October 12, 2011

In Brief / en bref...
...short news bits from NEBRAMail, 12 October 2011:

Resource Management Inc. (RMI) responded to soil loss from flooding after Tropical Storm Irene by offering free engineered topsoil from its New Hampton facility in central NH.   "We are pleased to support our community and help speed the rebuilding efforts by donating NutraSoil,” said Shelagh Connelly, president, RMI. “This donation is in keeping with RMI’s tradition of community support; in 2008 we donated topsoil to help restore farm fields after the Alstead floods of 2006.”  RMI is a founding member of NEBRA and its New Hampton facility is certified for its Environmental Management System (EMS) by the National Biosolids Partnership.

In July, WEF responded to a letter to the editor by Caroline Snyder (No. Sandwich, NH) that was negative about biosolids land application.  In a response published in the Duluth News Tribune, WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger stated “Snyder’s statements about biosolids do not reflect the overwhelming consensus of experts in this field or the experience of decades of successful biosolids land application. Recycling of biosolids is a longstanding practice here in the U.S. and in many other parts of the world. Practices in the U.S. have been the subject of expert scrutiny and review within the EPA and by external panels. In each case the agency has concluded that current regulations protect public health and the environment.” He also rebutted inaccurate statements about the National Biosolids Partnership, noting that it does not ‘market biosolids;’ rather, it provides technical training and information on best practices for the management of biosolids….[It] encourage agencies to go above and beyond regulatory requirements.”

Chittenden Solid Waste District’s new Intervale Compost site started up this past summer, as noted in a Burlington Free Press article.  “Operations that have transformed yard and kitchen waste back into clean, rich soil for 24 years in Burlington's Intervale are settling in to new digs in Williston."

“Today, there is more lead contamination in America’s cities than any federal or state agency could ever afford to clean up and haul away,” noted a July post from the New York Times. “So scientists and regulators are trying a new strategy, transforming the dangerous metal into a form the human body cannot absorb, thus vastly reducing the risk of lead poisoning.”   Fishbone meal and similar seafood by-products are mixed in lead-contaminated soils to provide calcium phosphate that binds lead in the mineral form, pyrophosphate.  Dr. Sally Brown, biosolids researcher at the University of Washington, was quoted in the article: “The whole notion of adding an amendment to the soil to change the mineral form of a contaminant and make it safe is great.”

Final Dismissal of Legal Action Against EPA Biosolids Program Employees
This may well be the end of the long legal challenges brought by former EPA employee David Lewis and two Georgia farmers regarding land application of treated sewage sludge from Augusta, Georgia.   In late August, a federal appeals court affirmed the September 2010 decision of a lower court to dismiss the case brought by Lewis and the farmers Boyce and McElmurray against U. S. EPA employees or former employees Bob Bastian, Bob Brobst, Ed Gross, and John Walker and researchers and officials at the University of Georgia.  

The case was an offshoot of the controversy regarding Augusta’s land application program in the last 1980s (prior to promulgation of the federal regulations at 40 CFR Part 503), which, the farmers believe, sickened their cows.   No conclusive scientific evidence was ever produced to confirm the farmers’ allegations, although they were awarded limited damages in one case and Augusta was reprimanded for poor-quality recordkeeping.   The current case stemmed from a research project funded by U. S. EPA and conducted by EPA and University of Georgia scientists that found no significant accumulations of heavy metals in soils where Augusta treated sewage sludge had also been spread. 

Lewis has filed several unsuccessful court cases and administrative complaints, over the years, that allege significant dangers from land application of biosolids and mistreatment of himself by EPA.

WERF recently announced several summaries of some recent research, some pertaining to biosolids:

Minimizing Mercury Emissions in Biosolids Incinerators (04CTS7T) This study shows that relative to other sources of mercury emissions in the United States, biosolids incinerators emit much lower quantities and are a minor source of emissions. It will help operators specify and design effective mercury minimization systems and processes. It also helps characterize, measure, and minimize mercury in publicly owned treatment works that practice biosolids incineration in the U.S.  Download Now.

Evaluation of Processes to Reduce Activated Sludge Solids Generation and Disposal (05CTS3) This study provides valuable insight into cutting-edge research and emerging technologies associated with sludge minimization. Data analysis indicates positive results, although the performance of the same technology is often significantly different at separate facilities. This study also improves the understanding of why some sludges are more susceptible to these technologies than other sludges. Download Now

Strategic Risk Communications Process for Outreach and Dialogue on Biosolids Land Application (SRSK2R08) This report provides biosolids professionals with valuable hands-on tools and guidance to help them better communicate with stakeholders in their communities. The research team developed an instructive Primer for Biosolids Professionals to enable biosolids professionals to design and conduct outreach and dialogue in communities where biosolids are applied. It offers step-by-step guidance on how to adapt and implement the Strategic Risk Communications Process for Outreach and Dialogue on Biosolids. It provides supporting tools and sample materials that biosolids professionals can customize for their own use. Download Now