Recently, in a memo from David P. Ross, Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), clarification was provided to the land application of Exceptional Quality (Class A) biosolids.
According to the memo, its purpose is “to provide EPA’s interpretation of 40 CFR § 503.10, specifically §§ 503.10(e), (f), and (g), regarding whether certain land application requirements apply to entities, including a treatment works or a soil blender, that derive material from Class A EQ sewage sludge.”
Exceptional Quality biosolids is treated sewage sludge that meets the pollutant concentrations in the Part b 503 federal regulations. EQ Class A biosolids meet the most stringent pollutant, pathogen, and vector attraction reduction requirements under EPA’s regulations. Class B biosolids meets less stringent requirements than Class A EQ material.
The Standards for the Use or Disposal of Sewage Sludge are set out in 40 CFR Part 503. Subpart B (40 CFR § 503.10) provides requirements for land application of sewage sludge, including when these requirements apply; and management practices, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Every state must follow federal regulations of the Part 503 rule, including Virginia, but each state may also adopt its own regulations that must be at least as strict as the federal regulations of the Part 503 rule.
Biosolids use in Virginia is regulated by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Regulatory requirements for Virginia can be found in § 62.1-44.19:3 of the Virginia Code. State regulations require biosolids to meet pathogen reduction, metal concentration limits, and vector attraction reduction as established by the Part 503 rule. Virginia law also requires permits for land application and distribution and marketing of all biosolids.
EPA’s memo clarifies the land application applicability provisions found at 40 CFR §§ 503.10(e), (f), and (g). Section 503.10(e) provides that seven of the nine land application requirements apply when Class A EQ sewage sludge is produced and then distributed or sold in a bag or other container. Section 503.10(f) provides that seven of the nine land application requirements apply when a Class A EQ material is produced and then distributed or sold in a bag or other container. Section 503.10(g) provides that none of the nine land application requirements apply when a material is derived from Class A EQ biosolids and then that material is distributed or sold in a bag or other container.
According to EPA, under its biosolids regulations any preparer of biosolids, including a treatment facility or a soil blender that (a) produces Class A EQ biosolids, (b) derives a material from that Class A EQ biosolids, and (c) sells or gives that material away in a bag or other container is exempt from all land application requirements (i.e., it benefits from the exclusions under 40 CFR § 503.10(g)), even if that preparer began the process with non-Class A EQ sewage sludge. EPA said that a preparer would remain subject to 40 CFR § 503.10(e) or § 503.10(f) for the initial Class A EQ biosolids or material derived from non-Class A EQ sewage sludge.
Mr. Ross wrote that “this interpretation is reasonable, fair, and protective of human health and the environment. It ensures that any preparer, e.g., a treatment works or a soil blender, that derives a material from Class A EQ sewage sludge is subject to the same regulatory requirements. This interpretation is reasonable because it focuses on the quality of the sewage sludge and/or material derived from sewage sludge, rather than on the actor who is managing or treating the material to ensure that Class A EQ quality is achieved. This interpretation avoids creating inequities between treatment works and private contractors (e.g., soil blenders) that are taking the same action – deriving a material from Class A EQ sewage sludge and then selling or giving away that material in a bag or other container. This interpretation is also protective of human health and the environment as such protections depend not on who is taking the actions but on what actions are being taken – treating sewage sludge to Class A EQ standards before deriving a material from it, and then selling or giving away that material in a bag or other container.”
For more information on the use of EQ Class A biosolids click here.