OCTOBER 2017 RESEARCH UPDATE

Dear Biosolids Friends,

Welcome to October! Halloween is on its way, have you decided on your costume? But if you are prone to being scared by politics, economy, wildfires, hurricane, etc., one thing you don't need to be afraid of is biosolids. This fact Dr Brown makes crystal clear in her October blurb. For a copy of this opinion piece blurb and her abstracts of here cited literature go to our website., for which you will need to log-in. And, as always, if you care to receive the original articles, just send a note to wtoffey@mabiolids.org

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SEPTEMBER 2017 RESEARCH UPDATE

Dr. Sally Brown drills down into the release of micro constituents from land application sites in her September 2017 science review,  She is irked by the framing of research results in "sky is falling" ways, and shows, in her dive into the details of the protocols, just how minuscule are the loadings that occur from land application. She supports her critique of one Colorado study with results of others, particularly one with manure, in which the results are framed in objective terms. She circles around to the obvious starting point, namely the context of the human origin of these compounds to begin with and the other pathways of potential environmental exposure in addition to biosolids recycling.

Visit MABA's upgraded website for a library of these research updates and to review the science abstracts referenced in them..  Also, you should now be able to contact me at wtoffey@mabiosolids.org directly for any of the papers Dr. Brown cites in her "blurbs."

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AUGUST 2017 RESEARCH UPDATE

Dr. Sally Brown digs into soil mixes in her August 2017 science review,  Public agencies and service companies that prepare biosolids for "distribution and marketing," must meet, at a minimum, the Part 503 standards for safety that are termed Class A EQ.  But Sally notes that the "value added" by biosolids is in attributes that goes beyond regulatory standards.  The performance is in objective measurements of the quality of plant growth. Her review this month is on several studies that deploy testing parameters, some common to horticultural sciences, that compare soil mixes that deploy biosolids components with standard horticultural soil blends. Biosolids is a strong ingredient by almost any measure, except in some applications and climates where soluble salts are a challenge for horticultural crops.  The final item she reviews is a bit different, in that it suggests that biosolids as a soil ingredient may improve the health-giving nutrient content of crops.  

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JULY 2017 RESEARCH UPDATE

Dr. Sally Brown reviews for July 2017 the topic of plastics, She reviews journal articles that cover the presence of plastics in wastewater and biosolids and their environmental fate, including soil  The most salient point for me is that, despite their ubiquity in our world, the ultimate fate of plastic is poorly known to science. What we do know is that, over time, plastic fibers, fragments and beads continually reduce in size, making them ingestible to micro fauna, aquatic and terrestrial. The impact of plastics on the viability of these small animals, including worms, is not established.  We should all be looking forward to advances in polymer chemistry that replace recalcitrant oil-based plastics with degradable plant based plastics.  We as environmental stewards ought to advocate for this change. 

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JUNE 2017 RESEARCH UPDATE

Dr. Sally Brown reviews biochar in her June 2017 Research Update.  Co-incidentally my most recent Biosolids TOPICS "The op Ten" included bichar as a topic.Pyrolysis holds a special place in the hearts of anti-biosolids activists these days, as this technology is spoken reverentially for its ability to transform biosolids into fuel and biochar. 

Aside from the great variety of pyrolysis approaches and feedstocks, Dr, Brown explains that, though biochar convincingly sequesters carbon in soil, biochar's effectiveness in soil has a wide huge variety of impacts, not all good.  Clearly, predicting what biochar works and what doesn't work as a soil amendment to improve crop growth is nigh impossible, without specific field trials. Pyrolysis is not a foolproof solution for biosolids management, and neither is the biochar it yields a dependably great soil amendment.  

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MAY 2017 RESEARCH UPDATE

Dr. Sally Brown reviews in her May 2017 Research Update a question few of us have ever given thought. What happens to the polymer used in dewatering once the cake gets to land application? Are there any adverse effects of this chemical ingredient to soil microbes or plants?. When this question was posed to Dr. Brown she realized she had no good response. So she takes a look at that issue and reports to us.  to this call was the same as mine -- let's take a look at the science.

MABA has just launched a new website, and we will find a new way to bring the details of Dr. Brown's review.  Also, you should now be able to contact me at wtoffey@mabiosolids.org directly for any of the papers by Dr. Brown.

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APRIL 2017 RESEARCH UPDATE

Dr. Brown is helping out here.  While not a new topic for her, many of us had not been paying attention until NEBRA's Ned Beecher called the alarm for a regulatory threat arising in New Hampshire for the future of land application. That threat is tied to PFOAs (perfluorooctanoic acids), or more generally to the class called PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances), "emerging" as a compound of human health concern. These compounds arrive in biosolids from consumer products and tapwater; they do not degrade; and when placed on the ground, some portion can migrate to groundwater. Not what we want to know.  Many new science articles are appearing, and Dr. Brown gives us an overview.

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MARCH 2017 RESEARCH UPDATE

Dr. Sally Brown reviews the work of Canadian reseaercher, Ed Topp. You may have caught the March 1st WEF webcast on "Emerging Contaminants in Biosolids." This is not an easy topic, but Dr. Brown walks us through the conclusions that involved field studies of a range of compound classes. These include flame retardants, antibacterial compounds and prescription pharmaceuticals. The bottom line is that biosolids amended soils show slightly elevated concentrations, but that the soil environment attenuates the compounds over time and the risk of harm to the soil, water or microfauna is negligible. 

