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Land Application in Virginia – A Unique Challenge

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In Virginia, the land application of biosolids program exemplifies the conflicts between urban growth, farmland protection and Chesapeake Bay preservation while offering a tool to achieve all three in an environmentally safe and publicly acceptable manner. Virginia is representative of an area where urban sprawl is rapidly impinging on traditionally rural counties. Additionally, the state embodies a large proportion of the watershed of the nation's largest estuary – the Chesapeake Bay, which presents additional environmental challenges. The biosolids program often becomes a focal point of the politics, regulations and public perception issues that embody these changing and demanding conditions and offers an opportunity to discover successful tools for resolving the problems that they create.

Virginia seats some of the fastest growing metropolitan areas, while still maintaining agriculture as its top industry. The biosolids program provides a link between urban and rural lifestyles, in that material produced in the cities is beneficially used on the regional farms. This interdependence causes conflicts, because of the overlap in urban and rural lifestyles, which results in legal, political and regulatory actions.

Additionally, Virginia is faced with the challenge of being a major participant in a regional effort to de-list the Chesapeake Bay as a TMDL-impaired water for nitrogen and phophorus. Many of the non-point strategies used to reduce nutrient loadings are being developed using consensus-building teams. These teams consist of representatives from regulatory agencies, local government, environmental groups, builders and other stakeholders. Again, because the land application of biosolids is perceived by many of these spokespeople as a major source of nutrients and fecal coliform runoff, the program is often highlighted.

In the past few years, Virginia has found solutions to the conflicts generated by the biosolids program. These solutions stem from the interaction caused by the increased overlap of rural and urban lifestyles through the land application program. These interactions have forced the affected parties to come together when they would otherwise have not. Communication and the desire to facilitate the best end results have enabled the acceptance of the biosolids program in situations that were formally seen as problem areas.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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