Agricultural use of Biosolids
The York County Conservation District supports the beneficial use of biosolids or sewage sludge for application to agricultural land, when the following conditions are met:
1. The farm receiving the biosolids has a soil conservation plan meeting the requirements of the PA Code, Title 25. Chapter 102. Erosion Control, and the plan is fully implemented.
2. The biosolids are of good quality, determined by lab analysis, which meets the state and federal regulations for application to agricultural lands.
3. The site is suitable and under good management and meeting the permit requirements of the state and federal regulations. Good management includes frequent testing of the biosolids and the soil to which it is applied, as well as application of the biosolids to meet crop needs as determined by a nutrient management plan.
It is the opinion of the board that beneficial use is, at the present time, the best available alternative for the use of biosolids. It is recycling at the most basic level of human life and will improve soil organic matter and tilth, which will improve the long term sustainability and productivity of the soil, when the above conditions are met.
Biosolids Management and Conservation Planning
The proper management of the land application of biosolids requires many steps and procedures. They include proper treatment at the facility, testing and monitoring of the finished product, nutrient management calculations and proper application procedures. The final step in the process is to insure the biosolids stay where they were applied by having an implemented soil conservation or erosion control plan on the farm.
A conservation plan is a combination of Best Management Practices (BMP’s) that control soil loss to an allowable level (T), and meets Chapter 102 of the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law. The plan is individually tailored to each farm operation, taking into account such things as soil type, slope of the field, crop rotation and tillage practices. BMP’s such as contour farming or strips, grass waterways, diversions and terraces may also be used to control erosion. A properly implemented conservation plan not only controls soil erosion and runoff , it also maintains topsoil levels, improves soil quality and helps soil productivity.
The conservation plan is highly influenced by whether or not the biosolids product needs to be incorporated into the soil. The quality of the biosolids and the treatment processes used may require that the biosolids be incorporated. Most treatment plants have improved there processes so they have a higher quality product that does not require tilling into the soil. In many cases this gives the landowner more flexibility in what combination of BMP’s he can use to control soil erosion. This has allowed some farms that use exclusively no-till farming to apply biosolids as a fertilizer source and still have excellent erosion control.
The conservation plan must be totally implemented (all listed practices applied) on a field before biosolids may be applied. During the permit review process conducted by DEP a representative of the York County Conservation District reviews the conservation plan and determines the status of implementation. Only those fields that have the plan implemented can be used for application. Fields not implemented are documented and cannot be applied to until the plan is implemented and DEP is notified.
Many steps and procedures are followed to insure the land application of biosolids is monitored and managed effectively. The implemented conservation plan is the final piece of this puzzle and in many cases the most important in protecting water quality.
If you have questions or want further information about the land application and monitoring of biosolids in York County you can contact either Mark Flaharty at the District at 755-2966 ext.106 or Tom Gradwell at the York County Solid Waste and Refuse Authority at 845-1066 .