Gov. Phil Scott announces $1.2 million in grants for phosphorus removal innovations.
Vermont is spending $1.4 million to support novel efforts to prevent phosphorus from dairies and wastewater treatment plants from polluting state waterways.
Gov. Phil Scott on Thursday announced the latest round of grants in the state’s Vermont Phosphorus Innovation Challenge, which was launched in 2018 as an XPrize-style competition.
The goal is to harness the power of the private sector to help find innovative solutions to problems created by too much phosphorus in the watershed, such as the dangerous algae blooms that close beaches in the summer and keep tourists at bay.
“The bottom line is, we have more phosphorus going into our watersheds than we take out, resulting in excessive phosphorus in our environments,” Scott said.
The state’s main approach to attacking the problem has been to work to prevent runoff and other discharges of phosphorus into waterways, an effort he said is showing progress. But the new projects represent “a new way of thinking about phosphorus and a new opportunity to solve our nutrient issues by removing phosphorus from the land before it reaches our waters,” he said.
The five grants range from $50,000 to $500,000 and will support organizations trying to turn the state’s phosphorus problem into marketable products such as compost and fertilizers that could be used in the state or exported, Scott said.
Twenty-seven groups applied to the program, and six shared in an initial round of $250,000 last year. The five finalists announced Thursday will share the remaining $1.2 million.
“Each of these projects is unique and proposes an effective and viable solution to address our phosphorus imbalance,” Scott said.
That imbalance is created largely because Vermont doesn’t have an ideal “closed-loop system.” Instead, the state each year imports 1,500 more tons of phosphorus in feed and fertilizer than it exports in agricultural products such as dairy, said Julie Moore, the secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources.
If the state could develop new products from dairy manure and other phosphorus sources, however, Moore said the state could import less phosphorus and export locally produced products, such as seed-starting mix and fertilizers.
Brian Jerose of Enosburg Falls has been awarded $320,200 to develop a novel mobile manure drying system.
When she first proposed the program, Moore said she envisioned “railcars of phosphorus going from Vermont to Iowa.” The market opportunity for “phosphorus capture and reuse” may be more modest than that initial vision, but still represents “an essential opportunity to amplify the benefits of the significant conservation work already taking place across Vermont’s landscape and on Vermont farms,” she said.
The winners were:
—The University of Vermont and DVO, Chilton, Wis.: $500,000. The partners plan to produce a variety of products, including a seed-starting mix, from an enhanced phosphorus removal process in anaerobic digesters at dairies in the state.
—Agrilab Technologies, Enosburg Falls, Vt.: $320,000. The company is developing a mobile manure composting container that uses the heat from the composting process to dry the material.
—Digested Organics, Ann Arbor, Mich.: $137,500. The company is working on a mobile filtration system that separates manure into low-phosphorus “tea-water” that can be reapplied to fields and concentrated phosphorus-rich slurry for use in other products.
—Green State Biochar, Barton, Vt.: $135,000. A larger kiln will allow the company to turn more wood waste material into biochar, a product that can be used to capture phosphorus or as a soil amendment.
—Village of Essex Junction, Chittenden County Solid Waste District and UVM, Essex Junction, Vt.: $58,907. The group is developing a technique that uses an electric field filter to remove phosphorus from the waste stream of treatment plants.