MidAtlantic Biosolids Association

A Biosolids Research Update from Sally Brown, University of Washington

COVID - Part 3

We are now in mid-September and Covid-19 has not gone away.  What has changed?  I, for one, have a vastly expanded mask wardrobe.  Solids, prints, causes; I have masks that fit into each category.  While we have a long way to go to make this virus history, we do now have a better understanding of its behavior in human wastes and the facilities that treat them.  I did two libraries on Covid-19 in April and figured that it was time for an update.  The good news is that there is even more evidence that fecal transmission is not a major pathway and that wastewater treatment and its products are not a real concern for transmission.  There is also good news in that work on wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE), finding disease through wastewater sampling and analysis, has shown that this technique can track Covid-19.  If you’ve had enough about Covid-19 you can stop reading here.   Feel free to email me about my favorite masks.


If you want more information about Covid-19 and wastewater, let me take you through this library.  The first article starts with a VERY detailed review of the potential presence of the virus in the intestinal tract and in urine and feces [Shedding of SARS-CoV-2 in feces and urine and its potential role in person-to-person transmission and the environment-based spread of COVID-19].  There is stuff that we know here; it is primarily a respiratory infection with a minority showing GI symptoms.  You can also learn about ACE-2 receptor sites in the intestines and the potential for viral replication.  One pathway leading to fecal contamination with the virus is swallowing snot: “If sputum is swallowed, viral particles enveloped in mucus may pass down the GI tract in a semi-protected state and avoid degradation by gastric acid and bile/pancreatic juices (Hirose et al., 2017).”
But this is the critical quote from this part of the paper: “In a subsequent, more comprehensive study of COVID-19 cases, it was found that of the 153 stool specimens analyzed, 29% tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, from which infectious virus was recovered from 2 samples (Wang et al., 2020c).“
In other words, even if the virus is detected in feces (very uncommon to detect it in urine), it will be ineffective for the vast majority of cases.   As the authors say: “evidence suggests that feces and urine probably contain low levels to no infectious particles.”   They go through a calculation of the likely dilution of genetic copies (gc) of the virus from a single-person household.  Starting with a viral load of 8 x 106 gc ml in feces you end up with effluent from that house with a maximum concentration of 5.9 x 107 gc/l- a very small portion of which, if any, will be infectious.  From there you enter the sewer pipe and if you think that the environment there is friendly to a lone surviving viable virus copy, either ask Art Carney or think again.

The authors note that any remaining particles in the treatment plant are likely to partition to the solids (that’s us folks!) where regulations for biosolids stabilization will take care of business.   They also note that within the treatment plant bioaerosols from secondary aeration would be the only area of risk and that the likelihood of an infectious dose here is very, very small. They discuss any potential for risk to water bodies receiving treated effluent (there isn’t any) and point out that the greater risk would be an infected individual swimming and spitting into the water.    A very dense paper with more information that you can absorb; but, there it is in print, wastewater is OK.
If that doesn’t convince you, go to the second paper.  This one presents research conducted in Milan, Italy.  We aren’t allowed to go to Milan or anywhere else in Europe at the moment, so maybe this can be like a vicarious trip for you.  Going to see the Last Supper by Da Vinci is on many lists of must do’s in Milan, so this is as close as you are going to get soon.

