MidAtlantic Biosolids Association

MABA celebrates first annual award winners!

MABA 2023 Awards

MABA is proud to share highlights from the first annual MABA recognition awards ceremony. These awards helped to celebrate individuals in the biosolids community who exemplify the role of a champion for the wastewater and biosolids sector. The award winners have demonstrated commitment, ingenuity, leadership and service to MABA, to the biosolids profession, and to the community at large.  

MABA Young Professional Biosolids Champion award
- Carolyn Christy

Carolyn served on the MABA board for several years representing RDP Technologies, and during her time on the board she spearheaded the formation of the MABA Young Professionals Committee. Carolyn believed in the importance of bringing together MABA’s young professionals for regular meetings to discuss their current work, as well as meet with guest speakers who shared their experiences and advice with the group. Carolyn was also central in the creation of the MABA symposium opening reception, organized by the MABA Young Professionals Committee, and now in its second year.  
Carolyn was not able to join us to receive her award, however, her brother and former colleague Rob Christy accepted the award on her behalf.

MABA Biosolids Champion award - Trudy Johnston

Trudy has been in the biosolids sector for the bulk of her career. She created the company, Material Matters, specifically to support utilities with the disposal of their biosolids by providing best use practice guidance and connecting them to land application opportunities. Trudy is tireless in her pursuit of sustainable and economical solutions for biosolids management. She has engaged the biosolids community on all levels from generators, vendors, regulators and the general public. Trudy is sincere in her dedication to the cause and is, in part, why MABA has gone on to become a nationally recognized organization. She was instrumental in getting MABA off the ground and has served in a leadership role from committees, to Board Trustee, to President. 

MABA Lifetime Achievement award - Bill Toffey

It’s safe to say that if you mention “biosolids” or “MABA” within our region, you’ll likely hear the name, Bill Toffey. And there's a good reason for that. Bill has over 40 years’ experience in municipal wastewater, environmental and energy management, and until the beginning of 2022 served as the Executive Director of MABA. For 20 years prior to this position, he managed biosolids operations for the Philadelphia Water Department. During his career, Bill has authored over 75 papers and presentations to a range of local, national, and international technical audiences, including operator training manuals and programs. Over the past seven years, he has authored 120 monthly biosolids reports to MABA members. In addition to these many accomplishments, Bill has embodied the role of advocate and mentor to countless individuals in, and outside of the MABA region.

Thank you for sharing your nominations for the 2023 1st Annual MABA Recognition Awards.  Stay tuned for information in the first quarter of 2024 as we seek nominations for the 2nd Annual MABA Recognition Awards.  
Questions? Contact Mary Firestone at [email protected], or 845-901-7905.

Biosolids NewsClips - September 28, 2023

NewsClips is filled with articles from around the region and the world. This edition includes some positive and informative articles, including an article from Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they have announced plans to use thermal hydrolysis to produce Class A biosolids and biogas, as well as several articles from India, where they are researching and exploring the potential benefits of beneficial reuse. 

Unfortunately, there are some less-than-positive articles in this edition, including articles about issues at facilities and within local communities, as well as issues surrounding concern and conversation about PFAS.  The MABA PFAS Focus Group invites you to check out the PFAS pages on the MABA website, where you'll find a host of research and other information, as well as the most recently shared PFAS results data and the opportunity to opt-in for future studies and results sharing opportunities.  Visit the main PFAS page by clicking HERE, and explore the information and share your feedback today! 

Stay tuned for more information from MABA.  If you have biosolids news to share, please reach out to Mary Firestone at 845-901-7905 or [email protected].

