MidAtlantic Biosolids Association
Biosolids NewsClips - July 15, 2022

NewsClips is filled with important articles from around the world. This edition includes some positive articles, including an article from The Daily Evergreen, the student publication from Washington State University, sharing research taking place related to the examination of the benefits of land application of biosolids versus synthetic fertilizers and how they correspond with crop health and productivity. 

Unfortunately, there are less-than-positive articles as well, including several related to wastewater treatment facilities in the region struggling with repair needs and other operational issues.  And the continued focus on PFAS, and most recently, microplastics, can be seen in this month's articles as well.

Stay tuned for more information from MABA.  If you have any news to share, please contact Mary Firestone at 845-901-7905 or [email protected]

Centre Region’s wastewater treatment facility facing thousands in repairs from power surges
State College, PA (21 June 2022) - The wastewater treatment plant that serves much of the Centre Region is facing costly repairs for the second time in six months. The University Area Joint Authority expects to pay at least $150,000 to repair all of the motor drives in its advanced water treatment building after they were damaged by a power surge Thursday, Executive Director Cory Miller wrote in an email Tuesday.

Letter to the editor: Biosolids aren’t a good fit
East Penn Township, PA (25 June 2022) - I just read that East Penn Township can’t block biosolids on township farmland (June 2, 2022). Biosolids, Biosludge, Waste Sludge: does not matter what you call it, Biosolids don’t look like a good fit for Pennsylvania. What an ominous sign posted at the field to warn people to stay away. The sign is not there just for the smell, but for the danger Class B Biosolids pose to the health of people. Class B Biosolid treatments reduce but do not eliminate pathogens.

Moreau: Multi-Million Dollar Project Delayed, Again
Saratoga, NY (16 June 2022) - On Monday, June 20, Saratoga Biochar Solutions will once again be in front of the Moreau Planning Board to discuss the construction of a new waste management plant in the Moreau Industrial Park. The current site plan, filed in 2021 with the Moreau Planning Board, entails a $29 million-dollar state-of-the-art facility aimed toward treating a dirty problem – the disposal of human waste. The site plan was filed by Saratoga Biochar Solutions, a biosolids company with ambitious aspirations. 

City OKs plan to reimburse the state for its work at the troubled Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant
Baltimore, MD (22 June 2022) - Baltimore’s spending board unanimously approved an agreement Wednesday with the state over the city’s troubled Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant — the state’s largest such facility. Under the consent order agreement, which was announced earlier this month, the city pledged to repay the Maryland Environmental Service for its emergency repair work at the facility and drop its legal challenge against the state’s takeover of the plant.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation says rise in Bay pollution is due to Baltimore wastewater plants

Researchers aim to improve soil health, crop quality with biosolid testing
Pullman, WA (23 June 2022) - WSU researchers are examining the effects of biosolid application on soil health and crop productivity to help establish cover crops in central Washington. Biosolids are human waste recycled from sewage treatment that is used in agriculture. This organic matter is broken down by bacteria and composted before it is applied to soil, said Deirdre Griffin LaHue, assistant professor of soil quality and sustainable soil management at WSU. Griffin LaHue is based in Mount Vernon with the Northwestern Washington Research & Extension Center.

Three hospitalized after explosion at Quasar Energy's Wooster facility
Wooster, OH (14 June 2022) - Three employees were hospitalized with injuries that are not life-threatening after a Tuesday morning explosion at a biosolid processing facility, the Wooster Fire Department said. Fire crews were alerted at 10:20 a.m. to a possible explosion at the Secrest Road Quasar Energy Group facility, Fire Chief Barry Saley told The Daily Record from the scene.

