For decades, biosolids has been used and applied on agricultural land for various reasons and benefits. All throughout the world, this practice has been applied with great success. There are, of course, some misconceptions on this regard because biosolids are effectively just sewage sludge that has been treated and has passed regulations.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) is the agency responsible for regulating the use of biosolids, which range from solid to semisolid to liquid residues that have been produced during the treatment process of sanitary sewage and domestic sewage. Although many use the term biosolids and sewage sludge interchangeably, this is not exactly politically correct.
The EPA coined the term biosolids to differentiate high quality treated sewage sludge from raw sewage sludge and from sewage sludge containing large amounts of pollutants. So, in order to be defined as biosolids, sewage sludge must be processed to meet the EPA standards for beneficial use. Most states’ environmental agencies and units adopted the same standards set by EPA.
Biosolids, just like animal manure, is part of the natural cycle of life, which makes it a viable and natural fertilizer for agricultural land. They contain organic and inorganic compounds that have been removed during the wastewater treatment. Agricultural land mainly benefit from the application of biosolids because it contains nutrient content and soil amendment properties. When applied on agricultural land, biosolids help in sustaining crop production.
But in order to ensure that it protects and boosts rather than damages the crop production, the land application of biosolids has been increasingly regulated to protect human health and the environment from various constituents that can be found in biosolids such as viruses, bacteria, and pathogens (disease-causing organisms). It also regulates against metals, toxic organic chemicals, and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus).
Forty years of research has finally led to the conclusion that high quality biosolids is actually sustainable and very safe. In recent years, there have been many discoveries on the uses and benefits of biosolids. The application practices have also vastly improved as different methods have been found successful. More and more communities (and even federal states) have turned to the land application of biosolids to provide their soil with needed nutrients and amendments.
There are a lot of factors that have to be considered when wanting to apply biosolids on agricultural land. Thankfully, the right agencies have done their job of regulating these factors and allowed the benefits of biosolids to boost crop production.