NCMC adds mini wastewater treatment plant

North Central Michigan College recently installed a small-scale waste-water treatment unit in the residence hall on the Petoskey campus.  Working in partnership with SludgeHammer Group, Ltd., and the Little Traverse Bay Protection & Restoration Fund of the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, this demonstration unit, which uses biological technology to treat wastewater onsite, will reduce North Central’s impact on Petoskey’s municipal wastewater treatment facility by “pre-cleaning” the sewage discharged from campus.  In fact, it’s believed that tests will demonstrate that the discharge water from the demonstration unit may ultimately be used for numerous non-potable applications at the college.

In addition, three North Central professors, Dr. Davina Gutierrez, Ben Crockett and Dr. Jeff Lockridge will create water resource awareness and stewardship modules in at least three college science courses, and a portable educational tool for use in K-12 schools.

According to Dr. Gutierrez, the wastewater treatment unit has already enhanced the microbiology experience for her students as they applied multiple principles learned throughout the semester to the design and workings for the unit during their installation tour.  They also discussed the potential benefits of installing a unit in various contaminated sites.  “Access to this demonstration unit will positively impact the quality of future biology courses as students will have the opportunity to culture water samples throughout the treatment process,” states Dr. Gutierrez.

“This collaboration at North Central will allow our students to see first-hand how locally-developed science and technology can make our Great Lakes region a leader in water quality, sustainability and innovation. It also demonstrates the commitment our College has made to building an environmentally responsible campus that will inspire our area’s citizens and protect our unique ecological heritage,” states Ben Crockett, professor of Human Biology.

“The SludgeHammer wastewater treatment unit has the potential to be a game-changer in the industry,” states Dr. David Roland Finley, president of North Central.  “The implementation of this demonstration project at North Central provides tremendous opportunity for students and is a great example of community partnerships in bringing this installation to reality.  Students will benefit by seeing the very latest in cutting-edge technology in this field, and curricula can be developed related to this project that will provide access to in-demand jobs for the 21st century.”

Dr. Finley continues, “Much of the focus around sustainability has been on energy consumption, food production and recycling.  Minimizing human impact to the environmental water cycle is an obvious next step in the sustainability push. This area has not received significant focus to-date, but it has the potential for tremendous impact.”

Dr. Jeffrey Lockridge, professor of Earth Science at North Central, integrated the SludgeHammer tank installation into his water resources module for his Environmental Geology class this semester. He used photos that he took during the tank installation to initiate a discussion on emerging technologies in water resource conservation. “I have found that students rarely give consideration to what happens to wastewater once it goes down the drain or the toilet,” states Dr. Lockridge. “Given the fact that much of our wastewater treatment technology has been the same for decades, new technologies like SludgeHammer could help reduce the burden on existing wastewater treatment infrastructure as population and population density increase in the future.”

“When discussing environmental problems,” adds Dr. Lockridge, “the mood can sometimes get to be a bit ‘doom and gloom’ in the classroom, so it is always exciting and refreshing for my students to see how emerging technologies are helping us to address many of the environmental challenges we face today. They can see that there is always hope for the future and that they can be part of these solutions!”

For more information about this program, contact Dr. Peter Olson, vice president of Academic Affairs and Student Success, at or 231-348-6660.

North Central Michigan College is an open-door community college based in Petoskey, with additional locations offering classes and services in Cheboygan and Gaylord. North Central’s mission is to provide educational, economic and cultural opportunities for student learning, personal growth and community improvement.  North Central is an Achieving the Dream Leader College, a Military Friendly® and a Veteran Friendly School and was recently named #1 Community College in Michigan by