New biosolids permit boosts environmental protections and operational efficiencies
Olympia, WA (16 June 2022) - The Washington Department of Ecology’s updated biosolids general permit launches a more streamlined approach to approving biosolids operations across Washington. The new permit is reorganized to reduce the time it takes to approve or deny proposals, statewide. New requirements will increase environmental protections at all facilities with above-ground tanks and special detention lagoons, and improving communications between the state’s biosolids operations and Ecology is emphasized throughout the document. The permit is effective July 15, 2022, and expires in 2027.
State Department of Ecology Announces New Permit System For Biosolids

Colorado has been spreading biosolids with “forever chemicals” on farms, records show. How dangerous is it? 
Denver, CO (20 June 2022) - Metro Denver’s wastewater treatment system is spreading sewage biosolids laced with toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” at its farm in eastern Arapahoe County and on private farms that buy the material as fertilizer, according to test records obtained by the Colorado Sun. 

Alabama tightens rules on foul-smelling sludge after complaints
Huntsville, AL (21 June 2022) - Alabama’s environmental regulators have tightened state rules for using food processing waste or sewage sludge as fertilizer in response to numerous complaints about the practice generated across Alabama over the past two years and reported on extensively by AL.com.

New problem for ‘Erin Brockovich’ town: Burning poop
Hinkley, CA (29 June 2022) - On the evening of May 28, residents of the unincorporated high desert outpost of Hinkley who cranked up their swamp coolers, or stepped outside for a clear view of the stars, noticed a foul stench in the air. And it didn’t go away. An odor reminiscent of burning plastic mixed with smoldering sewage has plagued the roughly 3,000 people who call Hinkley home for going on five weeks. Now, residents are reporting sinus issues, headaches, nausea and sick pets. One woman’s doctor, an ear, nose and throat specialist, instructed her to “get the hell out of town.”
What are the ‘bio-solids’ burning in toxic Mojave Desert inferno? You may not want to know

Maine AG is close to announcing legal ‘roadmap’ for lawsuits over PFAS
Lewiston, ME (21 June 2022) - Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said his office is finalizing a legal framework for going after the manufacturers of the so-called "forever chemicals" known as PFAS. The Attorney General’s Office began last fall soliciting bids from law firms willing to help represent the state in legal cases against the chemical companies that make PFAS. Used for decades in consumer products, some varieties of PFAS – short for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances – have been linked to health concerns. And there are a growing number of PFAS hotspots popping up around the state, many of which have been linked to contaminated municipal sludge or industrial waste that was spread on farm fields as fertilizer.
Microplastics on the menu: Why everyone should find Maine’s sludge-spreading ban palatable
Maine farmers call for state to address PFAS contamination
Latest impact of PFAS contamination: Rising sewer rates
Auburn farmer says he has lost business despite meeting PFAS testing


Contact Information:
Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association
Mary Firestone, Executive Director
[email protected]

For Immediate Release
Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association (MABA) appeals for collaboration from communities and stakeholders: Contain PFAS releases at their source - not after their escape into sewers

HARRISBURG, March 17, 2022 - The Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association (MABA), today announced an appeal to the regions’ communities and stakeholders related to recent concerns regarding PFAS contaminants and their potentially harmful effects to citizens.

“We believe that the ‘polluter pays’ principle that guides many environmental protections in Pennsylvania, and across the Mid-Atlantic region, should be applied to reducing human and environmental risks from PFAS,” said Anne Marek, MABA president, “And that principle relies on the idea that those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it to prevent damage to human health or the environment.”

The phase out of the manufacture of PFOA and PFOS, two major types of PFAS, since 2011, has resulted in significantly declining levels of PFAS concentrations in wastewater and biosolids. Likewise human blood samples, which demonstrate the health improvement potential of eliminating sources of PFAS compounds, have decreased. However, the continued public exposure to PFAS from ubiquitous sources during manufacture and use, including some carpets, clothing, cosmetics, paper products, food packaging, and cookware, presents concern for individuals, communities, and the environment.

While the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is driving the thorough and rigorous development of PFAS analysis protocols in wastewater and biosolids, they are still in development. The long standing fact remains that biosolids land application is an excellent way to recycle wastewater solids as long as the material is quality controlled. It returns valuable nutrients to the soil and enhances conditions for vegetative growth. Furthermore, the use of biosolids in land application reduces the amount of wastewater solids disposed of in landfills, costs for the community, the production of greenhouse gasses, and affords space in landfills for other types of waste.

