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The Orange County Sanitation District (District) operates the third largest wastewater agency west of the Mississippi River, having the responsibility for collecting and safely treating wastewater for 2.4 million residents and businesses in metropolitan Orange County. The District's mission, to ‘protect public health and the environment through excellence in wastewater systems’, has been highlighted by its leadership role in the conservation and reuse of its treated wastewater, digester gas, and biosolids.

The District produces and beneficially recycles approximately 190,000 wet tons of Class B, Table 3, biosolids per year. The District utilizes the services of three biosolids management contractors to maintain 100 percent biosolids recycling. The contractors land apply the District's biosolids on sites in Kern, Kings, Riverside, and San Diego counties and Arizona. Unfortunately, recent events throughout California have resulted in significant concern by the District's staff over the stability of its biosolids management program.

In spite of the State Water Resources Control Board's (SWRCB) adoption of a statewide permitting system for the land application of biosolids in California a number of counties have developed, or are in the process of developing their own ordinances related to biosolids management that are not preempted by the SWRCB. These County biosolids ordinances range from those counties that incorporate federal standards (Part 503) and impose few additional siting requirements (e.g., Riverside County), to ones that allow only Class A biosolids (e.g., Tulare County), to bans on applications in unincorporated areas (e.g., Kern County), to complete bans (e.g., San Joaquin County). Examples of the numerous other proposed regulations that may impact the District's biosolids management include the California Department of Food and Agriculture Organic Fertilizer Rule and the South Coast Air Quality Management District proposad Composting Regulation.

The District has already purchased 1,808 acres in Kings County that has the capacity to manage up to 25% of the District's biosolids production in order to add security to its biosolids management program. District's staff is concerned over the availability of additional management options for the remaining 75% of the District's Biosolids. In anticipation of these dynamic regulatory developments, the District and a consultant are assessing biosolids processing technologies and management alternatives in order to create a Biosolids Management Plan (BMP).

Specifically, the District and its consultant are reviewing numerous biosolids treatment and reuse/disposal technologies and developing screening criteria. The District has three primary goals to guide BMP's development. These goals are summarized as follows:

Implement multiple management options, under suitable separate and various contracts, to maximize interim and long-term residuals recycling while maintaining reliability.

Strive for 100 percent biosolids recycling.

Maintain at least one in-county management option as a backup.

The BMP is a collaborative effort between District's staff and the consultant. Together, the District and the consultant are conducting a review of existing biosolids treatment and reuse technologies. The review will include documents necessary to provide a technical review of existing, new and emerging biosolids technologies that are feasible. Each technology will be briefly summarized, including a description of the technology, where the technology is utilized and a range of cost per dry ton. Upon completion of the technology review, District's staff and the consultant will choose the five most viable technologies for further review. This recommendation will be based on environmental impact, cost, public acceptance, and especially the ability to adapt to changing regulatory requirements. The District's BMP will continue to use the most environmentally sensitive and cost effective biosolids management technology alternative while continuing to progressively develop new biosolids management options to stay ahead of the frequent regulatory changes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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