Health Issues Related to Beneficial Use of Biosolids

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In recent years there has been an increased concern for both worker and public health from the generation and use of biosolids and biosolids products. The following are just some examples:

Eighteen counties in California as well as numerous communities in New Hampshire, Maine and Virginia have or will be banning land application of Class B biosolids

NIOSH Hazard ID – Workers may be exposed to disease-causing organisms while handling, applying or disturbing Class B biosolids on agricultural lands or mine reclamation sites

Holgate Property Associates V. Township of Howell, et al. (A-127–95) – use of property involving a sludge-derived

Reuben L. Blanton et al. v. Record No. 000277 Amelia County et al regarding county ordinances the land application of biosolids

PA Environmental Network and National Sludge Alliance requesting from USEPA a moratorium on land application of Class B biosolids

Hamilton Mountain Top Mine and the Death of Tony Behun – investigation by the PADEP, May 2000

Recently prison workers and inmates at California Institute for Women complain of dust and odors from a manure and biosolids composting facility in the Chino area.

In 1994 the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a warning regarding organic dust and organic dust toxic syndrome (ODTS). This condition is applicable to biosolids composting, lime stabilization and heat drying facilities. Worker exposure to organic dust and bioaerosols can result in mucous membrane irritation, bronchial constrictions, and dermatological irritation. We are aware of two cases reporting related symptoms.

Dowd et al., (2000) evaluated the transport and risk assessment of bioaerosols as related to land application of anaerobically digested de-watered biosolids. They indicated that there could be some risk of infection to biosolids placement site workers both from viruses and bacteria.

USEPA is evaluating whether odors can constitute a health problem.

All of these cases and issues have raised or resulted in legal actions. We will discuss the health implications involved in many of these cases and document and discuss the validity associated with these situations. We will also discuss mitigation measures where appropriate and public relations procedures to diffuse situations which may lead to legal actions.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2002

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