Approved by the Energy, Environment and Water Policy Committee on December 20, 2022
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on June 9, 2023
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 22, 2023
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports and encourages maintaining well-regulated options for biosolid management. This encompasses:
- The beneficial use of municipal wastewater biosolids of acceptable quality.
- The construction and expansion of municipal wastewater bioenergy facilities for the generation of renewable energy and higher quality material.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) continued development and implementation of risk based biosolids-quality standards for known contaminants and contaminants of emerging concern which will protect the public health and the environment.
- Amending the EPA Part 503 rule to more fully assure that only biosolids of exceptional quality, in terms of both pathogen and chemical limits, are marketed to the general public.
- The continuing use of biosolids products as a sustainable practice.
Properly treating human waste which produces biosolids as a byproduct is necessary for public health and safety. Properly treated biosolids that meet current U.S EPA standards 40 CFR Part 503) results in biosolids that can be beneficially used in the environment and as a source of renewable energy through biogas development and resource recovery through land application. There are public health concerns about the beneficial use of biosolids associated with contaminants of emerging concern with a recent focus on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Those concerns must be weighed against the large amount of landfill capacity consumed by biosolids disposal and the growing desire for renewable resources that biosolids can provide while protecting public health and the environment.
The EPA has developed standards for biosolids that are intended to be protective of public health and the environment, support the reduction of waste streams to landfills and generate renewable sources of energy and resource recovery. The beneficial reuse of these materials is strongly encouraged by ASCE. The U.S. EPA estimates that more than 7 million dry tons of solids (45 million cubic yards) are generated annually for use or disposal by the more than 16,000 municipal wastewater treatment facilities nationwide. Of that total, approximately 60 percent of biosolids are managed through land application, composting or use as landfill cover, 22 percent are incinerated, and the remaining 17 percent are disposed in landfills. There are currently 1,241 wastewater treatment facilities in the U.S. that use biogas generated by biosolids treatment process, with more than 2,440 plants identified as viable for future biogas development projects. Continued implementation of a national policy for the regulation of municipal wastewater biosolids is the key to successful beneficial use.
ASCE Policy Statement 429
First Approved in 1994