In Brief / en bref - July 2015

WERF energy research... In early June, WERF and NYSERDA published A Guide to Net-Zero Energy Solutions for Water Resource Recovery Facilities.  This is the third and final report from a large project, led by Black & Veatch and Philadelphia Water, in which NEBRA participated.  The first two reports were Triple Bottom Line Evaluation of Biosolids Management Options and Demonstration Energy Neutrality Leadership: A Study of Five Champions of Change 

Jordan Peccia, PhD, of Yale University, recently published a provocative paper in Environmental Science & Technology: “We Should Expect More From Our Sewage Sludge.”  Dr. Peccia and his students have presented at a past NEBRA annual conference. The current paper, co-authored with Paul Westerhoff, PhD, of Arizona State University, states: “The culmination of previous incremental technologies and regulations aimed at solving a current treatment problem, rather than developing the practice for the higher goals of sustainability have resulted in sludge becoming a economic and social liability. Sludge management practice must shift from treatment of a liability toward recovery of the embedded energy and chemical assets, while continuing to protect the environment and human health. This shift will require new research, treatment technologies and infrastructure and must be guided by the application of green engineering principles to ensure economic, social, and environmental sustainability.” 

The publication has spurred discussion.  Resource recovery is the current paradigm of many biosolids management programs, and uses on soils as fertilizer and soil amendments are widely seen as sustainable ways to use many of the most valuable resources in biosolids, such as organic matter and nutrients.  Peccia and Westerhoff prefer to focus on the use of individual, extracted parts of the biosolids, such as metals and nutrients.  Sally Brown, PhD, of the University of Washington discusses this and related concepts in this month’s set of abstracts from the NBMA library (NEBRA members can download that by clicking to the members only page on the NEBRA website).  It’s an interesting debate: are biosolids more valuable for the extraction of individual metals and nutrients?  Will there be cost-effective technologies to extract such constituents? And what will happen to what is left over?  That still needs management, and use as a soil amendment would likely still be valuable.  Are today's best biosolids management programs that make high quality soil amendments and fertilizers really in need of a higher-cost, higher-tech fix? 

Ned Beecher, NEBRA Executive Director, recently presented at the Annual Meeting of the North Atlantic Chapter of SETAC (Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry) regarding the fate and impacts of trace chemicals (microconstituents) in biosolids.  This and other recent NEBRA presentations are available here.

The Washington state Supreme Court decision supporting state preemption of biosolids regulation continues to receive media attention.  It sets a strong precedent, giving pause to any local county or municipality that might choose to severely restrict or ban biosolids recycling, which is widely regarded as a standard agricultural practice. 

Pyrolysis of paper residuals...  interesting concept discussed in this European context.