Annual Report

NE 1001 Meeting June 2002


Project/Activity Title:            Application of Sewage Biosolids to Agricultural Soils in the Northeast: Long-term Impacts and Benefit Uses

Period Covered:                     06-2001 to 06-2002
Date of Report:                       08-14-2002

Annual Meeting Dates: 06-17-2002 to 06-18-2002


Brief summary of minutes of annual meeting:
Committee Business: The committee decided that officers would serve 2-year terms. As of this meeting, Uta Krogmann is co-Chair with Ellen Harrison and Christine Bean assumes duties of Secretary.

The meeting commenced with a welcome from one of the co-chairs, Ellen Harrison, and introductions around the table. The meeting agenda was reviewed and approved.

The June 17th early morning session began with Tony Ho discussing regulatory/scientific issues related to sewage biosolids, industrial residuals and livestock manure. Silver, antimony, beryllium and thallium are elements that might limit site life. Discussion included the need to look at groundwater, not soil, for pesticide and trace organic levels. Tony expressed an interest in collaborating with U.S. sites for pathogen level comparisons. Trent U is looking at pharmaceuticals in sludges. The City of Toronto is undertaking a health study. Guelph, U. Ottawa and Agriculture Food Canada are beginning a project on pathogens and groundwater. Michael Payne who discussed the Proposed NMA and description of the Act followed Tony. Discussion included questions about local laws on land application, crop requirements for loading restrictions and who will present training courses.

The third morning session was on “Public Attitudes and Knowledge about Biosolids” presented by Heather Clark, a graduate student of Jim Shanahan’s at Cornell. Discussion included type of biosolids being land applied in NY, a look at the survey itself and how to assess non-responders.

Following the early morning session, Ellen Harrison gave a Regulatory Update, which included new information on dioxin levels and molybdenum. Tony Ho discussed a classification system to rate odors and develop ID50 values for hog and cattle manures. Ellen shared information on several studies currently under way, which address odors and include Pat Millner’s group at USDA, Beltsville and Susan Schiffman at Duke University.

The session continued with Chip Elliott discussing water extractable phosphorous in biosolids and manures as an indicator of environmental impact. The P content of sludges is increasing. There is not a good correlation between total P and water extractable P in sludges and water extractable P varies greatly with sludge treatment. Potential long-term changes in availability of P in soils to which sludge has been applied are not known. Tammo Steenhuis continued with a presentation on leaching of trace elements and what affect that has on groundwater. Discussion included lifetime loading limits and how pH affects loading limits. Overall only a small percent of the measured metals leached. The leachability is a good indicator of bioavailability to crops. Application of sludges depressed soil pH (except for advanced alkaline stabilized sludge). T. Steenhuis presented a second talk on field and laboratory studies of leaching. Experiments found high S in sludges and bacterial action caused pH to drop and subsequent leaching. Bill McDowell completed the morning session with his discussion on biosolids effect on water quality at a soil manufacturing site in NH where both sewage and papermill sludges were applied. Large spatial variability in nitrogen concentration in monitoring wells was observed and appeared related to location of stockpiles. Stockpiling: Working towards outlawing it in NH; allowed for up to 7 days in PA; VT does not allow it; VA moving towards allowing it. Discussion included the slope of the gravel layer being a factor in movement and how to study this movement. Bill Goldfarb explained that it is difficult to regulate in the interim without real conclusive scientific data on movement.

Interest was expressed in having those in the committee interested in soil/water/plant metals work together on data interpretation. Data have been collected by McDowell in NH, Stehouwer in PA, the Cornell group in NYS and in Guelph with the Guelph group.

Afternoon sessions began with Murray McBride presenting data on Mo and Cd in soils an uptake in plants as part of a collaborative project with Bev Hale and Les Evans at Guelph and Jerry Cherney at Cornell. Long-term application sites in Guelph, Elora and Cambridge were studied. Mo is more available at high pH. More than 50% of the Mo is no longer in the soil as calculated from estimated soil loading. Approximately 5% is lost each year. Jennifer Hargreaves, a student of Bev Hale’s at of U of Guelph, continued and presented newly developed tin and thallium methods for testing for these unregulated metals. Uta Krogmann presented sludge data from New Jersey POTWs >1 MGD with >4 years data. Discussion included questions regarding laboratories performing tests and whether the lab is in or outside labs and whether they are certified. All data were from certified labs. Even so, some of the minimums and maximums reported were not realistic values. Cd, Cu and Pb were significantly higher in sludges from WWTP with >10% industrial input. Pb and Zn were lower in smaller WWTP than larger ones. The standard deviation for TKN, P and Pb were higher from small facilities. Ellen Harrison presented Septage Quality of domestic land applied septage. There are remarkably few data on septage quality. Existing data indicate that cumulative loading limits for a number of metals may be exceeded in relatively few applications. Discussion included the fact that in Canada there are no data on septage quality. Some of the problems with septage disposal at WWTP include the need for facilities at the WWTP to hold it and bleed it in slowly due to the strength and also treatment plants location. Issues with reliability and reproducibility of data arose due to variability between labs. Tony Ho suggested expanding survey to apply for funding increasing sample numbers for septage. Harrison, Chip Elliott and Bill McDowell expressed interest.

