On Nov 5th, the State of Vermont, Department of Environmental Conservation hosted a public forum focused on the future of biosolids/residuals regulation and management in Vermont. The forum drew a full house of attendees, including representatives of regional businesses, municipalities, and government programs, as well as concerned citizens, land owners and agricultural producers. The bulk of the forum consisted of presentations by attendees on the economics and logistics of biosolids management, specific environmental and public health concerns, and alternatives for the management of this waste stream.
Presentations by Resource Management Inc, Chittenden Solid Waste Management District, and Casella Organics covered current and potential biosolids management strategies with a focus on beneficial reuse and recycling of residual waste materials. In addition, two local farmers addressed the audience to provide testimony of their positive experiences using biosolids in agronomic settings.
Presentations by the Vermonters Against Toxic Sludge and by the North East Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA) focused on the issue of contaminants in biosolids. Waste water treatment processes are designed to separate solids from the waste water stream, and these solids, or sewage sludge, must undergo an approved pathogen treatment process in order to be managed as biosolids. Both Federal and State regulations for biosolids management include standards for metals and pathogens concentrations that are designed to protect human and environmental health; however, recent research has revealed the presence of micro-pollutants in biosolids. Micro-pollutants are often referred to as ‘emerging contaminants’ because the risk to human health and the environment associated with their presence, frequency of occurrence or source may not be known. Examples include pharmaceuticals, personal care products, flame retardants, steroids, hormones, detergent metabolites, disinfectants and antimicrobials/antibiotics that may be present in trace levels in biosolids.
Certainly the most unique topic covered during the forum was the Rich Earth Institute’s presentation on recycling urine for use as a fertilizer. Urine recycling closely relates to the land application of biosolids in that both processes aim to close the nutrient cycle by returning valuable nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to the soil. Other noted benefits would include reducing demand for commercial/synthetic fertilizers, load to waste water treatment plants and water usage via flushing.
The presentations were followed by an open discussion that provided opportunity for attendees to present various points of view concerning the most appropriate means of managing biosolids. Representatives from the Department of Environmental Conservation were on hand to moderate discussion and to provide responses relating to questions about the current state of Vermont’s Residuals Management Program and the potential changes facing the program in light of Act 148 , Vermont’s new universal recycling law.
A video of the entire forum is now available and will be airing regularly on Orca Media’s Channel 17 beginning December 4th on Wednesdays at 12pm and Saturdays at 7:00am. The video has also been uploaded to the Vermont Media Exchange for distribution to local Community Media Access Centers via the Vermont Access Network. Please contact your local Access Management Organization if you would like to have the forum aired on your local cable channel.