THE EMS FOR BIOSOLIDS PUZZLE: HOW THE METRO WASTEWATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT SUCCESSFULLY PUT THE PIECES TOGETHER
Abstract:The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District (District) provides wastewater treatment for about 1.5 million people in the Denver metro area. The District treats about 140 million gallons of wastewater and produces about 75 dry tons of biosolids per day. The District has been committed to the beneficial reuse of biosolids since 1978, when the Board of Directors adopted a resolution which, in part, states “It shall be the policy of the Metro District to process the solid residue of the treatment of wastewaters in beneficial ways so as to conserve energy and other resources; produce resources such as soil conditioner, fertilizer, and other usable products, so as to reduce net costs of treatment of wastewaters and solid residues.” Since that time, the District has processed its biosolids by composting or applying to agricultural land as a soil conditioner. In 1993, the EPA's Part 503 regulations established federal biosolids management standards with respect to public health and the environment. This regulation has facilitated the expansion of biosolids recycling practices, while protecting the public and the environment. When the District acquired the METROGRO Farm in 1993, staff began to apply biosolids on the Farm, as well as on privately-owned property. Currently, the District land applies approximately 90 percent of its biosolids, applying approximately 50 percent of that on the METROGRO Farm and 50 percent on privately-owned agricultural property. The remaining 10 percent of the biosolids is composted when land application is not possible. Land application continues to be the most economical biosolids disposal method available to the District.
As part of the biosolids management program, the District voluntarily signed the Letter of Understanding with the National Biosolids Partnership (NBP) in May 2000 and implemented its Environmental Management System (EMS) for Biosolids in December of 2002, when the real task of putting together the EMS puzzle began. And, there are many pieces to the puzzle; policy, planning, implementing, reviewing, and improving are the edge pieces. These pieces create the frame from which to build from. Some of the inside pieces to the puzzle were harder to find and put together, such as management and employee buy-in to make the EMS a top priority throughout the organization and not just another manual to sit on the shelf, compatibility with the District's culture and philosophy of biosolids management activities, and meeting NBP requirements that seemed to change frequently, as can be the case with a fledgling program such as the NBP's, making the Districts effort to put the pieces together a difficult one. For each piece of the puzzle that seemed to fit into place, there also seemed to be an obstacle to overcome.
The District received third party certification from NSF International Strategic Registration, Ltd. on July 30, 2005. The National Biosolids Partnership (NBP) approved the certification.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2006
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