(April 10, 2019) - NACWA members and staff, along with the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the Water Research Foundation (WRF), met with senior EPA Office of Water officials on April 4, during Water Week 2019, to discuss current and future challenges facing the biosolids program.
In light of the recent EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report—which highlighted areas that EPA’s Office of Water purportedly could do more to evaluate the risk posed by land application—NACWA, WEF and WRF sought the meeting with Deborah Nagle, Director of the Office of Science and Technology, and Andrew Sawyers, Director of the Office of Wastewater Management, to discuss how the water sector groups could help EPA strengthen the biosolids program.
Even with the OIG report and recent developments in Maine, where land application may be effectively banned due to the presence of PFAS in biosolids, the biosolids program has generally been running without incident and with only very local issues in terms of opposition to land application. Despite its success, EPA and the water sector groups agreed that they should look to reinvigorate work in the biosolids space to ensure that risk assessment information is up to date, research is continuing, and opportunities are available for regulators to share information with their peers.
In the coming months, EPA is planning to add additional staff at its Headquarters focused on biosolids and hopes to get started soon on the additional risk assessment work that the OIG has highlighted as a need. As a result of the meeting, EPA and the water sector groups agreed to meet on a regular basis to discuss biosolids.
A number of other activities were also discussed including potentially reviving the state biosolids coordinators meetings; convening a summit to discuss information gaps and research needs, among other things; and to update the survey on biosolids management practices, which hasn’t been updated for more than a decade.
NACWA will be coordinating with WEF and WRF as regular meetings are set up with EPA and next steps are outlined. Members with any questions can contact Chris Hornback, NACWA’s Deputy CEO.