Brenda Bamford, Bio Recycling Corporation
Brenda is the Business Manager for Bio Recycling Corporation a business started by her family in the early 1990’s to ‘sustainably recycle treated human wastes from septic tanks and small community wastewater treatment plants into plant nutrients and soil organic matter which serves as the base of the food chain for all life.’ You could say Brenda grew up in the biosolids business. She spent her high school and college summers working in Bio Recycling’s office as a receptionist and bookkeeper. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and now co-manages Bio Recycling with her brother, Brian Hickey.
Bio Recycling operates two regional wastewater treatment facilities. The Lewis County plant is located near Centralia and the land application site known as the Kalberg Ranch is 16 miles further south. The Mason County plant is a completely self-contained facility with the plant and ranch land on one 300-acre site. Both plants employ an alkaline stabilization process using quicklime to treat the wastewater and after a 24 hour hold that material is further processed by dewatering. The liquid effluent is then ready to be land applied and the cake either goes to a local BUF or if it comes from the Lewis County plant it has been treated to Class A EQ standards and is available to local farmers upon request.
Read more about Brenda and Bio Recycling’s recent project. Responses have been edited for clarity and abridged for length.
What interesting projects have you worked on lately?
Bio’s most recent project was the construction of a lagoon/surface impoundment. To give a little background, in October 2017 Bio received its Final Coverage Letter under the State General Biosolids Permit for our Mason County facility from the Department of Ecology, one of the conditions was there would be no more year-round land application. This meant if we wanted to stay open year-round for our customers, we needed to construct a storage lagoon and have it operational and ready to fill by October 1, 2018.
Our motto was “If you build it, they will keep coming.”
One of the largest challenges we faced in bringing this project to fruition was financing. No one seemed to know how to value a lagoon. Our bankers were perplexed, how do you value something you can’t repossess or foreclose on? After most of the lagoon was financed by the owners, and construction was substantially completed by October 4, 2018 Bio Recycling – North Ranch was left with an 18-million-gallon surface impoundment that is approximately 4 acres in size. The question has been asked if we really needed a lagoon of this size? The answer is yes, of the 18 million gallons only 8 million is budgeted for effluent storage, the remaining 10 million is to accommodate historic rainfall events. With the Department of Ecology’s approval, we began filling the lagoon on 10-15-2018.
What is your dream job (in or out of the biosolids world)?
I am working my dream job right now. I consider myself a lifelong learner, and I can’t see that I will ever run out of new things to learn or challenges to overcome in this field.
What makes you inspired to keep working in the biosolids world? Why does this matter to you?
I believe in the use of biosolids as a beneficial use product that should be used to improve our soils, and my hope is one day most citizens will view this method of recycling as not only acceptable but essential.
What’s your best BioFest memory?
My favorite BioFest memories were formed at this year's BioFest. I enjoyed the opportunity to present and share our journey of constructing an 18 million-gallon lagoon, and I really loved playing “Biosolids Jeopardy.” Hopefully this becomes a tradition at BioFest!
What’s something most biosolids folks wouldn’t know about you?
My husband and I recently purchased ten acres of an old Christmas Tree farm. The soil is pretty depleted, and we have a lot of planting to do, but I think it will be a great adventure. I see Class A biosolids as part of our restoration plan.
Who have you learned the most from over your career?
Given this is a small, family run business I must give credit and thanks to my father, Roger Hickey for his endless patience in answering my questions and continuing to pass on his 40 years of biosolids knowledge. And, also to my mother, Linda Hickey our original dispatcher, bookkeeper and operations manager for teaching me the value of paying attention to detail.