Instead, we will look at article #2 in the library [Presence and infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 virus in wastewaters and rivers] to see what happens as the guests from that supper digest their meals.  Northern Italy was hit hard and early with Covid-19.  The authors sampled influent into three treatment plants as well as effluent from those plants during the peak of the spread in that region.  The water at the plants comes from a population of 2 million.   All plants have secondary treatment with effluent undergoing tertiary treatment by peracetic acid or UV light.   The authors used real-time PCR to detect the virus.  They also tested for viability of the virus.  Finally, they sequenced the virus to see if in fact, what they detected was the same strain as what was prevalent in the area.  When sampling freshwaters receiving effluent, they also tested for caffeine, as in indicator of untreated wastewater from CSOs.  They found genes from the virus from all sampled plants on the first date (April 14th) but from only one of the plants the following week.  They found NO virus in the treated wastewater on either date.  They also found NO infective virus in either the influent or the effluent for either date.  The authors estimate that the travel time from the source of the influent to the plant to be between 6 to 8 hours.  The temperature of the influent was 18.5 - 19º C.  They did find the virus in receiving water bodies on the first date, but only one of the rivers on the 2nd.  They also found higher concentrations of caffeine in the rivers, suggesting a potential for some direct discharge of untreated wastewater.  In one case, they found some ineffective RNA without the caffeine and note that the sampled river also receives discharges from other plants that do not use tertiary treatment.  What they detected was not infective and was at a concentration well below an infective dose. 
The third paper is another review of the issue, coming from the U.S. [Residuals and Biosolids Issues Concerning COVID-19 Virus].  The lead author and heavy lifter here was Kari Fitzmorris Brisolara from Louisiana State University School of Public Health.  Other authors include familiar names and trusted figures such as Bob Bastian (now retired) and Chuck Gerba (hopefully will never retire).  This is an easier-to-read version of Paper #1 with more of a focus on wastewater and biosolids.  It was written in April, so does not have the more recent references, but it does have this great figure:

(EPA 1999; CDC 2008; Gattie & Lewis, 2004; Image: CDC Public Health Image Library https://phil.cdc.gov/Default.aspx)

The figure shows that coronaviruses, of which the SARS-CoV-2 (cause of COVID-19 disease) is one, are relatively easily destroyed.
Hopefully, the first part of this write up has gotten you excited about wearing masks and calmed you down about the virus in wastewater, effluent, and biosolids.  From here, we turn the focus to the wastewater-based epidemiology or WBE.  For this virus, it appears that publications recognize that we are now part of the team fighting against it, rather than one of the bad guys.
We continue with our virtual travel on the 4th paper [SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater anticipated COVID-19 occurrence in a low prevalence area], this time to Spain, where they are having a very big resurgence of the virus.  The researchers focused on a region in Spain where no cases had been reported (Murcia).  They used real-time PCR and sampled both influent, secondary, and tertiary effluent samples from March 12 to April 14th.  They found hits in influent (only 2 hits from secondary and none from tertiary).  These were compared with known cases on a municipal level.  The WBE found the coronavirus before the municipal testing did.  The authors point out that this type of WBE could be a very useful complement to municipal testing programs. 
The final paper [First confirmed detection of SARS-CoV-2 in untreated wastewater in Australia: A proof of concept for the wastewater surveillance of COVID-19 in the community] takes us down under, to Brisbane.  Again, the authors sampled influent and found the coronavirus.  They used the concentrations to estimate the prevalence of the virus in the community coming up with a median range of infected individuals between 171 and 1090, or spanning an order of magnitude.  This estimate was in general agreement with clinical observations.  This is further proof that WBE is a useful tool for Covid-19 and likely many other diseases.  
So, mask up and help join the good fight.  

Back to Nature with Biosolids

One effect of the Covid-19 pandemic is families heading “back to nature” in Philadelphia’s parkland, a pattern which I believe has been seen across the globe. Nature can ground us in our ancestral roots, as affirmed in the podcast of this past week’s On Being, an interview by Krista Tippett with environmental journalist Michael McCarthy: Nature, Joy, and Human Becoming .  McCarthy says we ought to “stop relying on the immobilizing language of statistics and take up our joy in nature as our defense of it.”  Human beings have lived as part of nature for 50,000 generations, but only 5 most recent generations have had humans disconnected from nature by urbanism.  Do we really need science to tell us that we need nature?

