Developing International "Sludge" Standards

Canada hosts workshop and meetings of the ISO Technical Committee 275, which is developing standards for biosolids.

By Denise Vieira, SYLVIS Environmental

The International Standards Organization (ISO), the world's largest developer of voluntary international standards, has convened Technical Committee 275 (TC 275) to develop international standards for sludge recovery, recycling, treatment and disposal. TC 275 is convened by France, with the Secretariat being provided by France’s standards association, AFNOR. (No doubt many of you notice the use of the term ‘sludge’ rather than ‘biosolids’ – establishing terminology is part of the work program, but ‘sludge’ is commonly used in Europe.)

TC 275, which first met in Paris in 2013, is composed of experts from around the world who will prepare a series of draft documents which, when finalized and agreed to by consensus of ISO members, will become ISO standards.  The targeted completion date is 2017.  Following that, the ISO Standards will be available for adoption as national standards, with or without “national” modifications.  Within TC 275 are seven working groups with a mandate to address individual areas of the scope of work, specifically:
    •             Terminology
    •             Characterization
    •             Digestion
    •             Land application
    •             Thermal processes
    •             Thickening and dewatering
    •             Inorganics and nutrients recovery

There are 16 participating countries in TC 275, including Canada, and 13 observing countries, including the United States.  Canada chairs the Land Application Working Group. Several Canadians have  been named as experts to that working group.

Any interested U. S. stakeholders can contact Ned Beecher at NEBRA, who has been in touch with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). NEBRA is testing interest and funding potential for changing the United States’ status from observing to participating.   Although observing countries can name individual experts to TC 275 working groups, only participating countries contribute actively in the full committee and have formal voting rights.  Active participation can ensure the new standard is consistent with a country's policies and practices and best current science.

Representatives from 10 countries participated in the most recent meeting of TC 275 and its 7 working groups, held earlier this month in Burlington, ON: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

Reasons for participation in TC 275 are as varied as the countries, organizations, and individuals represented: knowledge sharing, networking, providing a management framework particularly in countries with limited/no policy frameworks, promoting beneficial use and enabling use opportunities, market development (for example for crops grown in biosolids-amended soil), and increasing stakeholder confidence.

To learn more about ISO and the work of TC 275 visit ISO’s website.