Biosolids SPOTLIGHT: A focus on the people of biosolids who work in our region

May 2023 - MABA Biosolids Spotlight

featuring Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC)

Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission moves forward

with Biosolids Management Master Plan


The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC), established in 1902, began operation of the Newark Bay Treatment Plant in 1924 as a means to alleviate pollution in the Passaic River and its tributaries. Major expansions, upgrades and renovations throughout the twentieth century have made the PVSC one of the largest wastewater treatment plants in the United States.

Since 1902, the PVSC has expanded its mission to enhance the viability, and environmental health and security of the 1.5 million residents in the 48 municipalities of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Union and Passaic Counties of the Passaic Valley Service District. PVSC operates and maintains the infrastructure of a region that includes the Newark Bay Treatment Plant and its 22-mile interceptor sewer line to enable the processing of over 300 Million gallons of wastewater every day.


pvsc pic


And now PVSC moves forward into a second century of service to its ratepayers with an aggressive plan to control costs and identify alternative funding sources for necessary infrastructure maintenance, automation, and upgrades, while providing innovative, environmentally sound and cost effective wastewater treatment.

The scope of work consists of development of a Biosolids Management Master Plan for PVSC that guides future upgrades to meet potential regulatory drivers and needs of the Utility for the next 10-20 years.   The project was awarded to Arcadis, CDM Smith and HDR in April 2022.

The sludge management program at PVSC consists of thickening, thermal sludge conditioning (Zimpro), dewatering, and off-site disposal of the dewatered solids. Zimpro’s wet air oxidation process consists of an aqueous phase oxidation of organic materials that is accomplished at elevated temperatures and pressures.

“The wet-air oxidation process (Zimpro) went into operation in the early 80’s,” says Patricia Lopes, Director Of Process Control Engineering and Regulatory Compliance for PVSC, “We must be the only operating Zimpro treatment in United States for municipal sludge biosolids management  – particularly at this size. And with an estimated 25 year life, and ours being over 40 years old, we were looking for new options.”

Lopes explains that among the main reasons for the Biosolids Master Management Plan (BMMP) was the aging equipment, which although it requires high energy and trained and qualified maintenance personnel, it remains very resilient.  PVSC’s operational, maintenance and in-house fabrication capabilities have played a large part in the longevity of the Wet-Air Oxidation process equipment. 

Lopes shares that the current treatment process is a very forgiving one, and allows PVSC to continue their liquid waste program while generating a Class A biosolids; 50-55% total solids product, with very little use of chemicals.  In the end, Lopes says the new regulations, energy costs and the age of the equipment truly drove the interest in replacement or upgrades to the system.




Regulatory permit requirements will guide the Biosolids Management Master Plan, which Lopes says is currently in a conceptual design phase. Lopes says the project work is being shared with both Arcadis, CDM Smith and HDR to afford a more holistic approach to the necessary design and work needed for PVSC.

Lopes estimates that the project development will be completed within the next year or so, and PVSC expects that Arcadis, CDM Smith and HDR will be recommending several technologies at that time. Lopes expects that the project may take approximately 10-15 years to complete, and she emphasizes the importance of the project and PVSC’s work for the region.

“We receive about 300 trucks daily - plus 48 municipalities and barges from Bergen County Utilities Authority and  New York City,” says Lopes, “The impact during Hurricane Sandy further amplified that issues at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Treatment plant become regional and statewide issues. What we’re doing is not just for us, but rather an impact that can be felt statewide.”

