The land application of sewage sludge, called biosolids, would be further restricted under rule revisions adopted last week by the state Environmental Regulation Commission.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection proposed rule revisions in 2009 because of increasing public concerns about environmental and health threats posed by the spreading of biosolids on farm fields and pastures. The rule allows the spreading of biosolids only at permitted facilities. The practice also must be established through a nutrient management plan. Class AA biosolids, which have been dried and processed, must be marketed and distributed as fertilizer. Utilities say spreading biosolids on land is a beneficial use of a waste product that otherwise would go in landfills.
But Audubon of Florida in 2009 issued a report calling for the state to ban the land disposal of biosolids in the Lake Okeechobee watershed. Audubon says the practice is contributing to the pollution of the lake, the Everglades and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, which are connected to the lake through canals.
On Thursday, Audubon objected to a portion of the proposed rule that allows Class AA biosolids to be given away to landowners, which Audubon says would contribute to dumping of the phosphorus-rich materials on land. "We want to make it a lot tougher for that kind of subterfuge to take place," said Charles Lee, Audubon of Florida's director of Advocacy.
Utilities want the flexibility to give away the biosolids if landowners are willing to put them to good use, said David Childs of the Hopping Green & Sams law firm, which represents utilities organized as the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council. He said the utilities also oppose biosolids dumping but believe the practice is prohibited by the rule changes.
(Story provided by The Florida Tribune. Photo copied from DEP presentation. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.)