ANGLETON, Texas, Oct. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- A nationally prominent panel of scientists and state and local officials met Tuesday evening in Brazoria County to provide a scientific perspective and to answer questions from elected officials, the media and local residents about the science, safety and benefits of biosolids recycling. The land application of treated sewage sludge for agriculture and other land uses is a safe and environmentally beneficial practice, the panel members told elected officials and local residents. The panel was convened to respond to recent news coverage in several Texas counties and growing controversy surrounding allegations of health concerns and provide a comprehensive scientific perspective about the science, safety and benefits of recycling the material commonly referred to as biosolids. The 90-minute meeting at the Best Western Hotel, 1809 North Velasco Street, Angleton, included presentations from several nationally recognized scientists and other biosolids experts and a question and answer session. "This was a conscientious effort to provide mainstream science to the biosolids debate, address local issues such as odors, and better inform the public about the issues surrounding land applications," said Bob O'Dette, vice president of government relations for Synagro Technologies, Inc., of Houston. Dr. Ian Pepper, a nationally known scientist and Director of the National Science Foundation Water Quality Center at the University of Arizona, explained, "Recent controversy over the land application of biosolids has been characterized by allegations and misinformation rather than sound scientific studies. Additionally the public has been confused and at times scared by anecdotal reports that link land application to adverse public health effects. Therefore, what is needed are more scientific studies and education of the public on the results of these studies," he said. Pepper recently participated in an 18-month study for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on the science and safety of biosolids. "Biosolids Applied to Land: Advancing Standards and Practices," the 266-page report by a 16-member panel of national scientists of which Pepper was a member, said in its overarching findings: "There is no documented scientific evidence that the Part 503 Rule (EPA's regulations) has failed to protect public health. However, additional scientific work is needed to reduce persistent uncertainty about the potential for adverse human health effects from exposure to biosolids. There have been anecdotal allegations of disease, and many scientific advances have occurred since the Part 503 Rule was promulgated (in 1993)." While the NAS panel recommended a number of steps to further ensure the public about the safety of biosolids land application, including additional resources for the U. S. Environmental Protectional Agency (EPA) to support its biosolids program, it said that it "recognizes that land application of biosolids is a widely used, practical option for managing the large volume of sewage sludge generated at wastewater treatment plants that otherwise would largely need to be disposed of at landfills or by incineration." Dr. Pepper reported Tuesday night on some of his latest research findings, which have been targeted to fill the science information gaps outlined in the NAS report, especially in the field of bioaerosols. He discussed the potential link between biosolids and staphylococcus aureus (staph aureus) and told the Angleton audience: "Although many bioaerosol samples have been taken within two meters of land application sites, no staph aureus was ever detected in the bioaerosol samples. Furthermore, although as might be expected, staph aureus was found in raw sewage, it was never detected in a variety of biosolids samples collected and analyzed nationally from the southwest to the east coast." Dr. Paul Chrostowski, an environmental scientist from Takoma Park, MD, said, "Numerous studies, including ones I have conducted, have investigated the health impacts that have been raised about the application of Class B biosolids and have found that proper applications, in accordance with federal and state regulations, have not resulted in any adverse human health effects." Ron Sieger, a representative of the Water Environment Association of Texas, host of the meeting, said, "Biosolids programs are not well understood by legislators, the media, and the public." He suggested that a communications void has largely driven public concerns and created political pressure for biosolids restrictions or bans. "This gap has frequently been filled by activist groups well outside of the scientific and regulatory community who have received considerable media attention and unwarranted credibility for their views," Sieger said. He called for renewed efforts by federal and state agencies and industry organizations such as the Water Environment Federation (WEF), "to communicate with the media and public to correct misinformation, provide public education, and counter negative perceptions of biosolids." In a prepared statement, Ken Kirk, the Executive Director of the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, in Washington, D.C., said: "Municipal wastewater treatment plant managers believe that land applying treated biosolids