sealPurdue News

September 27, 2002

Purdue, Lilly win Governor’s Award for environmental excellence

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A partnership between Eli Lilly's Tippecanoe Laboratories and Purdue University that turned waste byproducts into a synthetic soil won the Governor's Award for Recycling and Reuse today (Friday, 9/27) at the annual Governor's Conference on the Environment.

The partners were honored for creating the synthetic soil substitute, called "SoilerMaker," along with an agricultural liming substitute by combining fermentation byproducts from Tippecanoe Laboratories with ash from Purdue's Wade Utility Plant.

As a result of the Lilly-Purdue collaboration, the Govenor's Award acknowledged that more than 250 acres of an acid mined area at the Chinook Coal Mines in Clay County now supports diverse vegatation. The Indiana Division of Reclamation used the soil substitute and liming agent to aid the reclamation program in cooperation with Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

"Today we recognize outstanding environmental projects, and I encourage each of you to set new goals and continue your hard work to attain them," said Lori F. Kaplan, Indiana Department Environmental Management commissioner. Kaplan, Governor Frank O'Bannon and Beth Compton, deputy council and executive assistant to the governor for the environment, presented awards in six categories.

"The most important aspect of this project was the strong collaboration among a lot of groups and individuals who don't get to collaborate as often as they should," said Jody K. Tishmack, ash management coordinator for Purdue Physical Facilities and a compost researcher and lecturer. Tishmack coordinated Purdue's efforts to develop the process for making topsoil from coal ash, yard waste and industrial byproducts.

"The success of the project is a great example of how academia, industry and regulators can work together as a team to solve critical environmental issues by utilizing waste byproducts," she said.

For James J. King, environmental consultant for Eli Lilly & Co., Tippecanoe Laboratories, and one of the original partners in the project, the Govenor's Award also signifies the culmination of eight years of collaboration and hard work.

"This award represents a win for Lilly, a win for Purdue and a win for the environment," King said. "It makes me proud that we didn't short circuit the process. We methodically went from research to greenhouse trials to working with Purdue's civil engineering department and then conducted field trials and the full-scale project and its implementation. The Chinook project collaboration among Purdue, Eli Lilly and the Indiana Division of Reclamation successfully supports a thick, diverse vegetative cover."

The "Soilermaker" project started in the lab in 1993 following discussions among a group of agronomists, soil scientists and civil engineers from Purdue, Eli Lilly and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soil Erosion Lab, Tishmack said. The name is derived from Purdue's "Boilermaker" nickname.

Purdue and Lilly received a research grant from the Indiana Department of Commerce to develop a commercial application for manufacturing soil additives from waste materials. The first large-scale mixing operation started in the fall of 1995.

Laboratory research was followed with a pilot-mixing program and field-scale testing in 1997. Based on greenhouse and lab tests at Purdue, the material was deemed environmentally safe. In 1998 Purdue and Eli Lilly developed a business plan to set up a full-scale composting facility on campus, which is now run by the Purdue University Physical Facilities Grounds Department.

Tishmack said the combination of minerals from the coal ash and the nutrients in an organic-rich industrial byproduct makes a very effective soil additive.

"Mixing this material with poor-quality soil – even sand and gravel – creates a man-made topsoil that outperformed local topsoil in terms of yield in our preliminary laboratory tests," she said.

In addition to compost and topsoil, the research also lead to the creation of an agricultural liming substitute made from Eli Lilly’s fermentation byproducts and ash from the Purdue utility plant. When mixed together the two materials form a stable, granular material that is easy to apply with conventional lime spreading equipment, Tishmack said.

The SoilerMaker operation utilizes several different types of waste materials as feedstock for composting. In addition to industry biosolids such as the Eli Lilly’s pharmaceutical byproduct or A.E. Staley byproducts, campus wastes such as coal ash, leaves and animal bedding from the Purdue veterinary school are combined with municipal wastes (leaves and tree trimmings) from West Lafayette and Lafayette street and sanitation departments, Tishmack said.

The main ingredients in the soil all come from Purdue and the surrounding area. The coal ash comes from Purdue's Wade Utility Plant, which burns Indiana-mined coal in a clean coal combustion unit. Purdue produces about 30,000 tons of coal ash a year, but not all of it is suitable for making the topsoil.

The organic material, which also is used on farmland as a fertilizer, is a nontoxic byproduct left over from the manufacture of antibiotics at Lilly's Tippecanoe Laboratories. The yard waste, containing "friendly" bacteria that break down the organic material, is supplied by a local composting operation.

The main uses for the soil are for reclamation of Purdue's gravel pit and campus landscaping projects, Tishmack said. Coal ash also is used in the construction of roads and embankments and the industrial byproduct is used as a fertilizer on farms. She said coal companies and other industries can use it to reclaim areas depleted of vegetation by industrial use.

Research funding for development of the SoilerMaker project was sponsored by the Indiana Department of Commerce, Energy Policy Division and the Recycling and Energy Development Board. AMAX coal company also contributed funding.

Tippecanoe Labs has won two previous Governor's Awards in pollution prevention. In 1998, the site was recognized for the development of a cleaning technology center responsible for developing and applying new water-based technologies to clean manufacturing equipment between product changeovers. In 1995, Tippecanoe Labs was recognized for reducing hazardous chemicals by 70 percent in a new development drug while improving product quality.

Writer: Grant Flora, (765) 494-2073,

Sources: Jody K. Tishmack, (765)496-3718,

Jim King, Lilly Tippecanoe Laboratories, (765)477-4266, King

Vincent W. Kochert, public affairs administrator, Lilly Tippecanoe Laboratories, (765) 477-4340,

Steve Herbert, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, (812) 665-2207

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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