SPOTLIGHT FEBRUARY 2021 on Data Nerds of Biosolids

Just the other day the big news was that Bitcoin valuation had topped a trillion dollars, but today its value is off 17%. Had I not written the blog on Blockchain Biosolids, I would have even been more clueless than I am about bitcoin and blockchains, except that occasionally I suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). What I can say is that, but for the enormously expanding capability of digital recordkeeping capabilities in the world, bitcoin would not be a thing. What I can also say is that biosolids recordkeeping and data analysis is much more where the industry was in 1993, when the Part 503 regulations were promulgated, than it is in 2021. For that reason, we must check into the corners of our profession for those individuals who have embraced the kind of "transparency and trust" that blockchain data systems promise, and those who are committed to advancing our processes and practices to a new dimension.  

Bryan Cauthorn - VADEQ and the new Environmental Data Mapper

Bryan CauthornBryan Cauthorn ([email protected], 804.698.4592) is the Biosolids Compliance Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  Bryan started his biosolids career in 1990 working for a private contractor in the land application program.  After 17 years, Bryan made the move to DEQ in 2007. For much of this time, Byran has championed the creation of the Environmental Data Mapper,  a geographic database of all approved land application sites in Virginia, a “groundbreaking” accomplishment in our profession.  Bryan holds a B.S. in Agricultural Economics degree from Virginia Tech and is a Certified Nutrient Management Specialist in the state of Virginia.  He has always liked working with farmers to learn more about agriculture and to share what he has learned.  In his time off, he helps on the family farm raising corn, soybeans, barley, hog, and cattle, and processing meat with custom slaughter.  As a child on the farm, he also raised broiler chickens, laying hens for eggs, rabbits, vegetables, and tobacco.  He enjoys a hard day’s work to help clear the mind from working in an office all week.  In his spare time, he volunteers at the Tappahannock-Warsaw Moose Lodge running bingo and he serves as assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 304 in Tappahannock. 

 Aaron Stephens - Vice President, Data and Information Management, Material Matters

Aaron StephensAaron Stephens, Material Matters, 717-367-9697, x-103, [email protected] is Vice President and partner with Material Matters, responsible for data and information management projects. Aaron is an E.I.T. with an MS degree in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Penn State.  Starting in 2002, Aaron lent his “data nerd” talent to Material Matters in the development of the Material Manager™ database, a system that provides geographically based records of land applications, both producing worksheets for prospective spreading activities and records for regulatory submissions.  Aaron has served as a project manager since 2006 with multiple industrial and food processing clients and has project experience involving waste heat utilization.  Aaron is a sci-fi aficionado, enjoys playing with microelectronics for home automation, builds small drones, tracks excess deaths from CDC data not properly ascribed to Covid-19, and, on a lighter note, uses his ingenuity to foil the squirrels at his bird feeders.


Elyssa Arnold - US EPA Biosolids Team, Risk Assessment 

Elyssa Arnold

Elyssa Arnold ([email protected], 202-566-1189) is the Risk Assessment Lead in the U.S. EPA Office of Water’s Biosolids Program. She manages EPA’s efforts to assess the risk of chemical pollutants found in biosolids following land application, incineration, or surface disposal to ensure EPA meets its obligations under the Clean Water Act. Elyssa is working to prioritize the list of chemicals found in biosolids for risk assessment and to develop an exposure model to use for screening-level risk assessments. She also spends a lot of time working on PFAS issues. Elyssa joined the Biosolids Program in May 2020 after 9 years focused on ecological risk assessment in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. Elyssa grew up in Maryland, where she now lives with her husband, two young children, one very tolerant dog, and a big vegetable garden that produces mostly cucumbers.

Justin Wippo - Technical Manager, Thermal Process Systems

Justin WippoJustin Wippo, Technical Manager for Thermal Process Systems ([email protected] 219-669-6644) studied chemical engineering at Purdue University with a period abroad at the University of Queensland in Australia. After graduating with his B.S. in chemical engineering in 2017 he joined Thermal Process Systems, Inc, based in Crown Point, IN. There he oversees the research and development of several new processes. The most prominent of these projects is the development of a new approach for the combination of anaerobic and aerobic digestion technologies that provide benefits to the anaerobic digester such as the reduction of H2S in the biogas and struvite in the digester. This work has branched off into researching different methods of treating biosolids that improve the efficiency of phosphorus recovery processes and help balance the nitrogen and phosphorus in biosolids for land application. His appreciation for sustainability goes beyond his career, so when he is not traveling to hike in the mountains, he spends his spare time doing preservation and restoration projects at local nature preserves.