Tag Archives: Dept of Environmental Protection

Spreading Refined Human Waste on the Lands, “Biosolids,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Miami Dade waster water report, 2014.
Miami-Dade sewage treatment report, photo 2014.
Sign in Polk County, public photo.
Sign in Polk County, public photo.

Years ago when I started trying to learn about the issues facing the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Gary Roderick, who worked for Martin County, started educating me. One of the first things he shared was the term “biosolids,” or “residuals,” which I  learned were other words for “treated sewage leftovers….” or as the state used to call it: “domestic wastewater residuals.”

The state of Florida actually changed the name it used with the public beginning in 2010. Why? Probably because the state would prefer the public doesn’t wish to engage in a conversation about “how it is being fertilized,” and how its waters are being poisoned  by  the public’s own “poop.”

Perhaps I am exaggerating, but it is worth thinking about….talk about “one big circle!”

From DEP report 2014.
From DEP report 2010.

(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wastewater/dom/docs/new-biosolids-rule-overview.pdf)

To make a long story short, prior to the 1970s, in many cities and counties, sewage went directly into the water–rivers, lakes, and the ocean. In some places this still occurs….However, in the 1970s the federal government passed laws requiring this practice to halt, and states had to change their ways. This is good. But the outcome of this, many years of biosolids’ land application, may have reached a saturation point we can no longer tolerate—- as our waters receive too much nitrogen, phosphorus, and other pollutants as it is.

The other question to seriously consider is: “Does the pressure to get rid of human waste, and any money being made in transportation and application, incentivize the process or skew the law?

Yes, we know the Florida Department of Environmental Protection “checks” this and laws are slowly getting tougher, but  does the Dept of Agriculture and DEP really have the good of our state waters at heart or are they more motivated by business?

Internet photo, public. Sewage treatment plant.
Internet photo, public. Sewage treatment plant.
Public photo biosolids land application.
Public photo biosolids’ land application.

EPA (EPA http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/wastewater/treatment/biosolids/genqa.cfm)
So that is what happened.

To repeat myself, in case your jaw has dropped, after the EPA’s 1970s requirement, state water treatment plants started beginning the expensive process of adapting their plants, refining the sewage, and creating “fertilizer.” This comes in different forms like AA, and A, and B but that is too confusing to go into right now.

DEP biosolids:(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wastewater/dom/reshome.htm)

What is important, is that this refined sludge was/is produced, and “cleaned,” (although many metals and prescription drug residuals cannot be removed) and then shipped in trucks to various counties throughout Florida. Sometimes we buy biosolids from other states—then these biosolids, almost 100,000 dry tons a year, are spread on the land to “enrich the soil.”

In fact from what I’m told sometimes land owners are paid to put it on their land. Hmmmm?

I guess we have to get rid of it. This is true. And it is a problem. So much and growning! But where does it go after it is spread on the land? During rain events, it flows right back into our waterways. From Orlando to Lake Okeechobee to us…Kind of a disgusting thought, isn’t it?

Thankfully, since 2013 there is a special protection zone for the watersheds of the St Lucie River/IRL and Lake Okeechobee, but from what I have read, the practice of applying “biosolids” or refined human waste sludge, has not stopped completely. Our waterways are still impacted from upstream by this practice.

DEP report including SLR/IRL/ LO: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/legal/Rules/wastewater/62-640.pdf)

So when I really ponder all of this on a personal level, it means I worked tremendously hard with the commission in the Town of Sewall’s Point to pass a fertilizer ordinance in 2010 to protect our rivers, and all the while, the  (blank) is just flowing right back in…..

 

2009 map, the last year made available, DEP where biosolids are distributed and manufactured.
2009 map, the last year made available. Where Class AA biosolids are distributed and manufactured. Key below.(via Gary Roderick, source Biosolids in Fl 2009, DEP 2010.)
Key to above.
Key to above.
DEP chart breakdown 2014.
DEP chart breakdown 2014.
Public photo.
Public photo of sewage treatment for biosolids.

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Various sites and excerpts:

http://www.dep.state.fl.us/legal/Rules/wastewater/62-640.pdf

(7) For application sites located in geographic areas that have been identified by statute or rule of the Department as being subject to restrictions on phosphorus loadings (such as the Everglades Protection Area as set forth in Section 373.4592, F.S., the Lake Okeechobee watershed as set forth in Section 373.4595, F.S., Lake Apopka as set forth in Section 373.461, F.S., and the Green Swamp Area as set forth in Section 380.0551, F.S.), the NMP shall:
(a) Base application rates on the phosphorus needs of the crop; and
(b) Address measures that will be used to minimize or prevent water quality impacts that could result from biosolids application areas to surface waters.
The NMP for a proposed site located within the Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie River, or Caloosahatchee River watersheds, shall also include the demonstration required by subsections 62-640.400(11) and (12), F.A.C., as applicable. Any permit issued based on such a demonstration shall require monitoring and record keeping to ensure that the demonstration continues to be valid for the duration of the permit. Documentation of compliance with the demonstration shall be submitted as part of the site annual summary submitted under paragraph 62-640.650(5)(d), F.A.C.

