeration system opens after the New Year.

Needless to say, there’s a misadventure in the adventure and they wind up learning more about the sludge handling process than they bargained for via a special tour of the plant by an operator - who “rescues” them after their plan to sneak in and out unnoticed goes awry.

Angleberger wrote an article on the subject of the book that can be found at our website. For more information, you can visit the author’s website:

Meanwhile, this issue focuses largely on other aspects of water and wastewater treatment related to the food processing industry - including sludge handling. Among the varied topics discussed are advanced filtration systems at the world’s largest independent dried fruit producer in California, energy recovery via biogas at an upstate New York yogurt and cottage cheese maker, and biological wastewater and sludge processing at a Tennessee condiment factory.

Also in this issue, we launch a new regular feature, a column by Bob Matthews, Pump It Up, that focuses on troubleshooting and maintenance issues related to pump systems. A 35-plus year industry veteran, Matthews works for lubricant specialist Royal Purple, of Houston, and has written for a number of industry publications as well as offered related classes for major corporations.

Carlos David Mogollón,
Managing Editor

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