Biosolids News 

Carbon County residents voice concerns over sludge fertilizer
Carbon County, PA (25 Aug 2023) - Concerned community members gathered outside the Carbon County Courthouse this morning. Their concern; sludge. A growing problem in the area is sludge fertilization and locals are concerned about the effects it may have on them. Thursday morning, a press conference was held outside of the Carbon County Courthouse where farmers and members of the community got together to try and put an end to the use of sludge, which is when human waste is used to fertilize plants.
Carbon urged to take action on biosolids
Farmers voice sludge opposition
Battle over “forever chemicals” in sewer sludge spread on farmland
Thurston, NY (25 Aug 2023) - The Town of Thurston, about 20 minutes south of Bath, is considering a law to ban sewage sludge from being spread on farmland to fertilize crops. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says sludge or “biosolids” that come from treated wastewater is rich in nutrients that can benefit soil. Town of Thurston Supervisor Michael Volino says new worries over PFAS or so-called “forever chemicals” are adding to years of concerns about sewer sludge.
Casella urges state agriculture commissioner to help it derail Thurston’s plan to ban sewage sludge spreading
After Thurston officials say they’ll vote on law to ban sewage sludge spreading, Casella issues legal warning
WRITE ON: A local government stands tall
Letter to the Editor: Expose dangers of contaminated sludge
Thurston braces for legal battle with Casella: Town retains Earthjustice to litigate local ban on spreading sewage sludge
A $35 million biosolids facility in Norridgewock could be answer to state’s sludge disposal crisis
Norridgewock, ME (23 Aug 2023) - Waste Management Disposal Services is working to secure approval for a $35 million biosolids processing facility at its landfill in Norridgewock that would offer a long-term solution to the state’s sludge disposal crisis. The town’s planning board last week approved a site plan for a plant that each day would dry, treat and landfill 200 wet tons of wastewater sludge sent there by cities and towns across the state.
Commentary: Biosolids facility is a stopgap to Maine’s PFAS crisis, not a solution
Hopkinton to clean up PFAS contamination
Hopkinton, NH (22 Aug 2023) - Sludge in septic lagoons accumulated over the years at Hopkinton’s transfer station has been identified as containing “forever” chemicals, and the town is working on a plan to resolve the issue. The movement comes after the Department of Environmental Services issued a notice after a site visit in 2021, urging the town to take action.
Hopkinton-Webster transfer station agreement remains the same
Grafton Township, residents challenge Ohio EPA permit for Quasar Energy's Grow Now tree farm
Grafton Township, OH (14 Sep 2023) - Grafton Township and a group of its residents are challenging the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's decision to grant a permit to the Grafton Grow Now tree farm and its developer, Quasar Energy Group of Independence. The plan for the Grow Now property at state Route 83 and Law Road involves using biosolids derived from municipal solid waste to grow trees that would later be turned into biogas, generating nutrients, energy and solid fertilizer.
Mayor Keck says it's difficult to find takers for city's 'sludge'
Somerset, KY (29 Aug 2023) - A question asked by one of Somerset’s council members at Monday’s meeting sparked a discussion by Mayor Alan Keck on the future of the city’s wastewater treatment facility now that the city has stopped processing landfill leachate. The solids collected from wastewater processing, known as sludge, were then being taken to those landfills and disposed of. Keck indicated that canceling the contracts to take in leachate has caused the city problems in finding places willing to take its sludge.
Chattanooga announces plan to convert biosolids to renewable energy at Moccasin Bend plant
Chattanooga, TN (12 Sep 2023) - The City of Chattanooga says it's moving forward with a plan to convert what you flush down the toilet to renewable energy. But some are questioning how the process will work. Waste-to-energy systems convert the organic solids in wastewater -- also known as biosolids -- into biogas that can be used to power on-site operations and be processed further to be sold as a natural gas substitute.
Chattanooga looking to increase energy output of biosolids
City Announces Plan To Generate Renewable Energy, Enhance Biosolids Program At MBEC
Enterprise council talks water, waste
‘Doc’ tended to Fiesta Island’s growth from sludge beds to beaches
San Diego, CA (30 Aug 2023) - Fiesta Island in Mission Bay Park with its off-leash dog park and multiple recreational uses is familiar today to most San Diegans. But few recall what the 470-acre, man-made island was like before it was developed, when it was a sea of ill-smelling and unattractive mud flats, being the disposal area for a multitude of drainage facilities, and overflows from sanitary sewers, as well as being an outlet of the San Diego River and Tecolote and Rose creeks.
Pullman Mayor Declares Emergency as State Drags Feet on Biosolids Permit
