Biosolids on sensitive lands? Weighing a decision in Florida

The fact even Class AA product comes under scrutiny indicates a need for more public outreach

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No matter how much quality goes into biosolids today, the product often comes under a certain degree of suspicion. The Florida Today website is reporting that an environmental advisory panel is considering allowing biosolids to be applied on some 100 acres of conservation land in Brevard County.

The news report observes that biosolids is commonly called “sewage sludge” (I didn’t appreciate that little touch, which makes it sound as if “biosolids” is some sort of sneaky euphemism).

A cattle rancher leases the land, which is within the 1,500-acre Scottsmoor Flatwoods Sanctuary. He would use biosolids from the Blue Heron Water Reclamation Facility in Titusville as fertilizer to help grow food for his beef cattle.

Brevard County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) program owns the property; it has never allowed biosolids application to its land before. “They have treated the stuff now so much that it is just considered fertilizer,” the rancher told Florida Today. “It’s cheaper, and it’s organic. It’s natural, and it helps the city out, too.”

The EEL would like to restore the cattle grazing area to scrub and flatwoods. “Matt Hixson, Titusville’s water reclamation superintendent, said the arrangement would provide another spot to dispose [notice that word?] of the biosolids, which he says are treated to Class AA, the cleanest standard for sludge [and that word?],” the story said.

The story notes that in 2011, “34 companies or facilities distributed and marketed about 255,125 dry tons of Class AA biosolids in 57 Florida counties, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.”

Although land application has been practiced for decades, and longer, it still raises questions, and perhaps understandably so. But when Class A and AA material is not understood as a clean, benign and pathogen-free material, that’s a sign the clean-water industry still has work to do when it comes to letting the public know about the other beneficial product of treatment.


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