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FEBRUARY 2017 RESEARCH UPDATE

Dr. Sally Brown revisits an old friend of mine in her February Biosolids Research Update. Well, not really a friend, but a chemical I lived pretty close to and grew very familiar with back in 1993 when Phildelphia's biosolids program was upended by a large illegal discharge of polychlorinated biphenyls. Dr. Brown recently reviewed the topic of PCBs in biosolids. This follows from a call of a concerned citizen out in western Washington from a recently published journal article on risks of PCBs in biosolids. She read some key assumptions in this new paper that sent her back to original journal articles. The bottom line is that, no, PCBs are not compounds of significant concern in biosolids today. 

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NOVEMBER 2016 RESEARCH UPDATE

Dr Sally Brown is concerned with our expression, the way we speak, and how that reflects our thoughts.  She responds in this blog to findings, reported at the NBMA BioFest, of the public knowledge of and interest in biosolids topics.  The advent of social media is providing a whole new way to understand, almost in real time, the formation of attitudes and judgments, and our realization of these factors will help us better communicate.

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OCTOBER 2016 RESEARCH UPDATE

Dr. Sally Brown's October Research Update reports on a light-hearted presentation from the Northwest Biosolids Management Association's Biofest in mid September. Her argument underscores the need for a balanced viewpoint of risks and exposures in the interpretation of scientific results, at the juncture with policy. The lessons learned in the work of the last generation on trace element chemistry in soll-plant interactions are relevant to the study of residues of pharmaceutical products, Brown argues. More importantly, we need to guard against the alarmism that the hunt for research money engenders. 

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SEPTEMBER 2016 RESEARCH UPDATE

Dr. Brown frames for us in this month's blog the issue of food waste in the U.S., and its extraordinary financial and environmental cost to society. And, of course, her interest is in how the solution to this issue of increasing public awareness may be solved by initiative at our public wastewater treatment works. Most of us know that the interest in "co-digestion" has grown strong in our conference gatherings and among policy leaders. Sally reaffirms in her selection of research articles to review this month the exciting potential of anaerobic digestion facilities as a low-cost, high benefit solution for communities.

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AUGUST 2016 RESEARCH SUMMARY


The August resaearch summary is an overview of Dr. Chaney's work with cadmium, one of the key elements of concern at the dawn of biosolids regulations in the 1980s. Dr. Chaney showed the importance of the biosoldis matrix in influencing the biochemical reactions of biosolids in the environment. He also drew the connection between dietary balance of elements and the potential for absorption of pollutants. This is great work, for which the honors given Dr, Chaney in his career are so well deserved.

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JULY 2016 RESEARCH SUMMARY

In the July Research Update, Dr. Sally Brown brings us words of joy and comfort, if you are a fan of carbon sequestration and biosolids recycling.  She explains that scientists now understand that stable increases to the reserve of organic carbon in soils are not due alone to the amount of carbon amendment added to the soil, but to the overall balance of nutrients added along with the carbon. Without those nutrients, carbon doesn't hang around. You guessed it, biosolids provides that kind of balanced nutrition favoriing a permanent kick upward in soil carbon.  This is great news, for biosolids and carbon sequestration as a greenhouse gas mitigation tool.

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JUNE 2016 RESEARCH SUMMARY

Dr. Brown introduces the concept of soil microbes as the "highly exposed individuals" of concern to risk assessment in the use of biosolids. The bottom line is that biosolids doesn't effect soil nearly as much as the act of farming itself. But between that conclusion and the question of soil microbial communities, we realize a very complex world exists about which the new tools of genomic analysis is just opening to our understanding.

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MAY 2016 RESEARCH SUMMARY


Sally takes on the biggest of all environmental stories in the press today, that of the element lead, especially the issues raised by exposures in Flint, Michigan. She reviews for us the chemistry of lead that makes our water infrastructure vulnerable to lead releases, and how that can translate into exposure to humans, with the most serious exposures being young children and their developing brains and nervous systems. The issue has been cast in Flint as an environmental justice issue, but the truth is that all water systems need to have integrity in their treatment and distribution system management.

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APRIL 2016 RESEARCH SUMMARY

Dr Brown gives us her favorite topic, the use of biosolids to reclaim scarred minelands. She draws on the seminal work of her mentors long-ago in the 1970s, including early work in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and then to work by Chicago and agencies in the State of Washington, now her home state. While the issues over the years has shifted, from a focus on metals to now persistent organic compounds, what has not changed is the astonishing results of the reclamation work in restoring soil. For that result we can all be proud and take home lessons.

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MARCH 2016 RESEARCH SUMMARY

Dr. Sally Brown's essay this month is about one of the microconstituents of the day -- PFOAs. We need no reminding that biosolids is reservoir for persistent chemicals in widespread use in commercial products.  In this case, the chemical is perfluorinated organic compounds, your non-stick chemical additives. They have been in widespread use for many decades, but relatively recently have scientists sought to detect their occurrences throughout the biosphere. And, yes, they are everywhere, including biosolids. But that does not mean that the biosolids constitutes a significant source or environmental risk. In this review below, Dr. Brown provides a commentary on useful research abstracts, any one of which I can help you obtain.

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FEBRUARY 2016 RESEARCH SUMMARY


Dr. Sally Brown's essay this month is a "back to basics." That is, she review the fundamentals of the use of biosolids as a source of nitrogen fertility for crops.  As she points out, the biochemistry of nitrogen in the soil matrix is complicated, and it is a core aspect of our work with biosolids that we use the best information available from her cited publications to meet farmers's needs and prevent unnecessary losses. Dr. Brown's message is a reminder to me that deploying biosolids-borne N makes sense as a sustainable practice for protecting Earth's environment.

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