Pullman, WA (11 Sep 2023) - At 8:15 a..m. on Monday September 11, Pullman Mayor Glenn A. Johnson issued an Emergency Declaration due to the immediate need to haul Biosolids from the current storage facility at the Pullman WasteWater Treatment Plant and to expedite a lengthy procurement process. According to the city, for more than nineteen years, biosolids have been safely treated at the city's plant – including a multimillion-dollar upgrade to replace chlorine with ultraviolet treatment - then hauled annually during September to local farms for application as fertilizer pursuant to Washington State Department of Ecology Permitting.
Pullman declares a wastewater emergency
Waste emergency declaration gets OK
City of Pullman forced to haul away biosolids from sewer plant
Enterprise council talks water, waste
Enterprise, OR (13 Sep 2023) - Water and waste were two of the highlights of the Monday, Sept. 11, Enterprise City Council meeting, as officials discussed low water pressure and what to do with biosolids from the city sewage treatment plant. City Public Works foreman Spencer Shelton said Aug. 24 that he has been informed that the county’s Ant Flat Landfill is running out of room for the biosolids. The landfill still has some room, but the city is being urged to find another solution.
Marinette County faces lax regulations on PFAS-laden biosolids
Marinette County, WI (20 Sep 2023) - Residents affected by PFAS in biosolids near farm fields may not understand the scope of contamination for a while. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said there are no limits for PFAS in biosolids in state or federal codes. That means industrial and municipal sources can still dump their biosolids in Marinette County without many restrictions.
Washougal nabs $10M loan for biosolids facility
Washougal, WA (21 Sep 2023) - The city of Washougal has received a $10 million Public Works Assistance Account (PWAA) loan for the construction of a new biosolids handling facility from the Washington State Public Works Board. The loan was part of the $221 million in funding the Public Works Board awarded in early September to Washington cities, counties and special-purpose districts for local community infrastructure projects.
Looking for a solution that doesn't stink
Sundance, WY (21 Sep 2023) - On behalf of local septic tank pumper Jim Geis, the Crook County Commissioners hosted a special meeting on Friday to seek guidance on the proper disposal of domestic sewage. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) changed its rules on “land spreading” a few years ago, with the county following suit a couple of years later in the regulations instituted in 2018 for small wastewater systems. According to those rules, domestic septage can only be land applied on the property at which it was generated.
Calgary company hopes to fill CRD’s biosolid gasification needs
Capital Regional District, British Columbia (23 Aug 2023) - Since 2012, Alberta’s ETGM2 has been striving to get more utility out of otherwise wasted industrial flare gases or products that get sent to municipal landfills. The Calgary-based company said it could help the Capital Regional District deal with its ongoing issue of finding a provincially required beneficial use for its treated sewage. [t proposes to provide innovative containerized gasification units to thermal processing.]
LCC aims to shrink septage, sludge trucking costs
The Edinburgh 'poo ship' MV Gardyloo that's still afloat - in Azerbaijan
Edinburgh, Scotland (2 Sep 2023) - For two decades it was the Edinburgh vessel that ran like clockwork - despite repeatedly losing its cargo at sea. Aptly taking its name from the infamous warning call from the days when the contents of Edinburgh's chamber pots would be ejected from open windows, the MV Gardyloo made thousands of voyages out to the North Sea to dispose of the capital's sewage.
Municipal sludge can be good soil conditioner for crop cultivation: IIT study
Roorkee, India (23 Aug 2023) - Researchers at IIT-Roorkee have conducted a study on sludge produced from different sewage treatment plants (STPs) of the country and found municipal sludge to be a good soil conditioner for crop cultivation. The researchers said the use of sludge can be an alternative organic fertiliser like manure for the farmers as there is presence of all necessary nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium in it as well as there is less-pathogens' presence in it, which is quite good for organic farming.
Odisha exploring ways to utilise bio-solids generated from waste
Bhubaneswar, India (17 Sep 2023) - The Housing and Urban Development Department is exploring ways to reuse bio-solids generated through the treatment of sewage and faecal sludge at sewage treatment plants (STPs) and faecal sludge treatment plants (FSTPs) in cities and towns across the state. A regional workshop on the ‘reuse of bio-solids harvested from septage and sewage’ was organised by the department in collaboration with the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi here. 
Waste to wealth: Challenges India needs to overcome to use biosolids for improving farm output, meeting SDGs
New Delhi, India (25 Sep 2023) - India has approximately 1,469 sewage treatment plants (STP) and more than 500 faecal sludge treatment plants (FSTP). An estimate suggested that these 1,460 STPs generate 104,210 tonnes of sludge per day and FSTPs generate more than 250 tonnes of biosolids every day. Biosolids generated by these plants are a rich source of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the three essential nutrients for crop production across the world. India relies on imports to meet its demand for phosphorus and potassium, the reserves of which are increasingly getting limited and depleting. 

