A Postcard from the WEF Residuals & Biosolids Conference, May, in Nashville

The annual WEF Residuals & Biosolids Conference was the usual stimulating blur of information and new and old friends - talks, exhibits, learning, chance & formal meetings, negotiating deals, slides, energy...

"Are you ready?!"  With those words, Bob O'Dette was back, national conference keynote powerpoint speaker extraordinaire, welcoming us to his home town of Nashville, where he heads the state's biosolids program.  A favorite line from his talk: "Biosolids are no more sludge than gasoline is crude oil."

Also memorable: Dr. Alan Rubin's discussion of the now-20-year-old Part 503 Rule (of which he was a lead author) and what it means today and where it is headed.  Most interesting of his 11 points (speaking for himself; Dr. Rubin is retired from U. S. EPA):

1.  EPA developed the rule over years, eventually getting the science right, thanks to lots of good input; now considers the job done; biosolids are relatively low risk; now other priorities prevail.

2.  The most important aspects of the rule: monitoring, record-keeping, and reporting ("we're keeping track").

3.  Microconstituents are unlikely to prove to be any significant issue for biosolids.

4.  Pathogens are a concern; stabilization has to be done right.

5.  Odors are what get people upset about; prolonged exposure to malodors can make people feel ill.  Continue to research and improve on this.

6. EPA compliance and enforcement is there for serious violations, but not very active otherwise.

9. Does EPA have a preference of biosolids practice?  Not now; used to encourage land application.

11. The future?  Optimistic.  It's excellent how the diversity of uses of biosolids has expanded.  We're doing the job right.

Why won't EPA come out and clearly state that biosolids use on soils is safe?  Dr. Rubin:  "It's political.  But let's face it; if EPA is letting you land apply biosolids routinely, that's their way of saying it's safe."