What's Happening With Biosolids & Residuals in the States & Provinces
Prince Edward Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire environmental agencies sent representatives to The Northeast Residuals & Biosolids Conference for the biennial Northeast "Regulation Roundtable." "We thank these agencies and individuals for showing up and communicating with biosolids managers and others in the regulated community," said Ned Beecher of NEBRA. "Regular interactions ensure ongoing mutual understanding and respect in dealing with biosolids and organic residuals in this region."
This year, the conference Roundtable was ably moderated by Ben Smith, the new Residuals Workgroup coordinator for NEIWPCC. Here's what we learned:
Prince Edward Island: Morley Foy of the environment ministry based in Charlottetown made the long trip to the Northeast Conference. At the Roundtable, he explained the management of biosolids in PEI: the largest generators are Charlottetown and Summerside, both of which produce advanced alkaline stabilized materials. Another large-scale organics processor is Cavendish Farms, a potato processor that has been setting an example in anaerobic digestion of organics since 2009. Foy said that one of his current projects is focused on understanding testing, management, and potential impacts of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) in various organic residuals, including biosolids. Other maritime provinces were not represented; their biosolids management programs continue steadily; with composting and land application of alkaline-treated solids common in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, respectively.
Quebec: Marc Hébert, of the Quebec environment ministry, who attended last year's Northeast Conference, sent his greetings this year and noted that the recycling of biosolids and other organic residuals in La Belle Province continues to increase slowly. In 2015, 1.5 million tons of residuals were recycled through composting or direct land application, which is a high rate compared to other recyclables (e.g. cans, bottles). 25% of paper mill residuals are recycled to soils, as are 42% of municipal biosolids and 97% of agricultural wastes. Residuals are used on 4.3% of Quebec's cultivated soils; in comparison, 65% of them receive fertilizers and 50% receive manures. The 2015 report stresses the value of recycled organics in combating greenhouse gas emissions, a core focus for the Province and all of Canada under new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Vermont: Ernie Kelley (photo), who earlier this year became the sole biosolids/residuals regulator in Vermont (a position he has filled in one way or another for the past 25 years), announced he will be retiring in June, 2017. Kelley has been a leader among state biosolids coordinators nationwide, helping facilitate a coordinators' listserv and interstate communications. He noted that Vermont DEC is currently focused on implementing the new Water Quality Act (Act 64 of 2015) and dealing with detections of perfluorinated compounds (e.g. PFOA and PFOS) in groundwater. (He expressed concern that the PFOA/PFOS issue may spill into biosolids, since they contain traces.) The process of evaluating the biosolids regulations has been stalled, although Kelley completed a revised version of the biosolids White Paper in September. Kelley intends to have a promised biosolids advisory group in place and functioning by the time he retires, and he expects there will eventually be a new set of rules for the management of biosolids, septage, dairy waste (digestate), and paper mill residuals. (Such a rule change has been anticipated for many years.) Even as he explained that current DEC management has concerns about biosolids use, he noted that the Department has 56,000 data points on metals in biosolids, compiled since 2000, that show modern biosolids used in Vermont have "10% or less of the EPA Part 503 Table 3 standards."
New Hampshire: Michael Rainey, a key biosolids coordinator in this region for the past ~20 years, will also be retiring in 2017 - in March. As part of the Roundtable, Ray Gordon and Judy Houston, long-term NH DES staff involved in the residuals management program, reviewed the updated biosolids regulations that went into effect in January of this year. DES continues to support land application of biosolids, but only with strict testing and management regimens. Gordon said that they don't know who will take over for Rainey when he retires. Rainey has brought considerable chemistry acumen to his job, and that knowledge will be missed.
Maine: Carla Hopkins of Maine DEP was unable to attend the Roundtable. But she reported beforehand that there is little happening on biosolids and residuals regulation in the Pine Tree State. We note, however, that there has been one significant development in biosolids management there: the WeCare / Soil Prep processing facility in Plymouth, which was the subject of numerous odor complaints over the past decade and a major reason behind new Maine DEP odor regulations, has stopped accepting biosolids and other residuals and, with the help of Casella Organics, is moving finished product off the site, at last reducing friction with the surrounding community.
Massachusetts: Regulatory staff from MA were unable to attend the Roundtable, but we can report that there have been major developments regarding biosolids and other organics in the Commonwealth, including the updated molybdenum standard for land-applied biosolids and proposed revisions to the MDAR on-farm composting and Plant Nutrient regulations.
Rhode Island: Alex Pinto, seasoned biosolids coordinator for RI DEM, was also unable to attend. He reports no significant developments in biosolids regulation or management in the Ocean State, where a large percentage of solids are incinerated.
Connecticut: The "still revolutionary" state also had no one attending the Roundtable. Biosolids recycling to soils is not much of an option in Connecticut, because of lack of CT DEEP regulations. Fairfield, the only biosolids recycling program in the state, obtains permission through a facility solids management plan accepted by DEEP. Otherwise, CT solids are efficiently managed in incinerators both in and out of state. Even a crunch in the solids management markets earlier this year has not triggered DEEP interest in options for solids management.