Need Biosolids Information? Here's a New Resource with State and Local Facts, Figures and Best Practices

Need Biosolids Information? Here's a New Resource with State and Local Facts, Figures and Best Practices

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The management of biosolids and other wastewater solids costs billions of dollars per year in the United States. The clean-water profession should have reliable, accessible data on this (and other areas) by which to prove its value and steer its course.

In a nutshell, that’s the reasoning behind the National Biosolids Database Project, being developed by a team of industry groups. The project launched its biosolids survey for water resource recovery facilities last January. State biosolids coordinators soon began providing their information. 

Now it’s your turn. You can support the database project by submitting your facility’s biosolids data, providing valuable information that program operators and managers can use to gain insights and guide their decision-making.

Take a look online

In April, the project announced a new website at www.biosolidsdata.org. Data and reports from a number of states are available now, more are being added and a national summary will eventually be created.

Ned Beecher, special projects manager with the New England Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA) and a leader of the project, notes that in the next five years utilities will invest an estimated $13.9 billion in biosolids infrastructure and operations at treatment plants.

Certainly, the leaders of those utilities can benefit from knowing what others in the industry are doing with biosolids, what is working well and what is not. “As with any business, it’s good for our profession to have information about what the trends are,” Beecher says. “That can inform decisions about what equipment is needed and what the growth opportunities are. It’s also a good way for operators and managers of biosolids programs to understand what others are doing, and to be able to learn from others about the pros and cons of something they may be considering.”

State by state

As of May, the database included state-level reports from Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and the District of Columbia. Each report includes data about biosolids use in the state and statistics on general demographics, wastewater facilities, biosolids application, regulatory involvement and more.

“For each state there is also a narrative summary that succinctly describes management of biosolids and the regulatory structure in the state, along with descriptions of notable biosolids programs,” Beecher says. Ultimately, reports will be included from all 50 states and the U.S. territories. Here are a few factoids drawn from survey information collected as of last April:

About 50-60% of the nation’s biosolids are recycled.

Crops grown with biosolids are mostly corn for animal feed, soybeans, wheat, hay and grass including pasture and rangeland.

Green energy generated from biogas is significant. Data reported by just 29 plants showed that they produce enough electricity for more than 33,000 homes each year. More than 20 plants were producing all the electricity they needed.

The main pressures on biosolids programs are rising costs and securing long-term biosolids use options.

The key issues driving decisions are costs, regulatory compliance and biosolids recycling being outside the core mission of many clean-water plants.

How you can help

Besides the state-level and national reports, the project team hopes to collect information from individual clean-water facilities. “That’s where we’ll get good information on program economics, energy/biogas production and use, and other information essential to professionals who operate biosolids programs,” Beecher says.

The more utilities respond, the more complete and valuable the tool will become. You can add your data by completing the survey online at www.biosolidsdata.org.

A step forward

Beecher notes that early data on biosolids was “narrow in focus, patchy in geographic representation, and/or based on calculated estimates.” The first major national survey on biosolids regulation, quality, end use and disposal was published in 2007. In current project team includes:

-Janine Burke-Wells, Juliana Beecher and Ned Beecher of NEBRA

-Bill Toffey of the Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association

-Nora Goldstein of BioCycle

-Maile Lono-Batura, formerly of Northwest Biosolids and now with the Water Environment Federation

-Greg Kester, of the California Association of Sanitation Agencies

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies is also partnering in the project.  



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