For additional information, contact Patricia Lopes, Director Of Process Control Engineering and Regulatory Compliance, at [email protected]



February 2023 - MABA Biosolids Advocacy Spotlight

NJ Clean Water HearingNew Jersey

New Jersey Clean Water Council public hearing “Addressing PFAS Compounds in Residuals” - January 19, 2023

In January 2021, the Clean Water Council held a public hearing entitled “Permitting of PFAS Compounds in NJPDES Discharges to Surface Water”. Since this hearing, the Department has required all industrial dischargers to surface water and significant indirect users (“SIU”) to complete a “PFAS Source Evaluation and Reduction Requirements Survey''. Further, industrial dischargers permitted by the Department have been required to sample wastewater for the presence of PFAS. Survey responses and results of the data received to-date can be found at

To further advance the Department’s mission to protect our waters from PFAS, the Clean Water Council solicited public testimony focused on how to address the presence of PFAS in residuals and its potential impact on management alternatives.

MABA’s Executive Director, Mary Firestone, provided oral testimony during the hearing, and MABA provided written testimony as well.  This information, as well as the presentations, full video, and other written testimony submissions can be viewed by visiting: 

LBFC Meeting


Pennsylvania General Permits & PA House Resolution 2021-149 (HR 149) - MABA meets with the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget & Finance Committee 

In January, MABA was contacted by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget & Finance Committee (LBFC) regarding PA House Resolution 2021-149 (HR 149) which was assigned to them to conduct a study of PA DEP’s proposed revisions to General Permits PAG-07, PAG-08, and PAG-09 related to permitting and management of biosolids.  Through their research MABA was identified as an organization that would be valuable in discussing the background of biosolids in Pennsylvania, and more specifically, DEP’s proposed changes.

MABA’s Regulatory/Legislative Committee and leadership met with the LBFC in early February, and provided them with a presentation underscoring the historic and invaluable relationship and tradition of biosolids beneficial reuse in Pennsylvania, as well as the potential economic and environmental impacts of the proposed general permit revisions.  MABA provided the LBFC with clear documentation and references, and provided answers to their questions related to their objectives within the resolution.  Additionally, MABA shared the previously submitted PFAS Monitoring Position Statement and Response to the PA DEP Proposed General Permit Changes.  MABA has continued communications with the LBFC.  They estimate their analysis will be completed by June 2023.

Call to Action


MABA’s Call to Action regarding Maryland HB 499 and SB 225

MABA informed members of Maryland’s House Bill 499 and Senate Bill 225 – concerning Biosolids. These bills were slated to introduce changes to the Maryland Environment Code Section 9–331.2, by requiring additional testing and reporting for the presence of PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) by biosolids producers. 

MABA was slated to provide testimony to the senate and house committees to explain the potential issues and ramifications of enacting this legislation, however, the legislation was withdrawn prior to its review in the The Maryland Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee, and the Maryland House Environment and Transportation Committee.  Additional information on the bills can be found at their respective tracking pages - HB 499 and SB 225.  The Fiscal & Policy note for each of these bills provides additional and important background information, and those can be viewed here: HB 499 and SB 225.

Washington, D.C. CRROPS Briefing

CRROPS Congressional Briefing - February 9, 2023

On February 9, CRROPS convened congressional briefing into the science and policy priorities associated with the development of federal policies to address PFAS chemicals in the environment.  The briefing was held in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing room in Washington DC. 

Summary of Briefing

The briefing was developed by CRROPS (Coalition of Recyclers of Residual Organics by Providers of Sustainability) as the first formal meeting in the newly convened Congress to provide vital information on the facets of PFAS policymaking.  The effort was designed to ensure that congressional staff tasked with advising Members of Congress have the benefit of knowledge of the water sector’s efforts to ensure that the public and environment is protected, while preserving management practices that leverage the resource value of biosolids.  The briefing reviewed the underlying science of PFAS, the need to recognize that PFAS exposure through water sector activities is minimal, including biosolids, and that any responsibility for PFAS cleanups must reside with manufacturers of PFAS and not passive receivers, like public agencies and related contractors.  The briefing illustrated an openness from congressional staff to consider these issues as legislative proposals are developed this year.

PFAS Briefing Illustrates Importance of Balanced Information

The briefing brought together a number of water sector authorities to present the impacts of PFAS.  It allowed for a review of viable approaches to ensure that any legislative initiatives, and subsequent rulemakings, deliver effective policy responses.  Chief among the matters discussed was the need to avoid imposing compliance burdens on the public and passive receivers.