The afternoon session was completed with a presentation on organic contaminants from Mark LaGuardia, which included discussion of endocrine disrupters and PCB degradation. The sludge set provided by Cornell, samples of Toronto sludge, as well as soil from the Cornell orchard site were among samples analyzed. No BDE’s were detected in old orchard soil (sludge was from 1978 and BDE’s not used until 1975). Sludge treatment processes resulted in reduction in PCB’s and PBDE’s perhaps due to volatilization. Discussion included questions about where these organics are going and if they are volatilizing from fields as BDEs. Michael Payne presented his 4-month stockpile study of nutrients, bacteria and temperature. Bacteria did not die off. Very little P leached. The concentration of N was higher in July than May while P showed the opposite trend. Discussions included how do these stockpiles compare to real 2-3 ton piles? Management practices were also discussed as well as set backs being the most reasonable practice.

Anthony Hay from Cornell gave the final presentation for June 17th. He discussed bacterial degradation of nonylphenols. Discussion included the effect on earthworms and soil health and the fact that this is an environmental health concern, not a human health concern. Estimate no effect level in soil is 1.37 mg/kg (Envt. Canada) for earthworm reproduction. Recent USGS study showed nonylphenols in 60% of streams. Concentrations in sludges in upstate NY are 1129-1840 ppm. Soil concentration at one sludge-applied site was 3.4 mg/kg. NP’s persist in anaerobic environments. Half-life in soil appears directly related to size of sludge granule. A discussion followed regarding the potential for even very small losses of some toxic organics to groundwater can result in water quality violations and health concerns due to the low levels considered to present a risk. Most standards are based on models that do not account for preferential flow. Use of field based testing was suggested, but limits regarding detection and the specifics of each field setting are drawbacks. Steenhuis suggested that we seek European data, which are often ignored in the U.S.

Pathogen presentations began on day two (June 18th) with presentation from Jacqueline Brabants and Christine Bean of UNH. The speakers stressed the need for improved methods of detection of pathogens in biosolids. For example, Ascaris is used as an indicator organism for Class A, but was not detected above the Class A standard in any of the raw sludge samples tested. Thirty percent of the samples were positive for Cryptosporidium, but no correlation was found with Ascaris. Methodology of detection had a strong bearing on monitoring for pathogens. Discussion included a question about the use of Clostridium perfringens as an indicator organism.

Other Discussion Topics and Current Research:

• Larry Swanson (SUNY Stony Brook) described concerns over radioactive materials in waste. He is involved in a study of radioactivity in biosolids at several WWTP on Long Island looking at facilities that do and do not include hospitals.

• Tony Ho listed ideas for research priorities to include; Presence and concentration of PCB/PBEE; Health impact of biosolids use; Human Health and Environmental Health literature review- City of Toronto; Quebec Ministry-literature review on biosolids aerosols (in French, will be translated); Biological agents in aerosols from paper biosolids- fungus and bacteria; Analytical methods for pharmaceuticals in sewage and biosolids (Trent U); Quantifying odors

• Ellen Harrison gave an update on the “Sludge Victims”- persons alleging health impacts from land application and the lack of agency tracking or investigation.

• Goldfarb mentioned the poor enforcement and compliance regarding biosolids and low penalties assessed even when enforcement actions are taken.

• Swanson and Goldfarb brought up the issue of reopening discussions on ocean disposal of biosolids

• Shanahan discussed research planned on knowledge, awareness and perception of risk on the part of NYS dairy farmers regarding sludge use.

• Cornell maintains roughly 90 soil columns from sludge application experiment.

• McBride and Guelph collaborators continue to take data on long-term Guelph plots. They may do a metal mass balance, but are unsure if loading rate estimates are good enough to make this worthwhile.

• Streibig at PSC is characterizing odor compounds.

• Stenhouwer at PSU is doing a project on strip mine reclamation and nitrate.

• McDowell is finishing up research at the mine reclamation/soil-manufacturing site.

• Dan Decker advised that the group stays focused and that there is no human health in the proposal.

• Interest in engaging and economist was discussed.

To Do/Collaboration:

• Sample sharing- UNH will share samples with Anthony Hay of Cornell

• NE Directors are considering an RFP on rural land use via the NE Ctr. for Rural Development. Dan Decker will share with the group.

