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An Uncertain Future: Management of Class B Biosolids in Florida

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With more than 18.3 million residents, Florida is currently the fourth largest state in the country, and one of the largest producers of municipal wastewater biosolids as well. As a whole, the state has been successful at beneficially using biosolids, with 83 percent being beneficially used in recent years. Beneficial use is a sustainable biosolids management approach that diverts millions of tons of biosolids from landfills every year, and provides essential nutrients and organic matter for plant growth in pastures, fields, and landscapes. While the current high level of beneficial use in the state is encouraging, on-going revisions to Florida's biosolids regulations are motivation to consider the potential impact of regulatory changes on biosolids management techniques and to look ahead at future trends that may arise out of the necessity to meet the new regulations.

Biosolids, or domestic wastewater residuals, are regulated both at the federal level by Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 503 (40 CFR 503), and at the state level by Chapter 62-640 of the Florida Administrative Code (62-640 FAC). These regulations divide biosolids into three classifications- Class B, Class A, and Class AA - each receiving a higher level of treatment and meeting higher quality standards than the preceding class. While Class AA biosolids can be utilized nearly anywhere, Class B biosolids are subject to significant regulation regarding their use. As two-thirds of the biosolids produced in Florida are treated to Class B standards prior to land application, any revisions to the current regulations have the potential to severely impact utilities throughout the state.

In November of 2002, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) initiated rulemaking efforts to revise 62-640 FAC. While the revisions to the regulation are not yet finalized, numerous workshops and technical advisory committee meetings held over the past eight years have resulted in the development of a revised draft rule that provides some insight into where the regulations are headed. New language in the first section of the proposed rule sets the tone for the rest of the document by encouraging high levels of treatment, and publicly accepted uses of biosolids. Although the proposed rule contains additional setback requirements and land application restrictions, many of the revisions focus heavily on the planning, permitting, monitoring, record keeping, recording, and reporting aspects of biosolids management. These requirements could prove to be troublesome for utilities continuing to land apply Class B biosolids.

While not the deathblow for Class B biosolids that was once feared, the proposed regulations combined with the ever changing landscape as the state continues to grow and the continued development of nutrient limits to protect our surface water resources are major drivers for utilities to investigate the feasibility of producing Class AA biosolids. This paper will provide a look into the potential impacts on biosolids management practices due to the proposed regulatory changes, continued urban development and implementation of additional TMDLs. In addition to attempting to predict the future state of utility operations, an evaluation of new opportunities in light of the anticipated changes will be presented.
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Keywords: Biosolids; Class AA; Class B; Land Application

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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