Cities and industrial agriculture have disconnected human beings from the very “facts of life” that make biosolids seem “natural.” I propose that we embrace “back to nature” as our theme for engaging the public, as we call for people to acknowledge the basic fact that their own “output” is “input” for others in the great circle of life.

Public engagement is an initiative of the Water Environment Federation as it create a “biosolids communications toolkit.” The toolkit project is an outgrowth of the Biosolids National Convening in 2019. The project is being fleshed out by the firm Raftelis, with involvement of the Residuals and Biosolids Committee.  The toolkit will offer templates for pamphlets, social media, bill stuffers, and flyers that can be used to convey biosolids information.

WEF has solid groundwork for this toolkit.  This was set by the 2016 Biosolids Messaging Book, and by two research reports of the Water Environment Research Foundation (available through IWA Publishing): Public Perception of Biosolids Recycling: Developing Public Participation and Earning Trust and A Strategic Risk Communications Process for Outreach and Dialogue on Biosolids Land Application. For communications training we can also take in a great webinar (Sharing the Biosolids Story with the Public) and check out this WEF conference presentations (e.g., Developing a Biosolids Strategy with the Community – A Modified Approach to Long-term Biosolids Planning at the Region of Waterloo).

To understand messages, we can go to the historic record of media coverage. 

Could “nature” be the principal theme for this toolkit?  Geologist David Montgomery makes the case  in his book Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life. He devotes Chapter 12 – Closing the Loop to the topic of returning human waste to soil, and we have Dr. Sally Brown and Tacoma to thank for Montgomery’s support.  He provides to biosolids recycling the context of history.  He shows that 150 years ago, the book The Natural Laws of Husbandry, by German chemist Justus von Liebig, had called for the  return of human and animal waste to restore fertility as the “experience of a thousand years.”  An influential book in soil science by Franklin H. King’, the 1911 book Farmers of Forty Centuries, shared the same message.  Both are available as reprints on Amazon for the wisdom they still offer us today.

“Back to Nature” is not just a call from the past.  It is an important “meme” for today’s world. This past week I came across two such relevant phrases: “Vulnerably reconnect with nature” was underscored by filmmaker John Chester, and “Nature-based technology” was advised by Dutch environmental professor Cees Buisman.

“Vulnerably reconnect with nature” is John Chester’s final message to listeners of his 2.3 hour long interview on the Rich Roll Podcast (Episode 373). I had interrupted my listening of this interview to watch Chester’s 90 minute, indie film documentary The Biggest Little Farm (2018). It is a wonderful movie about two city folks creating a “regenerative farm.” For me, the message was hard work, aligned with sound science, is transformational. The magic in the movie is the storytelling around nature’s response to science-based biodiversity and sustainable soil principles.

What is more, storytelling around soil health abounds.  Check out Sustainable (2017), Urban Farmers (2017), Living Soil: A Documentary for All of Us (2018), Regeneration: The Beginning (2019), Soil Solution (2019), Kiss the Ground Film (coming 2020). If you enjoy books, perhaps you gravitate to “Dirt to Soil: One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture.”  But if you enjoy a more academic approach to the topic of soil health, you can go back and view the recent annual conference of the Soil Health Institute “Soil Health: The Foundation for Regenerative Agriculture,” held virtually July 30 and 31. Clearly, humanity hungers for soil health.

“Nature-based technology” is a key approach to “Conscious Innovation Strategy” offered by esteemed Dutch environmental sciences professor Cees Buisman in his extended essay “Humanity is not a Plague.” For Dr. Buisman, consciousness is a redirection of human values toward a global sharing of Earth’s resources, away from self-centeredness and individual greed and toward collective well-being and sustainability. From his viewpoint, municipal systems are a manifestation of a collective commitment to environmental stewardship, of which we should be proud advocates and spokespeople. Humanity hungers for collective actions for sustainability.

