Back to basics on permitting responsibility for sludge (biosolids) and reclaimed water disposal

Over the past 17 years, EPA has placed highly restrictive rules on sludge disposed of in landfills and sewage effluent
discharged to surface water, because both sources are known to contaminate the environment. At the same time, EPA
has promoted the disposal of this same contaminated sludge and sewage effluent on land as beneficial use with
virtually no restrictions or rules.

A few facts and PR from UC Davis
NSD's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit issued by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality
Control Board provides for the discharge of treated wastewater into the adjacent Napa River during the wet season
(November through April), but during the dry season (May through October) river discharge is prohibited.  During the
wet season, discharge to the Napa River is allowed, and high quality recycled water is generally not produced.
Recycling of wastewater has environmental benefits because it limits the discharge of treated wastewater into natural
waterways,  Additionally, expanded use of recycled water reduces the amount of discharge to the Napa River and
protects existing sources of water for other uses.
During the non-discharge period, water is recycled for irrigation purposes or stored for wet season discharge.   (2006)

The EPA's regulation under the Clean Water Act (40 CFR 257 et al./503), promotes open dumping under perceived
loopholes in the law and claims: 1) that sewage sludge generated from the treatment of domestic sewage, even if there
is industrial sewage in it, is exempt from the Public Laws, 2) part 503 is a self-implementing blanket permit (federal
authorization) for the release of hazardous substances [pollutants] on lawns, gardens and food crop production land,
and 3) that if sludge is simply considered a fertilizer, it is exempt from the liability provisions of Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), even if a Superfund site is created (FR. 58, 32,
pp. 9326, 9263, February 19, 1993).     

Now EPA is starting to shift the blame for open dumps to the states, "EPA's role in the management of industrial
nonhazardous Waste [sludge] is very limited. Under RCRA Subtitle D, EPA issued minimal criteria prohibiting "open
dumps" (40 CFR 257) in 1979. The states, not EPA, are responsible for implementing the "open dumping criteria," and
EPA has no back-up enforcement role." (FR. 62, 19, p. 4284, January 29, 1997)
NSA Fact Sheet #100, January 25, 1997,

Before a State or any local entity can legally issue a permit for sludge disposal, the State must have a signed
EPA/State agreement for sludge disposal. When a State does not take responsibility for sludge disposal, the EPA is
responsible for issuing the sludge disposal permit. Some States have signed the EPA's State Interim Sludge
Management Agreement which requires compliance with 40 CFR 257. Yet, many States are still only complying
with the regulation when sludge is disposed of in a designated sanitary landfill. Under the EPA's beneficially  sludge
use policy, the regulation is being ignored when sludge is applied to farm and ranch land.
com/paper.html  (1992)

{Only 7 states have agreed to take responsibility for issuing sludge permits for these open dumps]

Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin.  (April 2007)

In 1995, a special committee, the Biosolids Public Acceptance Subcommittee was created and entrusted with a two-fold gain public acceptance of sludge use and to convince states to accept delegation, that is, to take responsibility
for administering the Part 503 rule. This committee was composed of various stakeholders, 1) John
Walker, of EPA's Office of Water, 2) state representative, Lisa Rogers of Utah. Div. of Water Quality, which was the first
state to accept delegation for Part 503), 3) municipalities' representatives, Steve Frank of Metro WW Reclamation
District of Denver (who is now accepting radioactive hazardous waste leachate from the Lowery superfund site, which
will be included in the sludge used on Denver's 50,000 acre farm, where wheat is grown for human consumption),
George Hall of Metro Reclamation of Greater Chicago and Mike Moore of Orange County Sanitation Dist.,
4) Sludge Disposal Companies' representatives, Jane Forste of Bio Gro Systems, Inc, and Scott Wienands of Nutri-jet
Systems, Inc., (Nutri-jet was fired by Kansas City, Missouri for applying excessive amounts of sludge at its sludge site),
and 5) associated groups who also profit from biosolids (engineering)--Lynn Green of Black & Veatch, and (agricultural
studies)--Billie Harrison of The Ohio State University. According to a memo dated July 28, 1995, Pete Machno of the
King County Department of Metropolitan Services (Seattle) is directing the Biosolids Committee.

In a 1995 letter, Walker explained the focus of the biosolids acceptance committee:
“EPA has a mandate to promoting the beneficial use of biosolids. For this to occur States need to understand the risk
assessment/science basis of the Part 503 rule so that their rules will not be overly stringent and so that state
authorities can knowledgeably recommend to their public that alternatives which make beneficial use of biosolids are
safe and desirable. (John Walker's confirmation letter to Tanya Moll, Manager, NBMA. June 1995).

Sam Hadeed, director of technical services and legislation for the Association of Metropolitan Sewage Agencies
(AMSA) noted in the August 1, 1995 issue of SLUDGE, "If the EPA structures the recordkeeping requirements so they
are not onerous or cumbersome, violations are not likely to be widespread. I think the states should pick up on that

If there are no rules or accurate records it is self-evident that there will not be any violations. Most states did not pick
up on that message. However, many states like Missouri, quit making any attempt to protect the health of their citizens,
arbitrarily turning over the responsibility to EPA's Regional sludge coordinators, who are promoting
sludge use. As most states have not assumed delegation, the monitoring and enforcement requirement of Part 503
sludge rule are still the responsibility of about 10 Regional Sludge Coordinators at the EPA.

To accomplish the transfer of the liability to the states, EPA created its "gang of 10" EPA and WEF stakeholders to
rewrite the federal rules to make it easier for the states to accept responsibility for the sludge program.

The "gang of 10's" formation was reported in the August 1, 1995, issue of SLUDGE. The article noted that the rewriting
of the Code of Federal Regulations on state delegation requirements would be given to "John Walker of EPA's
Municipal Technology Branch who would submit it by September 1 for the agency review and comments." The major
change in the Code would be that the states' attorney general could simply certify that state rules were in place to
regulate sludge, thereby, bypassing the current approval process of states' legislative bodies. There was a qualifier,
the states' rules could not be any more stringent than EPA's rules.

According to Bob Bastian, writing in his 1995 paper, The Biosolids (sludge) Treatment, Beneficial Use, and Disposal
Situations in the U.S., EPA is working with the states "to encourage their adoption of biosolids regulatory programs that
can be approved to carry out delegated programs and avoid the need for separate U.S. EPA permits, compliance
monitoring and enforcement activities."

He says:  “Until a state applies for and is approved to carry out a delegated program, all TWTDS in the state will be
dealing directly with their U.S. EPA Regional Office regarding federal permits, compliance monitoring and enforcement
issues associated with implementation of the Part 503 requirements.” (p.7) According to Bastian, as of December 23,
1997, only Utah had completed the delegation process.

In this same paper, Bastian lists several problems with land application that are reasons why states are not wanting to
accept delegation: “Areas such as the long-term fate of some land applied pollutants in biosolids [sludge] relative to
plant uptake rates, surface runoff and groundwater movement, and the potential impacts (both positive and negative)
on wildlife and unmanaged ecosystems are ripe for further research due to the limited amount of field data currently
available. Future attempts to make the pathogen control portion of the rule more "risk-based" will also require
additional research efforts.” (p.10)  (1998)