Format for

Multistate Research Activity

Accomplishments Report


Project/Activity Number: 


Project Title: Application of Sewage Biosolids to Agricultural Soils in the Northeast: Long-Term Impacts and Beneficial Uses


Period Covered: July 2003-June 2004


Date of This Report: September 2004


Annual Meeting Dates: July 8-9, 2004



Bowman, Dwight                      Cornell, Microbiology and Immunology

Elliot, Chip                               Penn State, Ag and Bio Engineering (July 8)

Harrison, Ellen                          Cornell, Waste Management Institute

Hay, Anthony                           Cornell, Microbiology (July 8)

Kim, Bojeong                           Cornell, Environmental Toxicology

Liotta, Janice                            Cornell, Microbiology and Immunology

Lucio Forster, Araceli               Cornell, Microbiology and Immunology

McBride, Murray                     Cornell, Crop and Soil Sciences

Morant, Mervalin                      USDA-CSREES, Natural Resources and Environment

Osher, Laurie                           U of Maine, Soil and Water Quality

Peckenham, John                      U of Maine, Mitchell Center

Pfeffer, Max                             Cornell (July 8), sitting in for Administrative Advisor Dan Decker

Richards, Brian                         Cornell, Bio and Env Engineering

Scherer, Emily                          Cornell, Waste Management Institute

Steenhuis, Tammo                    Cornell, Bio and Env Engineering

Stehouwer, Richard                  Penn State, Agronomy (July 8)

Wise, Abigail                            Cornell, Microbiology (July 8)

Zubris, Kimberly                       Cornell, Bio and Env Engineering (July 8)


For a list of all committee members see:


Brief summary of minutes of annual meeting: See URL:


Accomplishments and Impacts:



            This project examines the application of sewage biosolids to agricultural soils in the northeastern U.S.  Primary focus of this year's research was the presence, fate and transport of nutrients (with an emphasis on P) and contaminants (with an emphasis on copper, molybdenum and selected organic compounds of emerging concern)Committee research regarding fate and transport of P suggests a P management that should a) consider soil test P interpretation based on environmental risk; b) recognize buffer zone practices the mitigate P export; c) consider source P solubility differences; and d) consider P source phytoavailability differences.  Regarding fate and transport of Mo it was found that cumulative loading of Mo is not relevant and that pH is key to Mo availability.  Research comparing different soil testing methods shows that most standard methods are not measuring biologically important concentrations and point to the need for revised methods.

            Based on the committee’s work, research and extension publications have been produced that provide research-based information on the availability of phosphorus from biosolids, the relation of biosolids application to soil acidification and resultant leaching, an assessment of environmental impacts of biosolids application on a dairy farm, and guidance for dairy farmers regarding land application. On a national level, the committee was involved in developing and piloting methods for engaging stakeholders in sewage biosolids research.


Plans for the coming year:

- Develop recommendations regarding land application of sewage biosolids specific to the Northeast.

- Produce a publication on testing of soils and sewage biosolids.

- Become a coordinating committee to continue meeting in future years.



Akhtar, M.Saleem, T.S. Steenhuis, B.K. Richards, and M.B. McBride.  2003.  Chloride and Lithium Transport in Large Arrays of Undisturbed Silt Loam and Sandy Loam soil Columns.  Vadose Zone Journal.  2:715-727.

Brandt, R.C., H.A. Elliott, and G.A. O’Connor.  2004.  Water-Extractable Phosphorus in Biosolids:  Implications for Land-Based Recycling.  Water Environment Research.  76(2): 121-129.

Harrison, Ellen, L. Telega, M. McBride, S. Bossard, L. Chase, D. Bouldin, and K. Czymmek.  2003.  “Considerations for Dairy Farms Regarding Use of Sewage Sludges, Sludge Products, and Septage.”  Cornell Waste Management Institute publication.

La Guardia, Mark, R. Hale, E. Harvey, E. Bush, T. Mainor, and M. Gaylor.  2004.  Organic Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Land-Applied Sewage Sludge (Biosolids).  Journal of Residuals Science & Technology. 1(2):111-122.

Martinez, Carmen Enid, A.R. Jacobson, and M.B. McBride.  2003.  Aging and Temperature Effects on Doc and Elemental Release from a Metal Contaminated Soil.  Environmental Pollution. 122:135-143. 

