Biosolids Regulations

The U.S. EPA has developed comprehensive federal biosolids use and disposal regulations , which are organized in five parts. These parts are general provisions, land application, surface disposal, pathogens and vector attraction reduction, and incineration. Parts of the regulations which address standards for land application, surface disposal, and incineration practices consist of general requirements, pollutant limits, operational requirements, management practices, frequency of monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements for biosolids processing facilities to abide by. Regulatory considerations play a key role in determining how to efficiently use sludge. The EPA has adopted a sludge management policy intended to encourage the beneficial use of sludge while protecting public health and the environment. The EPA's recent revisions of the Clean Water Act part 503 regulations promote the beneficial use of clean sludge that contain low levels of pollutants, sludge of "exceptional quality". The revisions follow many years of sludge used in field studies that analyzed the effect of toxic elements in land-applied sludge and sludge composts. The regulations and technical support documents are interpreted by some scientists to reinforce the safety of using sludge on both agricultural and non-agricultural lands while ensuring the protection of soils, water quality, the food chain, and human health. However, scientific uncertainties remain particularly with respect to the long-term and ecological safety of sludge application. New York State has adopted an integrated waste management policy that involves a hierarchy of solid waste management methods intended to reduce dependency on landfills for waste disposal. The hierarchy is incorporated into New York's Environmental Conservation Law in order of preference: Reduction, recycle/reuse, incineration, and landfilling.This policy is the cornerstone of the state's solid waste management program. Several components of the program assist local governments in managing their wastes safely and efficiently. One component is the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Part 360 regulations, requiring state facility siting and operation and a comprehensive recycling analysis. These regulations contain specific guidelines for land application and other sludge management options that must be considered by a municipality or purveyor during its planning process. These regulations are currently under revision.

The part 503 rule applies to biosolids generated from the treatment of domestic wastewater and includes domestic septage. Compliance with the part 503 standards is required within 12 months of publication of the regulation. However, if new pollution control facilities need to be constructed to achieve compliance, then compliance is required by February 19, 1995. Compliance with monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting provisions is required provisions is required by July 15, 1993. For the most part, the rule is "self implementing," which means that citizen suits or EPA can enforce the regulation even before permits are issued. The standards will be incorporated into National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits issued by EPA or permits issued by states with approved biosolids management programs. EPA will work closely with the states to encourage their adoption of approved biosolids management programs that can carry out delegated programs. Land Applied Biosolids must Meet Quality Requirements. Land application includes all forms of applying bulk or bagged biosolids to land for beneficial uses at argonomic rates (rates designed to provide the amount of nitrogen needed by the vegetation while minimizing the amount that passes below the root zone). These include application to agricultural land; pasture and range land; nonagricultural land such as forests; public contract sites such as parks and golf courses; disturbed land such as mine spoils, construction sites and gravel pits; and home lawns and gardens. Selling or giving away biosolids products is addressed under land application of domestic septage (liquid or solid material removed from a septic tank). The person who prepares biosolids for land application or applies biosolids to the land must obtain and provide the necessary information needed to comply with the rule. For example, the person who prepares bulk biosolids that are land applied must provide the person who applies it to land with all information necessary to comply with the rule, including the total nitrogen concentration of the biosolids. The rule establishes two levels of biosolids quality with respect to heavy metal concentrations- pollutant ceiling concentrations and pollutant concentrations ("high quality" biosolids); two levels of quality with respect to pathogen densities- class A and class B; and two types of approaches for meeting vector attraction reduction- biosolids processing or the use of physical barriers. (Vector attraction reduction reduces the potential for spreading infectious disease agents by vectors, that is, flies, rodents, and birds.)

To qualify for land application, biosolids must meet the pollutant ceiling concentrations, class B requirements for pathogens, and vector attraction reduction requirements. Bulk biosolids applied to lawns and home gardens must meet the pollutant concentration limits, class A pathogen reduction requirement, and vector attraction reduction using biosolids using biosolids processing. Bulk biosolids applied to agricultural and non-agricultural land must meet at a minimum the pollutant ceiling concentrations and cumulative pollutant loading, at least class B pathogen reduction requirements, and one of the vector attraction reduction requirements.

Management practices that apply to land applied biosolids (other than "exceptional quality" biosolids products) include:

• no application to flooded, frozen, or snow covered ground;

• no application at rates above argonomic rates (reclamation projects may be excepted)

• no application if threatened endangered species are adversely affected;

labeling of biosolids that are sold or given away; a required 10m buffer from U.S. waters.

If the biosolids are of "exceptional quality"- that is, they meet the pollutant concentration limits, class A pathogen reduction requirements, and a vector attraction processing option- they are usually exempt. However, when biosolids meeting class B pathogen reduction requirements are applied to the land, additional site restrictions are required. Table 6 provides a summary of the land application pollution limits for biosolids as they currently stand.

Table 6. Land Application Pollutant Limits'3'.


Ceiling Concentratio n Limits,0" mg/kg

Cummulative Pollutant Loading Rates, kg/ha

High Quality

Pollutant Concentratio n Limits,(c> mag/kg

Annual Pollutant Loading Rates, kg/ha/yr


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