Research Updates & News Commentary
This is the first research update of 2019, and for those of us on the East Coast we have bid good riddance to 2018 and its incessant rainfall. Yet we read of extremes in other parts of the world, such as Australia and even part of our own Southwest U.S. where heat and drought have combined to stress soil. We are suffering from soil saturation, but elsewhere it is soil drought. Dr. Brown is drawn to the issue of soil erosion as one of the outcomes of drought and heat, as the stress results in increased soli surface erodibility. Dr. Brown's piece this month looks at the science that substantiates our industry's claim to the soil health attributes of biosolids, one of which is expressed in reduced erodibility. Faced with such drought stress, the farmer needs to draw upon every tool available to fight loss of soil.
Sally Brown provides an excellent overview of the research and its meaningfulness to our industry. Also, she calls out Ned Beecher at NEBRA for his excellent leadership in watching and responding to this issue from policy, practice and science viewpoints. For that, MABA will be joining many others in our industry in providing financial support for Ned's work.
Dr. Brown emphasizes that the real life risks of PFAS in biosolids is exceedingly small, and, due to reduced manufacturing, decreasingly small at that. She also reminds us that PFAS is a ubiquitous chemical, in consumer products, most notably food packaging, but that the greater environmental sources are from manufacturers, not consumer products. Biosolids is a conduit, not a source, of PFAS. Continue with the blurb below, and if you want a copy of this opinion-piece blurb and the journal articles Dr. Brown cites, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everybody knows 55 C x 5 x 3. A compost pile has to reach 55º for 5 turns with a total of 3 days at temperature between turns. Those are the requirements to reach pathogen kill to make sure that the compost is Class A and is safe for general use. In our world that is pretty much the ‘apple a day’ equivalent. Recently Tania Gheseger from Metro Vancouver asked me for papers that show that that same 55 x 5 x 3 kills weed seeds too. My first reaction was to tell her that ‘everybody knows that’, thinking that it was part of the general wisdom rather than a conclusion from peer reviewed studies.
In this month's Research Update, Dr. Brown looks at the consistent interest among scientists in mechanisms by which microbes adapt to challenge of antibiotics and how the microbes then pass these adaptations, via antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs), out into the world. This is an important issue for the big picture issue of the diminishing effectiveness of antibiotics in protecting from human diseases. A spotlight has been shone on wastewater treatment plants, concentrated animal feeding operations, and fish farms as principal environmental pathways for the spread of ARGs. Biosolids-borne ARGs are in the umbrella of this spotlight. Her bottom line, after a review of 5 journal articles is that ARGs in biosolids are not a major concern,
Dear Biosolids Friends,
Dr. Brown takes us to the other side of the world, to the largest of the Polynesian islands, New Zealand. For all of the difference in the landscape, tree species, wastewater treatment processes, the benefits of biosolids for forest application are a mirror to the benefits we realize here in North America. We don't often get to visit in our biosolids careers so exotic a location, so Dr. Brown gives us a snap shot. Continue with the blurb below and, if you cwant a copy of this opinion-piece blurb and the articles Dr. Brown cites, 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 email@example.com.
Dear Biosolids Friends,
Dr. Brown swallows hard and takes on an overview of the environmental fingerprint of society's use of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs). She reminds us that, by the sheer numbers and spread of humanity and through our sophisticated instrumentation, when we look for traces of PPCPs in our water enviornment, we will find traces of PPCPs. The traces may be in the parts per trillion concentrations, but they are there, released from feedlots, septic tank and sewage treatment plants. What does this mean? The reports Dr. Brown reviews do not offer insight into that question, but she does try to point out that the land application of biosolids is not the meaningful source, nor are our WWRFs to blame. If you have people, you have PPCPs. Continue with the blurb below and, if you can, try to wrap your head around 7 billion people and a part per trillion, For a copy of this opinion-piece blurb and the articles Dr. Brown cites, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Brown provides a useful recap of nitrogen availability in organic amendments. Her colleagues in the Pacific Northwest have for over a generation been leaders in research into soil nitrogen interactions, with a focus on the role of soil amendments in plant nutrition. Her review of several of the seminal papers, old and new, are a reminder that the term "compost" embraces so wide a variety of materials, that no single approach to using compost for providing nutrients will work. Bottom line is that biosolids compost, with a characteristically high percent nitrogen, may indeed be used both for soil building and for fertilization. Most commonly available composts may actually draw nitrogen from the soil in response to the carbon addition. Nevertheless,, Dr. Brown leaves us with the "2 Percent Rule" offered by Dr. Bary. So, continue with the blurb below and learn more. For a copy of this opinion-piece blurb and her abstracts of 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 email@example.com.
MARCH 2018 RESEARCH UPDATE
We have ahead for us a new year of research summaries from the University of Washington's Dr. Sally Brown. In this February Research Updates Dr .Brown looks at the strong case for biosolids recycling that stems from the looming global climate change challenge. Biosolids is not merely a source of macronutiients in place of chemical fertilizers. We learn that biosolids alters soil qualities in an array of positive ways that accomplish carbon sequestration and a rebirth of soil health. We learn that the carbon in biosolids stays with soil far longer than most carbon sources used as soil amendments, hence it is a superior source of carbon for sequestration. We also learn that the Sylvis, a service company in British Columbia, is preparing a model for calculating carbon credits from biosolids application. Don't miss out on this blurb and please visit the abstracts. For a copy of this opinion-piece blurb and her abstracts of 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
FEBRUARY 2018 RESEARCH UPDATE
Welcome to December, the holiday season and a turn toward winter, frozen ground, snow and ice. But for Dr. Sally Brown, at work in the Northwest U.S., clouds and rain set the tone of the season. So her thoughts in the December Research Updates turn to the performance of "green infrastructure," those increasingly common bioswales and detention ponds amidst our parking lots, commercial developments and "complete streets." She is particularly interested in how these devices are deployed, not so much for moderating the hydrology of stormwater discharge to streams, but for their ability to alter the quality of water, especially reducing toxicity of stormwater to aquatic life. She faces an establishment that, at the starting gate, is biased against biosolids-based components of bioswale soil mixtures, because of presumptions that biosolids-borne metals and nutrients work at cross purposes to high water quality. That may not be so, particularly for those biosolids with iron and aluminum compounds that can adsorb and chelate contaminants. So, here is Dr. Brown's take on the new research into this area of specialty soil mixes for stormwater management. For a copy of this opinion-piece blurb and her abstracts of 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 email@example.com
DECEMBER 2017 RESEARCH UPDATE
Welcome to November, and very nearly the eve of Thanksgiving. I, for one, am thankful for the extraordinary talent and commitment of so many people in our field of environmental stewardship, and especially for the on-going work of Dr. Sally Brown. She brings us a review of THALLIUM this month. What? I don't remember the last time I have given a moment's thought to this element. But it is, after all, an element created at the last supernova in our part of the Universe, so it is present in biosolids, just as is every element, very nearly. As we learn fromSally, its presence in biosolids is a barometer of its occurrence in the geological basement on which our communities reside, and yes its environmental relevance is subject to evaluation, but not really concern. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
NOVEMBER 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 email@example.com
OCTOBER 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 firstname.lastname@example.org directly for any of the papers Dr. Brown cites in her "blurbs."
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com directly for any of the papers by Dr. Brown.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Brown serves up a Holiday Greeting, a blurb of thankgiving to the wonderful work of wastewater treatment and biosolids practitiones in providing safe and clean water, and serving to improve soils. Hers is an endearing note.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.