“MABA members take pride in their adherence to quality control regulations for the biosolids they produce and apply in the region,” said Marek, “And we encourage the state based environmental agencies to take action on PFAS. We want to work together with these groups to determine hotspots for PFAS across the region and work with wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) to identify and eliminate industrial discharges to public sewers.”

Pennsylvanians alone produce an estimated 2.2 million tons of wastewater solids, or sewage sludge and residential septage, each year, nearly a quarter of a ton per household. This material has proven to be a valuable resource, when controlled and safely applied, as a fertilizer to help rejuvenate farmland, forests and minelands. Many farmers in the mid-atlantic region have been able to reduce input costs while maintaining productivity in their fields with the use of municipal biosolids. Land application of biosolids is a historically safe and sustainable method to achieve a functioning circular economy that eliminates waste and enhances the environment.

The MABA Board issued a position statement of biosolids PFAS to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in December 2021, related to proposed changes to general permits for land application of biosolids in the Commonwealth.

The Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association (MABA), founded in 1997, is a non-profit organization devoted to ensuring that biosolids are recognized everywhere as a valuable community resource through the communication of the benefits of biosolids resources within the wastewater community and the communities we serve.


You can download a copy of the press release here



Composting is an enduring process for transforming biosolids into a Class A EQ product. Compost facilities in the mid-Atlantic region span a full array of sizes, technologies, and ownership models.  The region has facilities located both at small water reclamation plants and at large treatment plants. It has windrow systems, enclosed static pile, and in-vessel agitated beds. Composting is done with various amendments -- purchased wood chips, yard debris, and organic matter recovered from solid waste. The region has various ownerships -- municipally-owned and operated composting, municipally-owned and contract-operated, and privately-owned merchant facilities. The common element to all of this variety is a product that is has a firm place in the landscape market for use in residential and commercial landscaping, as a component in soil blending, and as a specialty amendment for agriculture.  Biosolids compost is a well-tested and well-accepted soil product. What is more, at least two more biosolids composting facilities are in permitting within the region.  Below are several of the branded biosolids compost products made by MABA members

McGill SoilBuilder Premium Compost

McGillFor more than 30 years, McGill Environmental Systems has designed, built, and operated state-of-the-art indoor facilities for industrial-scale production of McGill SoilBuilder Premium Compost.   It manufactures this premium compost product through the processing and recycling of non-hazardous, biodegradable by-products and residuals from municipal, industrial, and agribusiness sources. The McGill Regional Composting Facility at Waverly (McGill-Waverly) opened in 2008.  It is in Sussex County, Virginia, near the town of Waverly.  Its primary service area includes the coastal mid-Atlantic region.  This encompasses the District of Columbia south through Richmond-Tidewater to northeastern North Carolina. McGill-Waverly accepts all types of biodegradable materials including food waste and compostable plastics.  It is designed to receive and process source-separated wastes transported in roll-off containers, tractor-trailer rigs, and other commercial vehicles that can safely tip into the receiving bunker. Located on a former timber tract, the operation processes in both banked and encapsulated bays with aerated curing.  Aerated curing eliminates the need for windrow turners at this facility.
For more information, contact Sean Fallon, Business Development Manager, [email protected], 919-406-4270. The Waverly facility is located at 5056 Beef Steak Rd, Waverly, VA 23890.

WeCare Compost

WeCareWeCare Denali, a division of Denali Water Technologies, operates 24 composting facilities around the United States, two of which are county-owned biosolids composting plants.  The Burlington Biosolids Composting Facility is a 300 ton per day capacity composting facility in Columbus, NJ, owned by Burlington County, but operated by WeCare Denali, serving about 20 agencies in the county and beyond.  It is the largest biosolids facility in New Jersey under contract operations. The Rockland Green Co-Composting Facility, owned by the Rockland County Solid Waste Authority, recycles biosolids from wastewater plants in Rockland County, NY. At both plants, biosolids are mixed with clean wood waste and then composted in in-vessel agitated bed composting systems. The finished product is used on golf courses, flower gardens, and landscaping projects, and are also ingredients in topsoil This plant is adjacent to the Authority's Materials Recovery Facility and Transfer Station in Hillburn, NY. WeCare Denali markets a suite of WeCare Compost products under its WeCare Compost, Mulch, & Soil line.

