Mickey Nowak: Sewer plants running out of places to put biosolids

Apr 6, 2022

This commentary is by Mickey Nowak, executive director of the Massachusetts Water Environment Association based in Monson, Massachusetts.

Iam writing out of concern for a potential environmental and economic disaster that is visible on the horizon. That disaster is the inability of New England wastewater treatment facilities to manage and dispose of their biosolids, the solid organic matter that results from modern wastewater treatment processes. 

Wastewater treatment facilities have been a great public health and environmental success story. This is especially true since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, which brought all facilities up to the secondary treatment standard that has produced some amazing environmental results. 

The largest river in New England, the Connecticut, once described by Jo Beth Mullens and Robert S. Bristow in a 2003 research study as “The Nation’s Best Landscaped Sewer,” is now enjoyed by boaters, fishers, swimmers and other water enthusiasts. Many locations along the river are now homes to families of eagles and other wildlife. Rivers across New England have likewise benefitted and been remarkably improved thanks to modern wastewater treatment.

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