http://www.miamidade.gov/water/library/bioslide-memo.pdf

http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wastewater/dom/docs/new-biosolids-rule-overview.pdf

2014 summary https://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wastewater/dom/docs/BiosolidsFlorida-2013-Summary.pdf

Summary of Biosolids Use and Disposal
In 2013, approximately 178,511 dry tons of Class AA biosolids products were distributed and marketed in Florida, approximately 97,880 dry tons of Class B biosolids were land applied to sites in Florida, and an estimated 111,923 dry tons of biosolids were disposed of in landfills. Compared to 2012, this represents a 16 percent decrease in Class AA biosolids products distributed and marketed, a 10 percent decrease in land application, and no change in the quantity of biosolids sent to landfills. Although it would appear there was a decrease in biosolids generated in Florida in 2013, these estimated quantities of biosolids and biosolids products used or disposed by Florida and out-of-state facilities differ from the estimated quantities of raw biosolids generated by Florida facilities. Charts are provided in this report to illustrate these differences. There is no indication the quantity of raw biosolids generated by Florida facilities decreased in 2013.
EPA http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/wastewater/treatment/biosolids/genqa.cfm

3) Why do we have biosolids?
We have biosolids as a result of the wastewater treatment process. Water treatment technology has made our water safer for recreation and seafood harvesting. Thirty years ago, thousands of American cities dumped their raw sewage directly into the nation’s rivers, lakes, and bays. Through regulation of this dumping, local governments now required to treat wastewater and to make the decision whether to recycle biosolids as fertilizer, incinerate it, or bury it in a landfill.

http://www.schwingbioset.com/our-blog/bid/38055/Class-A-Biosolids-vs-Class-B-in-Plain-English

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sewage_sludge

Understanding Point and Non-Point Pollution, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides "run-off" crops during a rain storm. This is an example of non-point pollution. Lynda Betts, United States Dept. of Agriculture. (Photo, public domain.)
Fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides “run-off” crops into a canal during a rain storm. This is an example of “non-point pollution.” Lynda Betts, United States Dept. of Agriculture. (Photo, public domain.)

There are many types of pollution that affect the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon but two words you will hear over and over are “point” and “non-point pollution.” These are important words to understand especially today as we fight to save our rivers.

Point pollution is basically pollution that you can pin-point coming out of a “pipe.” Point pollution is associated with industry. For instance, a waster water treatment plant that has a pipe releasing into the river is point pollution. In the late 1800s and early 1900s some residences, businesses and industries just let their pollution and or sewage go directly into the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. Yuk!

This practice improved with the advent of sewer systems, septic and organized cities but there were/are still direct pipes releasing very unclean water until very recently. Recognizing the impacts of discharges from wastewater treatment plants, the Florida Legislature passed the Indian River Act (Chapter 90-262) in 1990 requiring waste water treatment plants to cease discharging their effluent, somewhat processed poop,  into the lagoon. Because it was easy to pinpoint exactly where these industrial wastewater points are/were located, it is fairly easy to regulate them.

The lagoon and we have befitted from the Indian River Act 90-262 but we still have problems.

Non-point pollution, unlike point source pollution,  is pollution that is hard to pin-point because it is coming from “everywhere.” On average it rains 50 inches each year along the Treasure Coast. Highways, parking lots, people’s yards, leaky septic tanks, and agriculture all combine to create a cocktail of oils, heavy metals, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, viruses, bacteria and other pollutants that run from flowing rain water into area canals and then straight into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

To complicate things more, cities and counties can regulate residential  applications (for instance many have recently passed strict fertilizer ordinance outlawing the use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer application during rainy season,) but cities are not allowed  to regulate agriculture even if is located in their city or county.

Agriculture is exempt from such laws. Agriculture is regulated and overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture.

The Department of Agriculture recognizing the need to abate fertilizer and chemical runoff does promote “best management practices,” helping farmers work to lower phosphorus and nitrogen runoff but this is voluntary and not required. Most farmers do comply but it is not easy to judge and measure so agriculture runoff continues to significantly add to river pollution across our nation and state as we know from our C-44 canal that dumps mostly agriculture basin runoff into our rivers.

You will often hear people say, “We must stop pollution at the source!” This is a good idea and our state and federal agencies are doing it with point source pollution but not with non-point source pollution.

Perhaps one day every yard and every agriculture field will have to take a portion of their land to hold rain runoff so the pollutants seep into the earth before they go to our waterways? Perhaps one day the Department of Environmental Protection and the US Environmental Protection Agencies will become more hard-core rather than coming up with programs like TMDLs and BMP–Total Maximum Daily Loads for phosphorus and nitrogen and Basin Management Action Plans, because although those will help over time, like 30 years, we don’t seem to have a lot of time left.

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Point Source Pollution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_source_pollution)
Non Point Pollution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonpoint_source_pollution)
Best Management Practices (http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/agriculture/bmps.html)
TMDL/BMAPS FDEP (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/tmdl/)
IRL Study Guide, pg. 11 Point/Non Point Pollution: (http://t.co/LqUx4eqxS1)