These “messages” on nature offer direction to those of us in biosolids.  Our wastewater treatment system is a nature-based technology producing biosolids, a material that encourages us to reconnect with nature in its land application. Yes, we can point to thousands of science journal articles and conference papers detailing the sharp edge of science and engineering, but it is the simple effectiveness of biosolids in nature that provides the compelling case.

Over the past three years, MABA has “clipped” from Google Alerts about 330 biosolids news items. Of all news clips, about a quarter were positive stories about benefits of public agencies producing and using biosolids. The themes of these media articles can be captured in this overview: “Biosolids recycling is a sustainable practice that returns nutrients to the farms, improves plant growth, restores degraded landscapes and reduces waste. Recycling helps the farmer, keeps costs down for the public agency and can provide citizens free soil products.” The central media message of biosolids jibes very well with the “Back to Nature.” But 70 articles over 5 years is not an impressive oeuvre for a nation with thousands of public facilities.

Restoring soils using organic amendments, in urban soils and in overused farmlands, is the starting point for the story of biosolids and soil health. This may seem self-evident, but apparently scientists know this message needs to be regularly revisited. The authors  of Soil Degradation: Will Humankind Ever Learn? express the urgent sentiment: “Two common factors—soil erosion and depletion of soil organic matter (SOM)—emerge as consistent indicators of how “the thin layer covering the planet that stands between us and starvation” is being degraded. Soil degradation is not a new problem but failing to acknowledge, mitigate, and remediate the multiple factors leading to it is no longer a viable option for humankind.” Carbon amendments are necessary for soil health: “Improvements in soil health, along with increase in availability of water and nutrients, increases soil's resilience against extreme climate events (e.g., drought, heat wave) and imparts disease‐suppressive attributes (see Soil health and carbon management .)

Biosolids is a worthy organic amendment for establishing soil health. Several scientists have tracked biosolids for decades.  Sally Brown, University of Washington, has been a consistent research voice for biosolids as an ingredient for healthy soils, is a lead author in Municipal biosolids — A resource for sustainable communities: “Research has shown their value for key components of urban greening including tree, turf, ornamental and vegetable growing, green stormwater infrastructure, and reduction in contaminant availability.” To the benefits of soil health, Dr. Brown adds carbon sequestration benefits, also a part of the “story.” In the paper Building Carbon Credits With Biosolids Recycling, Dr. Brown concludes, “the potential to sequester C, both in the soils and in plant biomass, is clear. If biosolids application for restoration increased soil C content by 2 percent, the credit would be 40 Mg C ha-1.”   Nicholas Basta, at The Ohio State University, is another strong voice: Application of organic amendments to restore degraded soil: effects on soil microbial properties: “In general, all organic amendments increased enzyme activities in 2009 with BioS [biosolids] treatments having the highest activity.” Greg Evanylo at Virginia Tech has dozens of biosolids journal articles, including this very recent one by his graduate students: Biosolids amendments improve an anthropogenically disturbed urban turfgrass system.

Although benefits of building soil health with biosolids have been clearly shown by these scientists, and although these benefits seem from our vantage point to far outweigh potential risks, we cannot afford to ignore risks seen by other scientists.  Microplastics, antibiotic resistant genes, “ecotoxic contaminants” and pathogens have been labeled as concerns. If we ignore these concerns, we imperil our ability to tell compellingly our story of biosolids and soil health. We need more investment in science.  Examples of  recent science journal articles for which we need answers are: Microplastics and pollutants in biosolids have contaminated agricultural soils: An analytical study and a proposal to cease the use of biosolids in farmlands and utilise them in sustainable bricks, Toxic potential of sewage sludge: Histopathological effects on soil and aquatic bioindicators, and How Valuable Are Organic Amendments as Tools for the Phytomanagement of Degraded Soils? The Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Unknowns.  .