September 2023 - Sally Brown Research Library & Commentary

Sally Brown

Provided for consideration to MABA members by
Sally Brown, PhD., University of Washington

Are we there yet?

I’m writing this more than a month before Biofest but it will likely land in your inbox just before the festivities begin. The theme this year is ‘Back to the Future’ and in a way – this library is a spin off on that theme. Here I’m using that theme to look at how much food we can grow in cities and how that is impacted by how much of the nutrients in cities are recycled. This library also features three papers by yours truly, the work only possible because of the cooperation of a number of programs and funding from King County and NW Biosolids. 

Many of us live in cities. When people think of cities they think of concrete and asphalt. Dirt and slime. Garbage in smelly mountains. And rats. At least that is the less optimistic take on them. But they can also be centers of culture. Great places to go out for dinner. They can have wonderful parks and pools. And they are dense in critical resources, like nitrogen and phosphorus. They also have backyards and these days, community gardens. In other words, places to grow food. This leads to the question ‘How sustainable are our cities’ or how close to the future are we? 

The first article An urban agro-ecosystem: the example of nineteenth-century Paris is the ‘back’ part of the Back to the Future theme. Way back in the day, horses transported people around the City of Light. Likely back then the lights were gas powered - not electric.


This article details how food was grown in Paris in the mid 1800s. Enough was grown to supply each Parisian with 50 kg of fresh vegetables each year. High intensity systems produced 3-6 crops per year, with about half of the cultivation happening under glass. The soil consisted of horse manure. Loading rates of the manure ranged from 300 to over 1000 tons per hectare EVERY YEAR. The heat released by the manure also helped farmers to grow throughout the year. The author attempts to account for the N, P and K produced and used and to do energy calculations for the process. He notes that the productivity in Paris in the mid 1800s was higher than or equal to any commercial farms operating today. Using the horse manure turned a potential pollution problem into a resource. 

That was then, this is now. Article #2 How Much Food Can We Grow in Urban Areas? Food Production and Crop Yields of Urban Agriculture: A Meta-Analysis looks at the literature to see how close we can get to Paris 150 years ago. The authors start with the usual litany of challenges facing food production. They note that food grown in urban areas, in both ‘green’ and ‘grey’ spaces. Green means soil and grey means alternative (hydroponic, rooftop, office buildings etc). Current estimates suggest that between 5-10% of the legumes, tubers and vegetables eaten are currently grown in cities. They categorized urban food production by type of crop and included vegetables and fruits (I’m OK with that) and also cereals and oil seed crops. You don’t see too many wheat fields in office buildings. For all categories (except sugar crops primary), yield of crops in urban areas was higher than in conventional agriculture.