For more information, contact national sales manager, Ryan J. Cerrato, [email protected], 315-575-4595. The Burlington facility address is 800 Coc-co Lane, PO Box 318, Columbus, NJ 08022. The Rockland facility is 1988420 Torne Valley Road, Hillburn, NY 10931.

 ORGRO High Organic Compost

baltimoreORGRO is a product of the Baltimore City Compost Facility, a facility owned and operated by Veolia, under contract with the city of Baltimore Department of Public Works. This facility, which was first built in 1984, processes a 45 dry ton per day portion of the anaerobically digested biosolids from the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, the balance made into a thermally dried product. The compost plant produces about 35,000 cubic yards of compost in through in vessel composting and extended curing. This facility is one of the original national examples of a public-private partnership, and one of the original programs for commercial marketing of biosolids to commercial landscapers.
For more information, contact Tom Fantom, project manager, [email protected], 410-354-1636. The facility address is 5800 Quarantine Road, Baltimore, MD, 21266.

Landscaper’s Advantage

A&MLandscaper’s Advantage is the product of the A&M Compost Facility, a large enclosed static pile composting plant owned and operated in Manheim, Pennsylvania by the J.P. Mascaro company.  It is a merchant plant, accepting biosolids from a wide reach of plants in the mid-Atlantic. The facility is nearly 15 acres under roof.  Its website offers a “virtual tour” slide deck describing the components of its operation and its environmental controls, which includes under one cover both aerated composting and biofiltration.  A&M is managed by a registered professional engineer, Ryan Inch, PE, and a compost specialist, Mark Hubbard.  

For more information, contact Matt Mascaro, [email protected],  267-228-5288. The facility is located at 2022 Mountain Rd, Manheim, PA 17545.

 earthlife Compost

hawkridgeThe Hawk Ridge Composting Facility, New England’s largest compost facility, is owned and operated by Casella Organics, a MABA Board member  This facility uses an in-vessel tunnel system (the Gicom Tunnel) to compost a blend of biosolids with woodchips and sawdust, producing a screened compost with the tradename earthlIfe.  Recently, Hawk Ridge reached the distinction of delivering its one-millionth cubic yard of compost. Its wholesale customers include golf courses, nurseries, garden centers, and athletic facilities. 
For more information, contact John Leslie, [email protected], 207-461-1000. The facility is located at 3 Reynolds Road, Unity, ME 04988. 

July 2022 - Sally Brown Research Library & Commentary

Sally Brown

Provided for consideration to MABA members by
Sally Brown, PhD., University of Washington


Resource Accounting

This graphic pretty much sums up the topic of this month’s library:


In the past we’ve focused on the Circular Economy (March 2019) and Global Nitrogen Perspective (May 2022). You put those two together and you get the need for nutrient budgets or nutrient accounting for specific regions. This is taking that trendy term ‘Locavore’ and making it suitable for peer review. At least in the peer review version, coffee is recommended as an accompaniment no matter how far away it has to come from to get to your cup. I needed some tools to stay awake while reading these papers.

While tedious to read, the concepts this month are pretty cool and spot on to what we do. Each of the papers attempts to figure out how to do nutrient budgets and track nutrient flows for specific regions. If you really want to have a circular economy and to rein in excess nutrients- it makes sense to take stock of what you have and how you use it. That involves a consideration of what is grown or produced in a region and what is consumed. It also means accounting for the leftovers.