Yet, we have had history and science on our side. Thirty years have passed since the first draft of Part 503 regulations, when a scientific community became engaged in assisting with use of sound science in regulating biosolids use. Since that time, over 200,000 peer reviewed biosolids research papers have been published globally.  When the Office of Inspector General released a two years ago a misguided critique of the status of biosolids research, the W4170 Research Committee again stepped up with its scientific case for recycling biosolids in “Response to the USEPA OIG Report No. 19-P-000.”

While scientists can support us with the facts of biosolids, we must become the storytellers. Michael McCarthy in the On Being podcast urged us to not substitute facts for the story. His book The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy has behind it a serious concern for the well-being of the global environment. But, even so, the NY Times Book Review can say of it, “Rather than the dire, dry statistical projections often heralded to make the case for conservation, he turns boldly to joy — to imagination and emotion.” And, we ought to be able to get children involved, as the Vox media's "first-ever week of video programming for kids" is doing with the The secret history of dirt, explained to kids, in which the story line is "dirt helped build civilization, only to get stabbed in the back by us."

In this same way, nature has the possibility of being the platform on which we tell the story of biosolids and its role in building soil health. We in the business of developing a communications toolkit ought to get Back to Nature with Biosolids. 


Spotlight August 2020 - Biosolids Agency Producers

This month’s SPOTLIGHT is on public agencies that have built and maintained their own biosolids utilization program, in which the lead public employee arranges biosolids deliveries directly with the users. The programs are imaginative, flexible, and responsive to the “customer,” providing a tangible connection between town and farm. While no cost comparisons have been made, a reasonable inference is that these programs are cost-effective. Here are the public employees who make this happen.

Dan Reed -

Dan ReedDan Reed, Site Manager at Landis Sewerage Authority ([email protected]).  The Landis Sewerage Authority (LSA), a uniquely “zero-discharge” WRRF in Vineland, New Jersey, developed in 1987 its publicly owned, 387-acre Agricultural Facility for biosolids recycling, and Dan Reed has been for the entire time. Dan studied chemistry at Stockton University in the mid-’80s, and while working as a student under Mike Wardell (formerly a biosolids consultant to LSA and for a time MABA’s executive director) was present for the birth of the LSA farm.  Dan typically manages a single-year rotation each of corn and small grains, followed by a 3- to 5- year sequence of cool and warm-season grasses. Dan also operates an Agroforestry Facility, with 108 acres of pine trees interspersed with strips of sorghum-sudan and teff, and a 26-acre Atlantic City Electric easement planted to small grain and teff – all biosolids fertilized. Within the pine grove, a Bobwhite Quail Habitat has been installed in collaboration with public and private organizations, to which biosolids will be applied in the future.  Dan enjoys saltwater fishing and golfing, and he has two adult children: his son is an engineering student at Arizona State University and his daughter is a registered nurse coordinating services to the disabled. 

Jeff Heimbaugh -

Jeff Heimbaugh

Jeff Heimbaugh, Biosolids / Pretreatment Program Supervisor at Carlisle Borough Sewer System Authority - [email protected]. Jeff Heimbaugh has been the Biosolids Supervisor at the Carlisle Region Water Pollution Control Facility for the Borough of Carlisle, PA since 1999.  He writes: “I started at the Borough as a laboratory technician in 1991 before moving to my current position.  Little did I know that my background as a dairy farmer’s son would be such a blessing in my municipal government's professional career.  Over the past 21 years, I’ve worked with many farmers to help supplement their fertilizer needs with our Class B lime-stabilized biosolids.  Working with a staff of three full-time biosolids operators, Carlisle Region WPCF produces and land applies approximately 7,000,000 gallons of liquid biosolids and 700 tons of dewatered biosolids a year.  Our staff is responsible for hauling and applying all biosolids produced at our plant.  It can be quite challenging to meet the requests for biosolids applications from ten farmers before the spring planting each year.  Our biosolids program has 28 farms, with 2,730 acres approved by PA DEP for biosolids applications.  It has been gratifying to see the benefits of increased crop production in fields receiving our biosolids and knowing we have helped many farmers reduce their fertilizer costs each year.” Jeff explains that he spends the little spare time he has coaching high school football, running, biking, assisting his elementary art-teaching wife, and supplying Penn State funds for his two sons’ continuing education.

