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Over the last 10-years the land application of biosolids in the United States has risen to the forefront of environmental and public focus. In fact, public outcry and crusades have lead to the ban of the beneficial reuse of biosolids in other counties throughout the United States. The issues and concerns that were encountered as a result of the land application of biosolids in DeSoto County, an area known for farming and cattle ranches, were similar to the recent problems encountered in California, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In late 2001, DeSoto County faced with mounting public concern regarding the land application of biosolids, and in particular, Class B, embarked on a program to develop land use regulation and an ordinance to control and monitor the application of biosolids in the County.

Approximately 95-percent of the biosolids land-applied in DeSoto County are generated from outside the County, with most of these biosolids meeting the Class B requirements. Issues leading to the concerns regarding the recycling of biosolids and the regulation of biosolids in DeSoto County were divided amongst problems originating with the source or wastewater treatment facilities, the State regulatory agency, the biosolids contractors, and the public.

The use of biosolids has been controversial for many years; however, this practice of beneficially reusing biosolids was a use unregulated by the County until recently. The public perceived the land application of these biosolids as unsafe, and the biosolids industry and regulatory agencies were not effective in addressing their concerns. These issues led to concerns that included the proper application and management of the biosolids, health issues, and odors. In addition, a major environmental concern was the fact that a major portion of the land application sites located in the County is in the watershed for a major drinking water supply for over 1-million people. Since biosolids can contain pathogens, heavy metals and other contaminants, the County drafted land use modifications and ordinances to address these issues and to protect the public and environment from potential contamination. In the development of these ordinances the public demand to eliminate or more strictly control the land application of biosolids was encountered, and poor site management and techniques by the land spreading operations were all taken into consideration.

This paper provides an overview of the history behind the problem, the issues that were raised by the public and biosolids industry during the drafting of these ordinances, the problems that were encountered during this process, as well as the problem of developing fair and equitable regulations. The paper also discusses the problems encountered in other areas of the United States, previously reported cases and the validity of these situations. The ordinances that were developed by the County addressed such items as monitoring, land application, stormwater management and treatment, permitting from a land regulation perspective and reporting.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2003-01-01

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