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Wastewater treatment plants in the U.S. and European Union (EU) are facing increasing public opposition to biosolids land application due to concerns about human and animal health and the environment from the presence of pollutants and pathogenic organisms in biosolids. This review discusses how present and proposed legislation on biosolids land application in the U.S. and Europe will affect land application as a management option for biosolids. Understanding the regulations is necessary as they guide the direction of biosolids research at many wastewater treatment plants and institutions. Regulations in the U.S. and EU share the same objective of controlling pathogens and pollutants in biosolids, although differences exist in specific requirements. Future regulations on both continents are likely to become more stringent and more similar to each other. The presence of persistent pollutants in biosolids is of particular concern because: i) concentration limits for pollutants in biosolids are likely to be reduced; ii) newly introduced chemicals may find their way to wastewater treatment plants and accumulate in biosolids; and iii) current metal concentrations in biosolids seem to be the lowest attainable with current pretreatment technologies. Critical studies of the U.S. EPA 40 CFR Part 503 regulations have questioned the scientific basis of this rule and identified odor emissions, emergent pathogens, radionuclides, and certain pharmaceutical products such as antibiotics and endocrine disruptors as the main issues that may eventually revise the Part 503 rule. Despite these concerns, no scientific evidence exists that the current practice of biosolids land application would be harmful either to human health or to the environment.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2003

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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