In Brief / en bref... March/April 2018


Biosolids digestion is planned for the Albany, NY region. Albany and Saratoga Counties have created a legal entity that will design, build, and operate a regional biosolids digestion facility, likely in Menands, NY.  See coverage in Biomass and The Saratogian.

Meanwhile, regional biosolids digestion is being considered by Greenfield, MA.

The story of malodor in an Alabama town emanating from a trainload of New York City "sewage sludge" or "bio-waste" has been in the media for two months. New York City digests its solids, and they are safe for use on land or for landfill disposal.  According to media reports, the odorous trainload was stuck in limbo until last week because the landfill to which it was headed was ordered by a federal court not to accept it.

The events are reminders of the barges that plied the waters off New York and New Jersey and raised concerns that led to the ocean dispersal ban in the late 1980s.  The nutrients that impacted ocean systems then belong in soils - but can be a major factor in creating malodors. Over the past 40 years, biosolids quality has improved dramatically, because of industrial pretreatment. But odors and perceptions of the material continue to challenge wastewater solids management in some situations. 

Some of the extensive nationwide coverage of the story included:

The situation now seems to be resolved, as the train cars have been emptied, as reported recently:

A proposed biosolids processing facility faces opposition in rural New York State.  In 2017, Lystek proposed building an organics processing facility at the Glen Canal View Business Park in Glen, NY, northwest of Albany. Typical opposition has arisen. Opponents, led by a group called "CALL," have also sought county involvement.  In March, the town Planning Board denied Lystek's permit, although Lystek says its application was not complete, so the denial was inappropriate. Lystek has provided considerable public outreach and engagement, as they did during the process of siting their, similar, highly successful facility in Ontario.  The materials developed for their public information meetings are excellent examples for the practice of public outreach and participation. The fate of the proposed facility remains uncertain.

Update on the Slate Belt biosolids facility in northeast PA...  This biosolids drying facility, proposed by Synagro, Waste Management, and a local economic development group, would utilize waste heat from a landfill gas electricity generator to dry wastewater solids from around the region. Local discussion, planning, and revisions have been ongoing for a year and a half, and some local concerns  continue. A recent informational meeting provided further exchange of information. The proponents have made significant changes in response to voiced concerns.  They are working with the town of Pen Argyl, which is within 2,000 feet of the facility, to reduce potential concerns about environmental and quality-of-life impacts.  Major changes since the initial proposal include:

  • moving the location of the proposed facility so it is wholly within the local and state solid waste facility (landfill) boundary, obviating the need for attaining a local permit for a non-conforming use;
  • eliminating any wastewater discharge - condensate from the drying process will be transported back to wastewater treatment facilities that are providing solids to the operation; and
  • Synagro and Waste Management are demonstrating to the local community their commitment to the environmental integrity of the project by pursuing all five state permits now, at considerable cost, before they have obtained local approval.

Gilmanton, NH voters have banned local biosolids use, but... 
After considering such a measure several times in the past, and due in large part to the vocal efforts of a few neighbors of land application sites, the voters of
the central New Hampshire town of Gilmanton passed a ban on biosolids land application at their Town Meeting in March.   The Town narrowly defeated a similar ban in 2016.  It has been a classic local debate.  Several farms in town have been using biosolids for many years, some for more than two decades. Thus, since the vote, the question of grandfathered use was raised, and a lawyer for the NH Municipal Association stated that "A farming operation that is already using biosolids in conformance with NH Department of Environmental Services Regulations (Env-Wq 800; Env-Wq 1600), and best management practices would be allowed to continue that use as a non-conforming use." 

The Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance (SPA) has created a Biosolids and Manure Task Force to advance data and understanding on how these soil amendments are regulated and managed across the U. S.

New RFPs have been issued by the Water Research Foundation (the Foundation that is the sum of what was WE&RF and WRF).  The RFPs have deadlines in late June and August.  One pertains to organic residuals: "Project #4915: Characterization and Contamination Testing of Source Separated Organic Feedstocks and Slurries for Co-Digestion at Resource Recovery Facilities" (August deadline).  Details...

How significant can biosolids be in sequestering carbon (C) in soils?  Rebecca Ryals, Ph.D., of the University of California, Merced, has been involved in the past in research around the Marin Carbon Project, which is focused on figuring out how much carbon (C) can be put back into soils and what affect that can have in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.  Composts have been examined. Biosolids are next. Greenhouse trials have started, using various biosolids products and measuring impacts on crops and emissions of nitrous oxide (N20) and methane (CH4).  Ryals' research will also include field testing of application sites versus control, unamended sites, to better understand how soil C, nitrogen, and microbial communities are affected.

NH DES's Water Division Director, Eugene Forbes is retiring this spring, after 4 years with the agency.  His replacement has not been determined.

Solution 3R, a group within La Coop, a major Canadian farming cooperative, now owns most (75%) of Viridis Environment, a Quebec biosolids management company that recycles about 350 tonnes of biosolids and other residuals per year on ~500 Quebec farms. Farm cooperatives have a strong tradition in eastern Canada, and the idea of them owning portions of their supply chains is not unusual.  Simon Naylor, founder and lead at Viridis notes “I’m now mostly owned by a group of farmers.”

U. S. EPA has announced new rulemaking for blending.