On a vegetable to vegetable level, cucumbers and tomatoes grown in urban areas were the big winners. While the authors talk about different types of growing systems and compare indoor versus outdoor yields, there is no mention of horse manure or biosolids and the potential impact of residuals use on urban systems. 

Article #3 Quantifying use in a community garden program with extensive resource provision to gardeners is the first of an urban trilogy. Here we surveyed gardens in the Harvest Pierce County program where any garden that wants it gets an annual supply of Tagro. 

Gardens are also provided with soil testing, irrigation, materials for pathways and to build raised beds. Harvest Pierce County is a relatively new program. If urban agriculture is to succeed, it is important for people to show up. This was a first step in seeing if that was the case. We measured the size and number of plots and ranked them by how well used they were. 

It turns out that these gardeners were generally serious. Plots were better used if they were bigger, but overall use ranked over 2.25 on a scale of 0 to 3. They also like their Tagro. Over the three year period that we looked at, each garden got about two Tagro deliveries. 

Does that Tagro make a difference? The answer to that question is given in the fourth article. Article #4 How does your garden grow? Impact of residuals-based amendments on urban soil health, vegetable yield and nutritional density reports on a study we did with multiple field sites and multiple amendments. We grew vegetables with vermicompost and Bokashi (fermented food waste) at the prison garden in Monroe. We grew with GroCo at the Renton Treatment plant and with Tagro in Tacoma. Each set of plots also had a fertilizer control. We also grew kale with all of the above in the greenhouse. 

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Below you can see Toby, the first author of the paper in front of the control treatment and the Tagro treatment.

In disturbed urban soil (the Tacoma control) nothing worked except the organic amendments. In healthy urban soils - Renton and Monroe - some amendments did better than the fertilizer and others did worse. Amendment recipes make a difference. 

The final paper in the library Steps to circularity: Impact of resource recovery and urban agriculture in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington is an attempt to see how close we are to the future. The future here being a city that takes advantage of the value of ‘waste’ to grow their own. We looked at recovery rates for the nutrients in food scraps and wastewater for Seattle and Tacoma. Both cities are national leaders in biosolids and Seattle is a leader in food scrap collection and composting. Both cities have terrific community garden programs. For a description of Tacoma’s see article #3. Seattle has the P Patch program - one of the oldest in the nation 

The standard that we used for nutrient recovery was 6.6 kg of N and 1.1 kg P per year. Those are the quantities of each nutrient needed to grow the crops (excluding meat and dairy) per person per year. The good news is – that is just about what we produce in #1 and #2. The bad news is, particularly for #1- the vast majority of it is released in the effluent. The figure below taken directly from the paper shows the nutrient flows in Tacoma. You can see that most of the N goes to the sound and not the soil. 

We used the data from paper #4 and #3 to estimate how much of the vegetables we eat each year could be grown in community gardens. Here the answer is more encouraging. With Tagro or with vermicompost growing just on the land in the Harvest Pierce County Program - everyone in Tacoma could share several kale Caesars each year. To feed the entire city a portion of kale a day for a year- you would need close to 15,000 hectares if you just added fertilizer. Add vermicompost or Tagro and that land requirement goes down to 300 hectares or less. 

This last article is also the subject of several columns in Biocycle 

We are not quite in Paris of the 1850s yet but there is a way back to the future. Come say hello at Biofest and we can have a toast to the future!

Stay tuned for additional information on the MABA November 7, 2023 webinar, which will include speakers from the W 4170 group.

Sally Brown is a Research Associate Professor at the University of Washington, and she is also a columnist and editorial board member for BioCycle magazine. 

Do you have information or research to share with MABA members? Looking for other research focus or ideas?

Contact Mary Firestone at [email protected] or 845-901-7905.

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