Jay Snyder - 

Jay SnyderJay Snyder, Environmental Resource Manager at Borough of Ephrata - [email protected]. Jay Snyder has that balance of commitments to environmental stewardship, community, and collaboration that make a biosolids program work. Jay studied in the late 1970s under esteemed Penn State professor Charles Cole, gaining skills in principles of stewardship with a Water Resources Engineering Technology bachelor’s degree which he applied to the new and upgraded WRRFs in Ephrata Borough. Farmers in the community surrounding the borough became familiar with biosolids through the local high school’s Young Farmers Program. As a stable of good customers was built, the Annual Thank You Dinner honored the collaboration of borough and farmers, which on occasion attracted news media. Farmers were a partner in the complete sense, participating in the application, proactively dealing with concerns such as wet soils, designing equipment improvements, spreading the good word to neighbors, spacing out applications to deal with phosphorus, and providing feedback on the benefits of organic matter and nutrients on crop yields. Ephrata is a forward-looking community and has its eyes on a thermal technology for one of its plants that will produce biochar. Jay is particularly proud of having passed on to the next generation his passion for clean water and productive soil: “As my son Justin, an organic farmer for 20 over years says ‘Dad, healthier soil means healthier plants producing healthier nutrient-dense foods.’” 

Philip Grayson -  

Philip GraysonPhilip Grayson, Chief Operator, Wastewater at Village of Endicott (NY)  -[email protected].  Philip Grayson writes: “Seldom mentioned in a classroom about environmental science is that almost every community has a facility that every day protects public health and the environment, and is recycling water and potentially biosolids. When I began working at the Village of Endicott’s Water Pollution Control Plant as a Sanitary Laboratory Technician in 2001, I quickly saw that our facility, and all the other facilities across the world, did just that.”  The Endicott facility, which serves 50,000 people, is designed for 10 MGD and has anaerobic digesters, producing 100 dry metric tons annually. It began operations in 1966, but it was not until 1985 that the Village began composting biosolids with a Taulman-Weiss in-vessel system.  For the next 20 years, the Village used that system to create a Class A Biosolids Compost, and, when operational challenges arose, the Village added on the windrow method to ensure complete stabilization. The Village is now looking to replace the windrow method with a Gryphon biosolids dryer designed to achieve a Class A Biosolid Product, which would reduce costs and continue to produce a recyclable biosolids. Grayson concludes: “The Village’s commitment to biosolids recycling and all of the employees who have worked to ensure that we produce a safe and beneficial material for reuse is something that I am proud to say I have been and will continue to be a part of.” 

Shawn O'Toole -

Shawn O'Toole

Shawn O’Toole, Land Application Supervisor,  Kent County Regional Wastewater Facility - [email protected].  Shawn has been at it a long time. Thirty-seven years ago when Shawn joined the Kent County Department of Public Utilities, he took on the “land option,” and became the employee in charge of the spreading of biosolids. In a program with some 100 farmers, Shawn worked with the farmers throughout the year on corn, soybean, hay, pastures, and winter wheat, doing what he could to meter out the facilities 3,000 dry tons to satisfy his customers.  Back in the day, that was liquid biosolids dredged from sludge lagoons, which involved small loads and time-consuming liquid injection.  Today, the product is partially dried and lime-amended, creating a Class A EQ product of about 50 percent moisture content that can be moved in the agency’s truck and applied with its spreader.  Kent County has plans for upgrading solids handling to increase dryness to 90 percent, which will eliminate the lime, and Shawn expects it to be in a granular form. But he rather doubts he will be the one working out the issues with handling and dust control. “After 33 years of working two jobs, I am ready to retire,” he says. As one of the MABA region’s longest-standing land appliers, Kent County and all of the MABA region owe Shawn a hearty “Thank you.”


