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Biosolids 2010: Mastering the Legal Landscape for Land Application and Beneficial Use

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This paper surveys current legal issues affecting biosolids management options for clean water agencies, land appliers, biosolids marketers, and farmers. Because of political and legal pressure on land application, some facilities are shifting to more processed biosolids products, or waste-to-energy projects. Yet many facilities are thriving with robust, large-scale Class B land application programs using numerous farm partners. The few opponents of biosolids recycling have been largely unsuccessful in their efforts to ban land application or seek damages for purported injuries through tort lawsuits. This paper and the accompanying PowerPoint will address the following topics:

Latest activities of biosolids opponents to ban or restrict beneficial use around the country, including in California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Alabama.

Successful strategies to overcome local efforts to restrict or ban biosolids, including the federal court's rejection of Kern County, California's efforts to ban biosolids recycling on farms.

Lawsuits alleging personal injuries to persons from land application of biosolids, including current and recently concluded “toxic tort” suits in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Nuisance and odor issues regarding land application of biosolids, including a summary of the types of allegations regarding odor and nuisance caused by land application sites and the defenses available to POTWs and land appliers when faced with lawsuits regarding odor and nuisance.

Challenges caused by trace contaminants found in biosolids, including the recent detection of elevated levels of perfluorinated compounds in biosolids and soil in agricultural fields near Decatur, Alabama.

EPA's upcoming revision of the definition of solid waste that will directly impact sewage sludge incinerators and may imperil the biosolids exemption from RCRA.

Distribution and marketing of biosolids, including a discussion of whether transitioning from Class B land application to distributing a Class A EQ product can end potential legal liability.

Keywords: Bans; Biosolids; Class A; Class B; Commerce Clause; EPA; Health Effects; Incineration; Land Application; Law; Local Ordinances; Marketing; Nuisance; Odor; Preemption; Product; Toxic Tort

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

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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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