What Are Biosolids?

Recycling is a choice. Three types of waste come from residential communities: municipal solid waste (trash or garbage), green waste (plant waste from landscape and food industries) and wastewater (sewage). Biosolids are part of our sewage waste. Some waste is recyclable while others currently are not. There is a growing effort to recycle more and more of our waste and reduce environmental problems created by our urban landfills.

Composted biosolids are manufactured from community wastewater. Composted biosolids are as different from “poop” or “sewage” as compost is from “manure”. In fact, composted biosolids are more closely monitored and regulated than compost made from manure, compost from yard waste and even organic fertilizers. To meet Federal regulations, biosolids are composted through processes developed by scientists and engineers using very sophisticated technologies. Technologies that manufacture Class A biosolids, or Exceptional Quality (EQ) biosolids, result in a product that reduces human pathogen levels below laboratory detection.

People concerned about biosolids in compost are usually apprehensive about the levels of human pathogens (like Salmonella and E. coli), heavy metals (such as lead and arsenic), pharmaceutical and personal care products. Pathogens and heavy metals are relatively easy to detect and can be found in any compost report from an EPA approved laboratory. Pharmaceuticals, whether they are contained in animal composts or composts with biosolids are more difficult to quantify and the significance of their presence is not yet well understood.

Human Pathogens and Biosolids. EQ biosolids contain no detectable levels of human pathogens. Make sure compost for gardens and landscapes contain EQ biosolids. Class B biosolids are not acceptable for home gardens.

Heavy Metals and Biosolids. Heavy metal levels monitored include Arsenic (As), Cadmium (Cd), Copper (Cu), Lead (Pb), Mercury (Hg), Molybedenum (Mo), Nickel (Ni) Selenium (Se), and Zinc (Zn). These must all be within limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Pharmaceuticals and Biosolids. Research is very limited concerning pharmaceuticals and their presence, or their byproducts, in manure and biosolids. Pharmaceuticals are not limited to just biosolids. Pharmaceuticals are also present in animal manures and compost made from animal manures. In some cases, pharmaceuticals are used with less discretion when treating animals than those used to treat human diseases.

Personal Care Products and Biosolids. Personal care products, or PPC’s, are used for personal hygiene and beautification. These include soaps, shampoos, detergents, cosmetics, lotions, makeup and hundreds of others. Contributions of these products to compost made from biosolids is poorly understood. For this reason, it has given our industry a measure of concern but not alarm. Follow Viragrow’s blog and website for updates in this important field of research.

At ViraGrow we follow compost research very closely. We believe all of our composts and soil amendments are safe for humans and all food crops as well as applications for turfgrass and ornamentals. Using our soil amendments, if done at appropriate rates and timing, will give you a bountiful harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables that are safe to eat and improve your landscape aesthetics. At the same time you have made the choice to recycle.

Some people recycle and others choose not to. Recycling waste from urban populations is one solution to the growing problem of urban pollution. It is the RIGHT choice! It is our ONLY choice.

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