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Utilizing Mainstream GIS Mapping Technology for Biosolids Data Management

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For 2.3 million people in the Philadelphia area, human waste is processed at the Philadelphia Water Department's (PWD) Biosolids Recycling Center (BRC). After treatment, the end products are clean water and biosolids. The water is discharged into waterways, and the biosolids are largely utilized under a variety of beneficial use programs. Land application (PA & MD) comprise 25% of residual disposition; 15% is utilized for coal mine reclamation; 20% is marketed as compost; 10% is utilized by public works; and 30% finds a final destination in a landfill.

In Pennsylvania, the 2008 land-application program includes 5 counties, 28 farms, 367 fields, with over 1690 acres. Each year 23,000 to 37,000 wet tons of Philadelphia biosolids are land applied in PA. There isn't an easy means to be more specific about the biosolids' final destination. While county, farm, and field spatial data, and land application and analytical temporal data are available, converting that information into useful and publicly consumable formats has not been done. The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) worked with Material Matters, Inc. to visually integrate the Pennsylvania land application data to produce Farm and Field maps, inline annual/cumulative pollutant loading (APLR/CPLR) charts, annual summary tables, and securely linked annual agronomic reports, analytical reports, and regulatory reports.

Tools were developed to summarize and spatially represent the information associated with agricultural utilization of biosolids. This new format serves to aid in:

Land application program management (internal use)

Public information and awareness

Environmental Management System (EMS) compliance

This project involves aerial photography, high-tech satellite tracking, internet and secure intranet publication of data, and a database used to correlate data from multiple internal and external sources, all of which are utilized to pull information together into easy to understand and utilize maps with descriptive summaries.

The primary benefit of utilizing a database to generate map data and descriptive summaries is that once the templates are created, it is easy to update information and republish maps in later time intervals. These templates can produce highly detailed products that are hyperlinked to regulatory and internal reports, which can be designated for secure/authorized use only. Tools allow the users to delve into multi-layered interrelated datasets. Also, templates can be used to produce simplified datasets without the full depth or detail for public consumption, providing the public a basic understanding of program operations and annual activity.

Keywords: Environmental Management System (EMS); GIS; Google Earth; Google Maps; beneficial use; data analysis; data management; land application; nutrient management; spatial analysis

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2009-01-01

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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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