(August 14, 2019) –EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a final memorandum last week ending a resolution process with EPA’s Office of Water over a November 2018 OIG report criticizing EPA’s biosolids program. According to the OIG report, EPA failed to complete risk assessment work on 352 pollutants found in biosolids and raised questions on how the biosolids program protects public health and the environment.
The Office of Water responded to the OIG with its own letter disagreeing with many of OIG's findings and noting that the OIG report is "biased and raises alarm due to the use of narrowly selected studies and examples, and information that is taken out of context or that is not relevant."
Since the November OIG Biosolids Report came out, NACWA has been talking with EPA leaders that oversee the Biosolids Program and supporting their continued efforts on biosolids. Although the OIG made no changes to the final report, the Office of Water’s response letter is positive in defending the biosolids program. It specifically highlights the role national associations, including NACWA, play in advocacy for biosolids, stating these associations “represent hundreds of public clean water utilities, local utilities, and businesses throughout the United States that take seriously their responsibilities to treat wastewater and manage residuals so not to harm human health and the environment."
The response letter to OIG makes clear that communicating risks to the public is critical in line with the scientific process that has been conducted according to longstanding EPA policies. Further, the response memo states "the presence of a pollutant in biosolids alone does not equate to scientific risk and EPA's Biosolids Program is working hard to prioritize risk assessment work for known but not yet regulated pollutants."
NACWA continues its support of EPA's Biosolids Program and is pleased to see the Office of Water’s strong response letter defending the program. Members with any questions can contact Emily Remmel, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.