Panel of Presenters: Dr. Linda S. Lee, Professor of Agronomy, Purdue University, Maile Lono-Batura, Director, WEF Biosolids Program, Holly Kiser, full time farmer in Maryland, Chris Peot of D.C. Water/BLOOM, Chris Moody, Regulatory and Technical Director, American Water Works Association, Dan Hartnett, Chief Advocacy Officer, Association of Metropolitan Agencies, and Jason Dadakis , Executive Director Water Quality and Technical Resources, Orange County (California) Water District. 

For questions, and additional information, contact Mary Firestone at [email protected] or 845-901-7905.


January 2023 - MABA Member Spotlight

featuring WSSC Water

Innovating Biosolids Management at WSSC Water

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC Water) is a bi-county agency and public corporation in Maryland, established in 1918 to provide water supply and wastewater services for Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.  WSSC Water is among the largest water and wastewater utilities in the nation, with a network of over 5,865 miles of drinking water pipeline and more than 5,865 miles of sewer pipeline, serving 1.9 million residents.

WSSC Water is nearing completion of an innovative regional biosolids processing facility (Bioenergy Facility)  located at WSSC Water’s Piscataway Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) in Accokeek, MD.  When fully operational in 2024, the largest and most technically advanced facility ever constructed by WSSC Water will receive over 100,000 wet tons (WT)/year of unstabilized biosolids from all six of WSSC Water’s WRRFs. The Bioenergy Facility will generate 2-3 MW of renewable energy and 50,000-60,000 WT/year of exceptional quality, Class A biosolids using thermal hydrolysis and anaerobic digestion (TH/AD).  

Anaerobic digesters


Digester gas will be captured and purified to renewable natural gas (rNG) standards and sold as a source of renewable energy.  A portion of the energy generated will be used to fuel Montgomery County’s compressed natural gas (CNG) bus fleet, thereby producing a locally sourced, renewable fuel.  Likewise, Class A biosolids will be beneficially reused via land application to provide a valuable fertilizer and soil amendment to regional farms.

Closer view gas handling

In anticipation of the upcoming transition, WSSC Water is also investigating and implementing innovative technologies and process control strategies designed to reduce energy consumption and treatment chemical usage while increasing the  energy value of biosolids fed to the Bioenergy Facility.  Initiatives include adding sidestream enhanced biological phosphorus removal (S2EBPR) at the Parkway WRRF to move away from chemical-based phosphorus removal; full-scale pilot testing of ammonia-based aeration control (ABAC) at the Seneca WRRF; and bench-scale evaluation of primary to waste activated sludge ratios required to maximize volatile solids reduction (VSR) potential as well as the impact of high aluminum content on the digestibility of the biosolids.  As these processes are further developed and optimized, WSSC Water is working to implement cost-saving and energy generating strategies across all of WSSC Water’s WRRFs.   

Aerial view - WSSC Water

Regulations & permitting surrounding land application of a Class A biosolids will be less restrictive than currently afforded with Class B. However, a variety of factors with the potential to impact the long-term viability and cost of land application exist. Key factors include: 

  • Biosolids processing will be centralized with limited onsite storage;
  • Regulations on land application restrict options in winter/wet weather;
  • Land application rates will continue to be limited by nutrient content;
  • Other large municipalities in DC Metro area creating similar Class A products could saturate markets; and
  • Emerging contaminants will continue to threaten long-term viability of land application.

In an effort to get ahead of these issues and meet them head-on, a comprehensive long-range biosolids master plan is being developed to ensure that WSSC Water can adjust to changing conditions and markets and continue to manage biosolids in a risk averse, sustainable, and economically viable manner. 

For additional information, contact Malcolm Taylor PhD, P.E. WSSC Water Engineering & Environmental Services
[email protected]

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