NEW ORLEANS - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency thinks Oregon is doing a good job of encouraging the reuse of treated biosolids from municipal wastewater treatment plants.
The federal agency gave the Oregon State University Extension Service and the Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies a joint award here today (Oct. 11) at the 72nd annual Water Environment Federation conference.
EPA created a special category in its "Beneficial Use of Biosolids" Awards program to recognize a voluntary training program for biosolids recyclers in Oregon, and a series of training modules on how to use biosolids.
Biosolids, generated by municipal wastewater treatment, have been processed so they are safe for land application, according to Dan Sullivan, a soil scientist with the OSU Extension Service. More than 225 public facilities in Oregon produce more than 60,000 dry tons of biosolids a year, he said.
For land application, biosolids must meet EPA standards that limit trace element concentrations and pathogen content. They are used at land reclamation sites and to provide nutrients and organic matter for amending soils in agriculture and forestry.
Sullivan noted that biosolids are used as a substitute for purchased fertilizers in some cropping systems, supplying a source of slow-release nitrogen. They also supply other nutrients such as phosphorus, sulfur and zinc.
In the OSU-sponsored training program recognized by the EPA, participants receive training in biosolids processing technologies, safe transportation practices and appropriate rates of application. They also receive training in how to select sites for land application, sample and test soil, and manage buffer zones near highways, wells, lakes and streams.
"The training encourages professionalism among the biosolids managers," said Sullivan.
"They are working toward doing land application with as little nuisance to the public aspossible. Sometimes people object to truck traffic and odors that accompany biosolids application. Our training encourages biosolids managers to find ways to do land application in a neighbor-friendly manner. We also cover emergency response, in case biosolids are spilled on a highway."
"This is an example of what can be accomplished by volunteers and voluntary training activities," added Sullivan. "The Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies, our partner in putting on training workshops, is an organization of wastewater treatment facility managers from around the state. They provided volunteers and financial support for conducting training workshops." Oregon is one of only a few states that have formalized training for biosolids applicators.
"For the future," said Sullivan, "we will be able to do more of the training via distance education on the World Wide Web."
Some training materials are already available from OSU on the Web, he said. Type in eesc.orst.edu, then the key word "biosolids."