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Policy Statement 429 - Municipal Wastewater Biosolids

 

Approved by the Energy, Environment and Water Policy Committee on February 13, 2017
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on June 5, 2017
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 29, 2017

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports:

  • The beneficial use of municipal wastewater and encourages wastewater management practices that promote generation of biosolids of acceptable quality and minimize energy consumption.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement or develop new biosolids-quality standards that protect public health and the environment.
  • Alternate quality criteria that define maximum contaminant levels to allow safe application, distribution and marketing of biosolids products.
  • The use of management processes that effectively capture and use the energy content of municipal wastewater biosolids while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The use of nutrient recovery programs that utilize anaerobic digesters and similar biogas facilities to reduce energy consumption and provide new sources of renewable energy. 

Issue

Treating human waste is necessary for public health and safety. A byproduct of treating waste is the accumulation of biosolids. Properly treated biosolids that meet current U.S EPA standards result in the generation of biosolids that can be beneficially used in the environment and as a source of renewable energy. There have been some public health concerns about the beneficial use of biosolids. Those concerns must be weighed against the large amount of landfill capacity consumed by biosolid disposal and the growing desire for renewable energy that biosolids can provide.

Rationale

The EPA has developed standards for biosolids that are protective of public health and the environment, support reduction of waste streams to landfills and generate alternative and renewable sources of energy. The beneficial reuse of these materials is strongly encouraged by the Society. 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 (U.S.). There are currently 1,241 wastewater treatment facilities in the U.S. that use biogas, with more than 2,440 plants identified as ripe for future biogas development projects. Continued implementation of a national policy for regulation of municipal wastewater biosolids is the key to successful beneficial use of biosolids.  

ASCE Policy Statement 429
First Approved in 1994


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