June 17, 2019

This post was authored by Jody Barksdale, P.E., when he served as a senior vice president in Gresham Smith’s Water + Environment market. 

I have the privilege of sitting on Florida Water Environment Association’s (FWEA) Board of Directors and part of my responsibility is to help oversee the FWEA Biosolids Committee and the Wastewater Process Committee. At this year’s Florida Water Resources Conference and meetings, biosolids were a big deal. Florida had recently proposed, but rejected, legislation that would restrict the application of biosolids. However this type of regulatory legislation seems to be a trend. Despite the fact that biosolids have been researched, tested and successfully used for decades, the recycling and reuse of biosolids continues to get pushback from the public and media.

The most obvious impact of restricting biosolids is that utilities would become less sustainable, unable to use a resource that would otherwise go to waste. Biosolids are used for fertilizer and, in some cases, produce energy, so the effects would extend to farmers and ratepayers. Producers would have to find another way to dispose of biosolids and the disposal costs would be passed along to ratepayers. Farmers who rely on biosolids as a source of fertilizer would have to find other, more expensive sources.

During the conference, the FWEA Board and committees advanced conversations about a new association to support biosolids in the Southeast. The proposed Southeast Biosolids Association (SEBA) would help in monitoring the activities surrounding biosolids in Florida, the Southeast, and nationally in one common forum as well as support reuse through public outreach and lobbying efforts. In addition to FWEA’s support of sound science and sustainability, we’ve reached out to other regional groups such as Northeast Biosolids and Residual Association (NEBRA), Northwest Biosolids, Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association (MABA) and have received their full support.

The lack of public understanding and acceptance of biosolids must be addressed. While FWEA, WEF and various other organizations are working on education and outreach, more support is needed. An independent regional organization such as SEBA would provide our industry with the information and tools that wastewater treatment facilities need to serve the public and stakeholders while better preparing us to face challenges to biosolids.

You can learn more about the recent challenges to biosolids as well as goals, role within the industry and proposed organization for SEBA in an article I authored for the June issue of Florida Water Resources Journal.