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 with me 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.

(https://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 pollution 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, incentive the process? Skew the law? Yes, DEP “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 https://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:(https://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 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: (https://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, DEP where biosolids are distributed and manufactured.
DEP chart breakdown 2014.
DEP chart breakdown 2014.
Public photo.
Public photo of sewage treatment for biosolids.

____________________________________________

Various sites and excerpts:

https://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.

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

https://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 https://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.

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

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

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

About Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch:

Although born at Travis Air Base, California, Jacqui considers herself a native of Stuart, Florida, having moved there at eight months old. Her father’s family, originally from Syracuse, New York, has lived in Stuart since 1952. Her mother is a 5th generation Floridian from Gainesville. Jacqui is a Daughter of the American Revolution.

Jacqui is journalism graduate of the University of Florida, and an education master’s graduate of the University of West Florida. She went on to teach English and German and later after a serious accident of breaking her neck, started selling real estate. Later, she ran for public office having served on the Town of Sewall’s Point Commission since 2008, and is former mayor. During this time she saw the opportunity to help showcase the work of a locally formed river group, the River Kidz, and this has been her passion ever. She incorporates youth/river education  into her political work for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Jacqui is the treasurer/secretary of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council; has chaired the Florida League of Cities Environmental and Energy Committee; was chair, and a six year member of the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments; is an alternate for the Water Resources Advisory Commission for the South Florida Water Management District; and is a board member for Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation, in St Lucie County.  She also serves as a board member (ex-officio) for the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund, and is head administrator for her beloved River Kidz, now a division of the Rivers Coalition.

Jacqui’s reach involves not only local, but state and federal government. In 2013,  she served on Senator Joe Negron’s panel for the Select Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. In 2014, she actively supported the elections of both Senator Joe Negron and Congressman Patrick Murphy who have both been strong supporters of  Indian River Lagoon issues. In 2015, she is part of the Florida League Cities Treasure Coast Advocacy team to influence and educate Tallahassee. Jacqui received the Everglades Coalition’s 2015 “John V. Kabler Award” for “Grassroots Activism” working to organize and educate the public about Everglades restoration. Most recently she has been recruited as a fellow by the University of Florida/IFAS’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute Class XV. The institute focuses on teaching leaders how to facilitate participatory decision making in the most controversial of situations.

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