The first paper in the library: Towards a circular nutrient economy. A novel way to analyze the circularity of nutrient flows in food systems includes Sean Smukler as an author. Sean is an old time veteran of NW Biosolids- having gotten his MS with Chuck Henry from UW. He is now a professor at UBC-University of British Columbia. Here they go into detail on how to do nutrient accounting for a region. Google maps is much simpler in comparison. Normal circular economy accounting they say just takes into account what is grown in a region and where it gets eaten and what is eaten in a region and where it is grown. Kind of like this:


Way too simple. Instead use this:


For a true circular economy or food system, you want to minimize losses and imports. The same authors take this approach to the Okanagan for the second paper: Assessing the circularity of nutrient flows related to the food system in the Okanagan bioregion, BC Canada.

To do this the authors looked at what and where food is grown in the region and how much of that is exported. They also considered animal production and waste and finally human production and waste. They focused on nitrogen, phosphorus potassium and
magnesium. Not sure why on the Mg, but there you have it. Soil weathering and release of nutrients as well as aerial deposition were also considered. Here is what the above diagram translates to for phosphorus in that region:

One of their big conclusions is that you have to take residuals into account when you do this kind of mapping.

From here we look at equivalent maps in different parts of Europe. The 3rd paper takes us to France: Current and potential recycling of exogenous organic matter as fertilizers and amendments in a French peri-urban territory. One of the authors on this did a model of soil carbon accumulation for exogenous organic matter (read residuals) that was featured in the March 2021 library. It is interesting to compare the Canadian and European perspectives here. For this and the remaining two papers in the library, the carbon content of residuals is also considered as a resource worth conserving. Another difference is the view of wastewater treatment and biosolids. First
of all, in Europe you can forget biosolids. They have sewage sludge over there. Secondly, in these papers there is a recognition that the wastewater treatment process itself is very leaky when it comes to nitrogen. If you really want to use nitrogen in human waste, urine diversion is the way to go. Here is what the nutrient budget looks like for the region they studied, a moderately urbanized area outside of Paris:

The 4th paper takes us to Germany to a region with lots of livestock: Restoring nutrient circularity in a nutrient-saturated area in Germany requires systemic change. Here the authors talk about the N:P:K ratios of the different materials and how there is too much P in the region in relation to N and to crop demand. They also point out that of the total N, P and K that enters wastewater plants, only 24, 92 and 2% are conserved during treatment. If you up that N percentage, you get a much better ratio for land application. In this case it doesn’t really matter because the vast majority of that good cake is sent to the incinerator.

The last paper takes us to the Netherlands and to a focus of an urban system: Harvest to harvest: Recovering nutrients with New Sanitation systems for reuse in Urban Agriculture. Again, a big focus on nutrient loss during wastewater treatment and a big aversion to biosolids. The authors spend a lot of time talking about urine diversion.

Everybody get ready to pee into a cup...

The authors consider both rooftop and in soil urban agriculture and do a coarse budget to see if the nutrients from residuals generated in the city could be used to grow vegetables to feed the people in the city:

What a wonderful vision that is! It is even better when you read that their conclusion is basically – yes you can. 

Sally Brown is a is a Research Associate Professor at the University of Washington, and she is also a columnist and editorial board member for BioCycle magazine.  


Do you have information or research to share with MABA members? Looking for other research focus or ideas?

Contact Mary Firestone at [email protected] or 845-901-7905.


MABA Event Presentations

2021 Annual Meeting Symposium on Resilience

2021 MABA Summer Virtual Technical Symposium

2021 Webinar - May 18 2021 on Solids Treatment

2021 Webinar - March 2021 on Enhanced Digestion

2021 Webinar - January 19 2021 on Finding Energy in Biosolids

2020 November Phosphorus 101 Webinar

2020 Summer Webinar Series

2019 Summer Symposium

2018 Annual Meeting & Symposium

2018 Summer Symposium

2017 Annual Meeting & Symposium

2017 Summer Symposium

2017 NJWEA Workshop

2016 Annual Meeting & Symposium

2016 Summer Symposium

2016 NJWEA Workshop