Biosolids and Bioenergy Management

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So, What’s New? The Proposed Southeast Biosolids Association (SEBA) Why is a regional biosolids association needed? Jody Barksdale Biosolids issues continue to be a huge challenge in Florida and throughout the United States. Do you wish you had help in monitoring the activities surrounding biosolids in Florida, the Southeast, and nationally in one common forum? Many of your colleagues have decided that it’s time to form the Southeast Biosolids Association (SEBA). The new association would advocate sound science, as well as sustainable use and management of biosolids, while tracking biosolids issues and topics in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The new association would support biosolids beneficial reuse, public outreach, and lobbying efforts in the same way that Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association (MABA), (Northeast Biosolids & Residuals Association (NEBRA), and Northwest Biosolids currently do. As many of us are aware, recycling and reuse of biosolids continue to be challenged by the public and media, despite decades of testing, research, and successful experience. This year there have been at least two legislative bills introduced in Florida related to biosolids management that include proposed restrictions on land application. One proposed bill sought to ban the land application of Class B biosolids based on an arbitrary seasonal high

groundwater table. This “knee-jerk” reaction is not based on appropriate hydrogeology, evidence of impact due to land application, or the existing rules. Proposed bills like these appear to have the goal of eventually eliminating Class B biosolids land application in Florida and, quite frankly, are very short-sighted and must be examined thoroughly before enactment. The financial implications of these proposed bills would be extremely burdensome on utilities and their ratepayers. It’s obvious that wastewater and subsequent biosolids production are not going away, and will only become more of an issue, especially as our state continues to grow. Due to the ongoing concerns regarding biosolids in Florida, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) recently formed a Biosolids Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to better understand biosolids reuse, processing technologies, and the potential risks related to Class B land application. The TAC, which includes stakeholders and members from environmental groups, the agricultural industry, utilities, consultants, and academia, made several recommendations: S Review of permitting related to nutrients and water body impairment. S Hydrogeological reviews related to land application of biosolids.

S Land application practices, including increased inspection. S Water quality monitoring and additional protocols to detect nutrient migration. S Establishment of criteria for risks at sites related to land application. S Nutrient management and more research on runoff. S Promotion of innovative technology, including pilot projects related to beneficial end-use projects. While Florida is definitely feeling the pressure, several southeastern cities, such as Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta, Ga.(and surrounding counties); and Greenville, S.C., as well as other areas in the Southeast, continue to face a multitude of challenges with biosolids. These challenges include increased regulatory constraints, financial issues, and public scrutiny that are often based on misinformation. The lack of public understanding and acceptance needs to be addressed with more accurate information and education. The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and various state organizations are addressing education and outreach on biosolids issues, but more needs to be done. For these reasons, regional biosolids associations and state biosolids committees advocate on behalf of the wastewater industry to address biosolids topics and keep our industry and the public informed. These independent groups of expert professionals accomplish the following: S Promote and advance research, as well as management best practices. S Provide members with industry communications and accurate information. S Give critical feedback to regulators and politicians. Other states and regions throughout the U.S. have committees and organizations that maintain webpages and/or sponsor biosolids training, seminars, and/or conferences, including: S Florida Water Environment Association (FWEA) Biosolids Committee S Indiana Water Environment Association (IWEA) Biosolids Committee S Michigan Biosolids Team - WEA of Michigan


June 2019 • Florida Water Resources Journal