Biosolids in the News

EPA Grant of $4.8 Furthers Study of How PFAS Impacts Drinking Water Wells
EPA (8/24/20) - Indiana University, Purdue University, and the University of Georgia all received grant funding to research PFAS as part of the EPA’s PFAS Action plan. Indiana, in Bloomington, will “develop a scalable platform for predicting PFAS occurrence in private wells to improve understanding of exposure risks to rural communities relying on private wells for their drinking water,” a release says. Purdue, in West Lafayette, Indiana, will “investigate the occurrence of PFAS and their concentrations in private drinking wells and water resource recovery facilities in rural communities as well as the relative contribution of PFAS from land-application wastewater and biosolids to rural water supplies.” And Georgia, in Athens, will “develop improved, cost-effective treatment systems with advanced technologies for the removal of PFAS from water, wastewater, and biosolids to ensure safe water for drinking and agricultural applications in rural areas.”
Purdue Scientist Awarded $1.6 Million From EPA To Study PFAS In Rural Waters
EPA Makes Nearly $5M Available for New PFAS Research

Cambi to Deliver Thermal Hydrolysis Plant to WSSC Bioenergy Project
Washington, DC (8/18/20) - Cambi has signed a new contract to deliver a thermal hydrolysis plant to the Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission’s (WSSC) Piscataway Bioenergy Project. This is the second facility Cambi will construct in DC, with DC Water’s site 12 miles north of the new facility. The biosolids produced will be class A EQ.

AWA Commits to Digester Project
Altoona, PA (8/21/20) - The Altoona Water Authority recently committed to its long-planned $36 million digester-dryer project at the Westerly Sewer Treatment Plant. “The board made the commitment when it approved a contract with Energy Systems Group, which has designed the facility and plans to build it — guaranteeing that the revenues it generates will at least cover the project’s 20-year debt service, in keeping with the requirements of the energy-conservation program of the Pennsylvania Sustainable Energy Fund on which the project is based.”

Gov. Northam Awards Harrisonburg-Rockingham Regional Sewer Authority for Environmental Excellence
Richmond, VA (8/21/20) - The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Regional Sewer Authority, Enhanced Biosolids Reuse, and Reduction Project was one of 12 projects awarded the 2020 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards. The project increases the quality of biosolids through thermal drying, using recovered heat and increased digester gas to reduce hauling and increase disposal options.

Fairfax Officials, Residents Worry About Plan to Spread Septage Near River
Fairfax, Vermont (8/25/20) - The owner of Working Dog Septic and the owner of agricultural land are applying for approval to spread biosolids on 49 acres of agricultural land. Residents have expressed concern over how close the application site is to Lamoille River and the potential for the biosolids to contain PFAS that could contaminate drinking water or soils. 

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Fights “Forever Chemicals”
Hagerstown Valley, MD (8/24/20) - Brent Walls, A member of the Potomac Riverkeepers is testing effluent flowing into Antietam Creek for PFAS. He found PFAS levels from water from the effluent pipes were 138.8ppt and 81.8ppt, both above the EPA’s health advisory for drinking water (70ppt). Walls hopes to also test biosolids for PFAS. 

Scientists Can Recycle Sewer Waste into Garden Soil. But if it Stinks, it Won’t Sell
University of Washington (8/31/20) - Ryan Batjiaka, a soil researcher at the University of Washington, has been working to find a biosolids fertilizer recipe that improves plant growth while also smelling good and looking attractive. 

