Summer 2014: Some Biosolids Programs Under Seige
Every year, during peak agricultural activity across the continent, as biosolids are land applied like other fertilizers, there are scattered odor complaints and conflicts with neighbors that make it into the media. But this summer seemed to have more biosolids controversy than in recent years - including, for the first time in several years, some controversies close to home in our NEBRA region.
- The litigation continues over the 2006 Kern County, CA voter ban on biosolids land application, continuing to harden some local opposition. In early July, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kern County on a technicality (see also TV coverage and this newspaper editorial). Los Angeles and other plaintiffs said they would continue the litigation. (On the other hand, the California Legislature decided not to give Kern County authority to test and restrict biosolids.)
- In many cases, malodor drives public upset - as it always has. Examples include issues in Ontario, Virginia, and....
- ...Most important in our region, continued upset over odors from the Soil Preparation, Inc. biosolids processing facility in Plymouth, ME, which is overseen by WeCare. The concerns of neighbors led to coverage in the Bangor Daily News and on Maine Public Radio. And, in part, to new odor regulations being imposed by the Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection (update provided at the North East Residuals & Biosolids Conference in October).
- And the upset about biosolids and malodors continues in northern Texas (article, website), even as changes to the solids treatment process at Dallas should reduce odor generation within a few years (Can land application site neighbors wait that long? Probably not.)
- quasar energy group's efforts to land apply biosolids from its new anaerobic digesters in westen New York state has now led to local actions to ban land application (see here, here, and here) and political pressure on the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation (here and here). (It's amazing how different the public discussion is in Ohio, where quasar's work is recognized for its energy benefits.)
- But remember, odor issues happen with other ways of managing wastewater solids, as in Gardner, MA, where a wastewater solids landfill is causing a stink too and Southington, CT, where treatment plant odor issues are diminishing.
Successful biosolids management requires adherence to regulations and best management practices, continual attention to potential odor and other nuisance issues, and proactive communications with farmers, neighbors, and communities. Hundreds of biosolids recycling programs get it right, every day. Those that don't threaten to undermine all biosolids recycling.