is a safe and environmentally beneficial use of an abundant natural resource. As the National Academy of Sciences recently concluded, there is no scientific evidence that land application of biosolids poses any health risks. Sound decisions concerning land application should be based on sound science, not mischaracterizations and scare tactics." (AMSA is a trade association representing nearly 300 publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities). Texas farmer Carl Miller said land applications provide hundreds of farmers with a low-cost alternative to chemical fertilizers and save farmers millions of dollars in expenses each year. "We are the ultimate stewards of our land. Biosolids applications help us to grow crops, improve soil conditions, and sustain our agricultural operations," he said. "It is important for the public to understand that biosolids applications save farmers money and also allow us to concentrate our limited resources on other areas such as soil erosion and groundwater quality effort." Synagro's Bob O'Dette concluded the meeting by thanking the panel participants and audience. "Like the children's book 'Everyone Poops' by Taro Gomi, it's a topic not often talked about among adults, but more reading, better education and more communication are necessary," he said. "After flushing the toilet most people don't think about where their waste goes or where it may end up. Yet, biosolids recycling is the most environmentally beneficial use of this product, according to the EPA. Land applications of biosolids have been safely practiced throughout the U.S. for over 30 years," O'Dette said. Biosolids are a nutrient-rich product derived from treated sewage sludge in wastewater treatment plants which is applied as a soil amendment to agricultural land in approximately 150 Texas counties. The treatment of sewage sludge renders it fit for recycling as a useful, safe and environmentally beneficial product. The practice is approved, regulated, and monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). For additional information on the recycling of biosolids including the benefits, safety and environmental issues associated with land applications, contact: www.biosolids.com ; www.wef.org ; and www.epa.gov . (Editor's note: Below is a copy of the Angleton meeting agenda and contact information for the panel members.) Benefits and Concerns of Land Application of Biosolids Moderated by Ron Sieger President-elect of the Water Environment Association of Texas (WEAT) Best Western Hotel, Tuesday Oct. 29th 5:00 pm 1809 North Velasco Angleton, Texas Informational Speakers & Agenda Ron Sieger (President-elect WEAT) Welcome & Introduction; Texas Association Perspectives on Biosolids Recycling. Overview of Biosolids Recycling (Synagro) Dr. Ian Pepper (National Science Foundation Water Quality Center) The Findings of the National Academy of Sciences Report on Biosolids Land Application Dr. Paul Chrostowski (CPF & Associates) Biosolids Recycling: Health and Risk Assessment Issues Carl Miller (Texas Farmer) Farmer Perspectives on the Benefits of Biosolids Recycling Donna Phillips (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) Overview of Texas Regulations regarding Biosolids Land Applications Invited Guests: State-County Officials Governor Rick Perry's Office Brazoria Co. Commissioners Fort Bend Co. Commissioners (Payne,Clawson,Harris,Stanley) (Stavinhoa,Meyers,Patterson, Prestage) Brazoria County Representatives Fort Bend County Representatives (Bonnen,Uher) (Howard,Olivo) Brazoria County Senators Fort Bend County Senators (Brown,Jackson) (Brown,Ellis) Fort Bend County Attorney Ben W. Childers News Media Houston Chronicle Associated Press The Herald-Coaster The Angleton Times Brazosport Facts KHOU-TV(11 News) KHTV (WB39 News) KPRC-TV(02 News KENS-TV(05 News) KTRK-TV( 13 News) Angleton Meeting Speaker Contact Information Dr. Ian Pepper Donna Phillips Director National Science TCEQ Foundation Water Section Manager, Region 12 - Houston University of Arizona 5425 Polk Avenue - Suite H Water Quality Center Houston, TX 77023 Environmental Research Laboratory E-Mail: Dophilli@tceq.state.tx.us 2601 E. Airport Drive Phone: 713-767-3659 Tucson, AZ 85706 Phone: (520) 626-3328 E-Mail: email@example.com Dr. Paul Chrostowski Carl Miller CPF Associates, Inc. Farmer 7708 Takoma Avenue RR Box 59 Takoma Park, MD 20912 Brookshire, TX 77423 Phone: (301) 585-8062 Ph: 979-826-2127 Fax: (301) 585-2117 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Ron Sieger President-elect Water Environment Association of Texas CH2M-HILL 5339 Alpha Road Suite 300 Dallas, TX 75240-4302 Phone: (972) 980-2170 E-mail: email@example.com Ken Kirk Executive Director Association of Metropolitan Sewage Agencies (AMSA) 1816 Jefferson Place Washington, DC 20036-2505 Ph: (202)-833-AMSA Robert G. O'Dette PE, DEE VP Government Relations, Compliance & Technical Services Synagro Technologies, Inc. 1800 Bering Drive Suite 1000 Houston, TX 77057 Phone: (713) 369-1731 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Contacts: Ron Sieger Office: (972) 980-2170 Mobile: (817) 313-0218 Bob O'Dette Office: (713) 369-1731 Mobile: (281) 451-9268 Make Your Opinion Count - Click Here http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X29746384
SOURCE Water Environment Association of Texas; Synagro Technologies, Inc.