Monday, November 30, 2009

Florida commission considers sewage sludge rule changes

The Environmental Regulation Commission on Tuesday will consider changes to regulations dealing with "biosolids." That's the term used to describe the waste from sewage treatment plants, also called sewage sludge.

Spreading biosolids or sewage sludge on land has raised health and safety concerns in some counties. The National Academy of Sciences says the use of biosolids on crops presents a "negligible risk" to consumers when used in accordance with existing federal guidelines and regulations. (See links at end of story)

Sarasota County restricted sludge dumping in 2002 while DeSoto County that year banned the spreading of Class B sludge, which receives less treatment than other biosolids, according to media reports.

The proposed DEP rule changes are designed to improve the management of biosolids, address concerns about nitrogen and phosphorus getting into waterways and support public confidence in the beneficial use of biosolids, according to the department.

DEP began holding hearings in 2002 on rule changes. The draft rule changes require permits for biosolids application sites. Biosolids can only be applied to permitted sites after Jan. 1, 2013.

Changes in site boundaries will require permit modifications as will changes in agricultural operations that affect nutrient loading or application rates.

The ManaSota-88 environmental group in Southwest Florida wanted DEP to follow Sarasota County's lead and require landowners who allowed sludge dumping to disclose that to land-buyers, said Glenn Compton, the environmental group's chairman.

"We thought that would be a good idea to get that on the state level also," he said. "Apparently we fell short on the state level."

Representatives of the Florida Water Environment Association, which includes wastewater utilities, and the Florida Cattlemen's Association could not be reached for comment. Representatives of those groups served on a DEP committee that worked on the draft regulations.

Florida DEP biosolids rule revision site:

U.S. EPA biosolids site including FAQ:

"Florida sludge victims" opposition web site:

(Photo copied from DEP PowerPoint presentation. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)

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