Thursday, October 8, 2015
Biosolids part next
The comment period for the permits to land apply biosolids in Goochland runs from October 9 to November 9. Please see http://www.goochlandva.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=16 for details. (For additional resources please visit Goochlanders Against Sludge on Facebook.)
Melissa Hipolit of WTVR minced no words when reporting about a sludge laden dump truck overturning on Maidens Road last week. She labeled the substance that spewed out of the truck as “human waste”. The truck was headed for a storage facility south of the James, its load secured only by a tarp.
The county has no power to stop land application of human waste, or industrial residue, which seems to be the by products from processing chicken and pork and paper mill gunk. At the October 6 Board of Supervisors’ meeting, a detailed request for a study was discussed. This will likely receive the highest priority in Goochland’s Legislative Agenda, which informs our delegation to the Virginia General Assembly in their assessment of issues.
At the same time that the biosolids permits are pretty much considered a done deal, the state is implementing storm water management regulations to mitigate water pollution. This means that anyone who disturbs more than one acre of land must install some sort of mechanism to prevent runoff, which must be designed and installed according to detailed regualtions. Yet, the same Department of Envrionmental Quality and Water Control Board are giving the green light to dumping truckloads of biosolids on fields. While biosolids applications are also supposedly governed by detailed regulations, these are too many questions about air, water, and soil pollution for comfort.
Please see the board packet for the complete study resolution and DEQ requests.
The study request includes long term effects of biosolids and industrial residuals on health including its impact on all water sources. It asks for analysis of pathogens, heavy metals, personal care products residue, pharmaceuticals, prions, and other pollutants that might be present.
Existing testing looks only at heavy metals, nutrients—especially nitrogen and phosphorous—as the substance leaves the originating facility.
Nutrient management plans are part of the application regulations. Ideally, the amount of biosolids applied to a particular parcel of land is just enough to ensure optimal supply of nitrogen and phosphorous for a particular crop, including pasture and timber.
County Administrator Rebecca Dickson said that the community meeting held on September 21 yielded a great deal of useful information on the subject. An item differentiating between classes of sludge was also added to the study request. Class A sludge can be well-cooked like the substance sold in garden centers. Class B is less processed and its degrading is “finished in the field” during the 30 days after land application when livestock must be kept off fields.
The requested study would be ongoing over several years. It also requests a cost analysis of requiring Class B producers to upgrade to Class A. Currently, only biosolids produced in Virginia must report testing results. The study request asks that test results be reported regardless of the place of origin. Some sludge being applied here originates in Maryland or D.C.
Disclosure of the sites of application of biosolids, in the request, would be similar to those required concerning lead paint.
Keep in mind that this is a request and the General Assembly could, as it has done in past years, fail to take any action.
Land application of biosolids is not a new practice in Goochland. It has been going on for decades. At the community meeting, Owen Lanier, who applies a good deal of the biosolids in Goochland, contended that he knows of no ill effects of the practice.
During citizen comment at the start of the evening session, Valeria Turner of Crozier read from a Richmond newspaper article from 1984 that contended that state monitoring of sewage sludge and hauling is largely self-policed. The story advocated requiring sludge haulers to transport the substance only in trucks with water tight metal tops instead of tarps—just like the one that spilled on Maidens Road last week.
“And we’re still dealing with this,” said Turner.
The county is resisting suggestions to do testing and compile a baseline for future reference contending it would be a futile--and expensive—gesture because DEQ would ignore the results.
Farmers who use biosolids believe that it is a cost-effective way to improve the soil.
The fact is, we just do not know enough about the stuff to make a good judgment one way or the other. The truth probably lies somewhere between benign and poison. Impartial data on the matter is long overdue.