McBride, Murray.  2003.  Toxic Metals in Sewage Sludge-Amended Soils: Has Promotion of Beneficial use Discounted the Risks?  Advances in Environmental Research. 8:5-19.

McBride, Murray and J. Cherney.  2004.  Molybdenum, Sulfur and Other Trace Elements in Farm Soils and Forages After Sewage Sludge Application.  Communication in Soil Science and Plant Analysis. 35:517-535.

McBride, Murray, and B. Hale.  2004.  Molybdenum Extractability in Soils and Uptake by Alfalfa 20 Years after Sewage Sludge Application.  Soil Science. 169:505-514.

McBride, Murry, E.A. Nibarger, B.K. Richards, and T.S. Steenhuis.  2003.  Trace metal accumulation by red clover grown on sewage sludge-amended soils and correlation to Mehlich 3 and calcium chloride-extractable metals. Soil Science.  168:29-38.

McBride, Murray and B. Richards.  “Testing soils for trace metals from land-applied wastes.”  Working paper for NE 1001.

McBride, Murray, B.K. Richards, and T.S. Steenhuis.  2004.  Bioavailability and Crop Uptake of Trace Elements in Soil Columns Amended with Sewage Sludge Products.  Plant and Soil.  262:71-84.

McBride, Murray.  2003.  Cadmium Concentration Limits in Agricultural Soils: Weaknesses in USEPA’s Risk Assessment and the 503 Rule.  Human and Ecological Risk Assessment. 9(3):661-674.

O’Connor, G.A., D. Sarkar, S.R. Brinton, H.A. Elliott, and F.G. Martin.  2004.  Phytoavailability of Biosolids-Phosphorus. J. Environ. Qual.  33:703-712.

Peckenham, John.  2004.  Maine Biosolids Stockpiling Study Summary Report, August 2004, Prepared For Maine Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, Augusta, Maine, 50 p.

Qureshi, Shabnam, B. Richards, A.G. Hay, C.C. Tsai, M.B. McBride, P. Baveye, and T.S. Steenhuis.  2003.  Effect of Microbial Activity on Trace Element Release from Sewage Sludge.  Environmental Science and Technology.  37:3361-3366.

Qureshi, Shabnam, B. Richards, M.B. McBride, P. Baveye, and T.S. Steenhuis.  2003.  Temperature and Microbial Activity Effects on Trace Element Leaching from Metalliferous Peats.  Journal of Environmental Quality.  32:2067-2075.

Qureshi, Shabnam, B. Richards, T.S. Steenhuis, M.B. McBride, P. Baveye, and S. Dousset.  2004.  Microbial acidification and pH effects on trace element release from sewage sludge.  Environmental Pollution.  132(1):16-71. 

Richards, Brian, N. Peranginangin, T.S. Steenhuis and L.D. Geohring.  2003.  The unintentional secret. (Non-refereed feature article on preferential flow phenomena.) Journal of Soil & Water Conservation, September-October 2003.  59(5):104A-105A.

Richards, Brian, B.M. Schulte, A. Heilig, T.S. Steenhuis, M. McBride, and E. Harrison.  Environmental impacts of applying manure, fertilizer, and sewage biosolids on a dairy farm.  Journal of the American Water Resources Association.  V. 40 p. 1025-1042.

Stehouwer, R.C. 2004. Soil Science Fundamentals: Part IV. The biology of soils. BioCycle: Journal of Composting and Recycling. 45(6):46-52.

Stehouwer, R.C. 2004. Soil Science Fundamentals: Part III. Soil chemistry and the quality of soil humus. BioCycle: Journal of Composting and Recycling. 45(4):41-48.

Stehouwer, R.C. 2003. Soil Science Fundamentals: Part II. Water and air essentials. BioCycle: Journal of Composting and Recycling. 44(11):30-32.

Stehouwer, R.C. 2003. Soil Science Fundamentals: Part I. Soil formation and soil components. BioCycle: Journal of Composting and Recycling. 44(10):44-51.

Stehouwer, Richard and K.E. Macneal.  2004.  Effect of alkaline stabilized biosolids on alfalfa molybdenum and copper content. J. Environ. Qual. 33:133-140.


Authorization: Electronic signature of the Administrative Advisor, with the date.