National Experts Convene in Texas to Answer Biosolids Questions, Critics

Informational Meeting Addresses Safety, Science, and Local Concerns About Land

Application of Sewage Sludge

Oct 29, 2002, 00:00 ET from Water Environment Association of Texas from ,Synagro Technologies, Inc.

    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
     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: ; ; and .  (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)
      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 -
      University of Arizona                5425 Polk Avenue - Suite H
      Water Quality Center                 Houston, TX  77023
      Environmental Research Laboratory    E-Mail:
      2601 E. Airport Drive                Phone:  713-767-3659
      Tucson, AZ 85706
      Phone: (520) 626-3328
      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
      Ron Sieger
      Water Environment Association of Texas
      5339 Alpha Road Suite 300
      Dallas, TX 75240-4302
      Phone: (972) 980-2170
      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
      Ron Sieger
      Office: (972) 980-2170
      Mobile: (817) 313-0218
      Bob O'Dette
      Office: (713) 369-1731
      Mobile: (281) 451-9268
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SOURCE Water Environment Association of Texas; Synagro Technologies, Inc.