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Beneficially using the biosolids that result from digestion of municipal wastewater sludge provides a more complex challenge for governmental and private organizations than disposal methods such as landfilling, incineration, or the upcoming new idea of deep-well injection. The desire to return organic material and nutrients to soils conflicts with the desire to dispose of sludge containing pathogens and toxins. Governmental agencies in both the United States and Europe seek to balance the potential benefits with the costs of reducing the risks by regulating the levels of pathogens and toxins that may be present in biosolids, and specifying how biosolids are to be used. For historical, demographic, and geographic reasons, there are a number of significant differences between the regulations issued by the European Economic Community (EEC), now enlarged and strengthened into the European Union (EU) and those issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). This discussion summarizes aspects of the 1993 USEPA sludge regulation, the 1986 EEC sludge directive, and the latest draft of an EU working document summarizing material for possible inclusion in a new EU sludge directive. A final section on additional conflicts surrounding biosolids reuse leads to the conclusion that additional public education is needed, as well as institutional changes like insurance for producers. In addition, where it is economically feasible, disposal methods such as incineration play an important role, so successful demonstration of a new disposal method like deep well injection may lead to widespread adoption in areas with suitable geological formations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-01-01

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