• Septage: Find out how septage is being handled in each of our states and Ontario. (Land application is not allowed in NJ, is allowed in NY, NH, PA) There is a need for data. Steenhuis suggested lab problems might explain some of the high variability in data. Contacting Ann Wolf at PSU lab was suggested. Harrison, Tony Ho, Chip Elliott and Bill McDowell expressed interest in considering further work on septage quality

• Interest was expressed in having those in the committee interested in soil/water/plant metals work together on date interpretation. Data have been collected by McDowell in NH, Stehouwer in PA, the Cornell group in NYS and in Guelph with the Guelph group. A meeting of this sub-group was proposed and Cornell will take the lead.

• Steenhuis suggested that we seek European data, which are often ignored in the U.S.

• A Special Education Publication of the American Society of Agronomy on “biosolids and their land application” has been proposed. Daniel Gimenez (Rutgers) was approached by the ASA and in turn approached NE1001 to work on this publication. Prior to the June 2002 meeting, the extension subcommittee (Krogmann, Harrison and Stehouwer) met by phone and agreed that this was worth exploring. Daniel Gimenez of Rutgers presented information on the production of an educational publication on biosolids and land application. A 40-page booklet on general information is to be created in approximately one year. The NE1001 group agreed that this would increase the visibility of the biosolids issue and that we would like to be involved. The target audience would not be experts, but other scientists not in the field, teachers and policy makers for use for classes, legislators and public officials and to get good science into the political process. Dan Decker suggested that a subcommittee work on the project and another group do peer review so that the committee sanctifies the product. The scope and a detailed outline would be submitted for ASA approval. Then once written, ASA writing staff would edit it. A number of questions were raised and Gimenez will follow up with ASA. Volunteers to work on the project with Daniel Gimenez include Uta Krogmann, Bill Goldfarb, Ellen Harrison, Rick Stehouwer and Larry Swanson.

Other Meetings/Reports:

• National Academy of Sciences Report will be released 7/2/02 to the public

• SETAC meeting will have a session on biosolids/gray water section 11/02 co-chaired by Hale and Harrison

• Next NE1001 meeting will be held at Cornell University 6/03


Significant progress was made over the year in meeting the project objectives:

Objective 1: To evaluate the utilization of sewage biosolids in soil management in the Northeast by assessing the sustainability of soil quality, water quality and food safety (for people and other animals) where sewage biosolids are applied to agricultural land.

Project Progress: Research results for the following work were reported: Water extractable P in Biosolids and Manures: Evaluation and Implications-Chip Elliott, Penn State University; Long term leaching of tract elements-Brian Richards, presented by Tammo Steenhuis, Cornell; Nitrate and metals in groundwater beneath a biosolids application site-Bill McDowell, UNH; Availability of Mo and Cd to bromegrass 20 years after sewage sludge application to a high-lime soil-Murray McBride, Cornell; Analytical methods for tine and thallium in biosolids-Jennifer Hargreaves, University of Guelph; Septage Quality and land application-Ellen Harrison, Cornell; Selected nutrients and heavy metals in sewage sludge from New Jersey POTW’s-Uta Krogmann, Rutgers; Effects of Stabilization Process on Organic Contaminants in Biosolids-Mark LaGuardia, William & Mary; Stockpile Study-Michael Payne, OMAF; Evaluation of Bacterial, Enteric Virus, Protozoan and Helminth Persistence in Class B Lime Stabilized Sludge (Part I)-Jacqueline Brabants, UNH; Evaluation of Bacterial, Enteric Virus, Protozoan and Helminth Persistence in Class B Lime Stabilized Sludge (Part II)-Christine Bean, UNH.

Objective 2: To evaluate the legal, social, and political aspects of long-term utilization of sewage sludge products in the Northeast and to identify modes of stakeholder participation in biosolids utilization decision-making.

Research results for the following work were reported: Regulatory/scientific issues related to sewage biosolids, industrial residuals, livestock manure- Tony Ho, OME; Ontario’s Bill 81- Michael Payne, OMAFRA; Measuring Public Knowledge of and Attitudes about Biosolids- Heather Clark and Jim Shanahan, Cornell.

Objective 3: To develop appropriate outreach materials and educational events for the Northeast that links the current research to actual field management of sewage biosolids products in the Northeast.

Project Progress: Dairy farms guidance document-Ellen Harrison, Cornell; Educational Publication on Biosolids and Land Application-Daniel Gimenez, Rutgers.


Barker, A.V. 2001. Evaluation of composts for growth of grass sods. Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 32: 1841-1860.

Brandt, R. C., H.A. Elliott, and G.A. O’Connor. 2001. Comparative evaluation of water extractable phosphorus in biosolids and livestock manures.  Poster. Southern Extension-Research Activity (SERA-17) annual committee meeting, State College, PA. June 19-20.