Aldermen Give Initial Approval to Tri-Lakes Biosolids Commission
Branson, MO (8/18/20) - The cities of Branson, Hollister, Forsyth, Reeds Spring, Kimberling City, Rockaway Beach, Galena, and Sparta have formed the Tri-Lakes Biosolids Joint Municipal Utility Commission. This commission will gain ownership of the biosolids treatment facility at Branson Cooper Creek wastewater treatment plant, as well as equipment at Branson Compton Drive treatment plant and another facility at the city of Hollister wastewater treatment plant.
City Approves Tri-Lakes Biosolids Commission

Bath Township Residents Protest Biowaste Facility, Company Speaks Out
Bath Township, OH (8/19/20) - Residents in Bath Township have complained about odors from biowaste company Renergy’s processing facility. The company has decided to stop accepting municipal waste because it seems to be the source of negative public opinion. In October 2020, they will only process food and farm waste to produce energy and fertilizer.

Particulate Plastics in Terrestrial and Aquatic Environments
Microplastics in Farm Soils: A Growing Concern
Kansas State University (8/31/20) - Dr. Mary Beth Kirkham conducted research cultivating wheat plants exposed to microplastics, cadmium, and both microplastics and cadmium. She compared these plants to those grown without either additive. After sending the plants off for analysis the results showed that the plants grown with microplastics were more cadmium-contaminated which demonstrates the plastics were acting as the vector for uptake of the cadmium.

News from Abroad

Federal Government Announces $2M in Funding for Calgary's Willow Tree Plantation Farm
Calgary, AB, Canada (8/25/20) - The Government of Canada will invest $2 million into the City of Calgary's willow plantation program, where biosolids from Calgary's wastewater treatment facility will be used to fertilize the land and improve the soil until it can sustain the plantation and life of willow trees, which help to reduce carbon emissions.

Nearly 30,000 Tonnes of Sewage Sludge Containing Human Waste to Enter UK
The Netherlands (10/2/20) - Sludge from the Netherlands has been approved for import into the UK to be used as a fertilizer. Typically the Netherlands incinerates its sludge, but Dutch water authorities are sending the sludge to the UK after having problems at an Amsterdam incinerator facility.
EA Approves Sludge Imports Despite Serious Environmental Concerns

Petition Against St Leonards' Biosolids Plant DA is Unlikely to Play Official Part
St Leonard, Tas, Australia (9/1/20) - Residents of St. Leonard’s signed a petition asking city council to reject a proposed biosolids plant that will process between 3,000 and 5,000 metric tons of biosolids annually from TasWater’s northern sewerage treatment plants. 

More Staff as Kawerau Worm Farm Expands Thanks to Provincial Growth Fund Loan
Kawerau, New Zealand (8/19/20) - Kawerau Ecocast, New Zealand’s biggest worm farm, takes biosolids from most Bay of Plenty councils' sewerage schemes and, with a new contract from Tauranga City Council and a commercial loan from the Provincial Growth Fund, it is expected to grow to cover around 10 hectares of Maori-owned land. Biosolids are turned into compost at the facility.

IIT Madras And German Researchers Develop ‘Co-composting’ To Safely Dispose Toxic Pharmaceutical Wastewater Sludge
Chennai, India (8/24/20) - A Research team led by Prof. Ligy Philip, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, has published a study in the journal Waste Management on a co-composting method that makes it possible to safely dispose of toxic pharmaceutical wastewater sludge. The researchers conducted experiments in an in-vessel composter and observed the degradation pattern of triclosan and carbamazepine.

West Lakes Residents Warned of Potential PFAS Contamination from Former Port Adelaide Plant
Adelaide, Australia (8/23/20) - Residents in Adelaide’s western suburbs have been warned of potential toxic sludge contamination from a former wastewater plant. Sludge from the plant was distributed across West Lakes during its development in the early 1970s.


Symposiums & Presentations

2020 Summer Webinar Series

2019 Summer Symposium

2018 Annual Meeting & Symposium

2018 Summer Symposium

2017 Annual Meeting & Symposium

2017 Summer Symposium

2017 NJWEA Workshop

2016 Annual Meeting & Symposium

2016 Summer Symposium

2016 NJWEA Workshop