Hale, R.C., M.J. La Guardia. 2001. Directions in Science: Synthetic organic pollutants in land-applied sewage sludges. The ScientificWorld 1, 10-13.

Harrison, E.Z. and M. Eaton. 2001. The role of municipalities in regulating the land application of sewage sludges and septage. Natural Resources Journal 41:77-123.

Krogmann, U., Gibson, V., and Chess, C. 2001. Land application of sewage sludge: perceptions of New Jersey vegetable farmers. Waste Manage. Res. 19(2) 115-125.

LaGuardia, M.J., R.C. Hale, E. Harvey and T.M. Mainor. 2001. Alkylphenol ethoxylate degradation products in land applied sewage sludges (biosolids). Env. Sci. Technol. 35:4798-4804.

McBride, M.B. 2001. Cupric ion activity in peat soil as a toxicity indicator for maize. Journal of Environmental Quality, 30, 78-84.

McBride, M.B. and G. Spiers. 2001. Trace element content of selected fertilizers and dairy manures as determined by ICP-MS. Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal., 32, 139-156.

O’Connor, G.A., H.A. Elliott, S.R. Brinton, and D. Sarkar. 2001.  Plant availability of biosolids-P. American Society of Agronomy, Charlotte, NC. October 21-25. Annual Mtg. Abstracts.

O’Connor, G.A. and H.A. Elliott. 2002. Co-application of biosolids and water treatment residuals. World Congress of Soil Science Proceedings. Bangkok, Thailand.  August 13-16.

O’Connor, G.A. and H.A. Elliott. 2001. Co-Application of biosolids and water treatment residuals. Final Project  Report. Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, Tallahassee, FL.

Taylor, M. and H.A. Elliott. 2001. Molybdenum content of water treatment residuals. Proc. Residuals and Biosolids Conference, Water Environ. Federation. Feb 21-24, San Diego, CA.

Barker, A.V. and G.M. Bryson. 2002. Bioremediation of heavy metals and organic toxicants by composting. The Scientific World 2:407-420.

Bryson, G.M. and A.V. Barker. 2002. Sodium accumulation in soils and plants along Massachusetts roadsides. Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Analysis 33:67-78.

Bryson, G.M. and A.V. Barker. 2002. Determination of optimal fertilizer concentration range for tomatoes grown in peat-based medium. Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Analysis 33:759-777.

Elliott, H.A., G.A. O’Connor, and S. Brinton. 2002. Phosphorus Leaching from Biosolids-Amended Sandy Soils. J. Environ. Qual. 31:681-689.

Elliott, H.A., G.A. O’Connor, P. Lu and S. Brinton. 2002. Influence of Water Treatment Residuals on Phosphorus Solubility and Leaching.  J. Environ. Qual. 31: 1362-1369.

Hale, R.C. and M.J. La Guardia. 2002. Have risks associated with the presence of synthetic organic contaminants in land-applied sewage sludges been adequately assessed? New Solutions. V. 12, (4), in press

Hale, R.C. and M.J. La Guardia. 2002. Emerging contaminants of concern in coastal and estuarine environments. Chapter 3 in Risk Assessment in Coastal and Estuarine Environments. Ed. M.C. Newman, M.H. Roberts Jr. and R.C. Hale. pp. 41-72.

Harrison, E.Z. and S. R. Oakes. 2002. Investigation of alleged health incidents associated with land application of sewage sludges. New Solutions. V. 12, (4), in press.

LaGuardia, M.J., R.C. Hale, E. Harvey, E. Bush, M.T. Tainor, and M. Gaylor. 2002. The Fate of Wastewater Treatment of Alkylphenol Ethoxylates and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers. DC Water and Sewer Authority Workshop on Endocrine Disrupters. April 16.

McBride, MB. 2002. Cadmium uptake by crops estimated from soil total Cd and pH. Soil Science 167, 62-67.

McBride, M.B. and L.J. Evans. 2002. Trace metal extractability in soils and uptake by bromegrass 20 years after sewage sludge application. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 82, 323-333.

McDowell, W. H. and T. J. Chestnut. 2002. Monitoring Demonstration at a Top-Soil Manufacturing Site in New Hampshire. Final Report to DES and NH State Legislature, June 1998 - November 2001.

O'Brien, T.A., S.J. Herbert, and A.V. Barker. 2002. Growth of corn in varying mixtures of paper mill sludge and soil. Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 33:635-646.

O’Connor, G.A., H.A. Elliott, and P. Lu. 2002. Characterizing Water Treatment Residuals Phosphorus Retention. Soil Crop Sci. Soc. Florida. 61: in press.

Pryor, Scott W., Anthony G. Hay, and Larry P. Walker. 2002. Nonylphenol in anaerobically digested sewage sludge from New York State. Envir. Sci. and Tech. 36:3678-3682