September 8, 2020 | Biosolids

Chip In To Help Complete The National Biosolids Data Project

A fundraising campaign has been launched to complete the 2nd National Biosolids Regulation, Quality, End Use, and Disposal Survey, compiling 2018 data. “The methods and survey tools are ready; our team has been preparing them for the past year,” explains Ned Beecher, Special Projects Manager at the North East Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA) and lead researcher of the survey project. “Data collection begins in September. The report is expected by end of March 2021.” In addition to Beecher, the National Biosolids Data Project team includes Janine Burke-Wells (NEBRA); Maile Lono-Batura, Northwest Biosolids (NW Biosolids); Greg Kester, California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA); and Nora Goldstein, BioCycle.

In 2007, the same project team published survey results and data — from 2004 — on biosolids management in the U.S. These data remain the most comprehensive available and have been relied on and referenced by biosolids management professionals, engineering consultants, researchers, policy makers, regulators, and technology vendors nationwide. “This is one of the most important database pieces for resource recovery tracking,” notes Tanja Rauch-Williams, Carollo Engineers, lead author of the Water Environment Federation’s resource recovery baseline. But they are outdated, emphasized Kester, a long-time national leader in biosolids recycling: “We as a profession are weakened without data about what we do.”

For years, there have been calls for an update, however funding has been elusive. Then, a cooperative agreement with U.S. EPA Region 4 enabled the project team to complete a literature review and methodology and develop the specific data-gathering tools needed for this second national biosolids survey in 2019 through May 2020. Preparations have included consultations with expert Advisors (who are kindly continuing through the end of the project) and other key stakeholders who rely on data — university researchers, market assessment and financing firms, technology developers, and policy decision-makers. To date, $15,000 in funding has been committed by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA). “Our fundraising goal is $61,000, so we are almost a quarter of the way there,” says Beecher, who has prepared a prospectus. “We are reaching out to our colleagues and other organizations to donate to this campaign to enable completion of the 2nd National Biosolids Regulation, Quality, End Use, and Disposal Survey.”

The project team selected CY2018 as the data year, because it is at the end of a period of relatively steady biosolids markets and before the impacts of PFAS- and COVID-19-caused disruptions that have not fully played out yet. Deliverables are comprised of the final report, which will include comparisons and trends related to the National Biosolids Survey published in 2007 (reporting 2004 data) and new additional data on biosolids economics, energy, and communications. Data will be presented in spreadsheets of national and state-by-state biosolids use, resource recovery, and disposal data. In addition to preparing a manuscript for peer review and publication, the project team will author summary articles and presentations for wastewater and biosolids professional magazines and conferences. It also will provide concise methodology/Standards of Practice for the profession to conduct this survey regularly in the future in order to assess trends and heighten the standing of biosolids management as a vital activity serving the environmental, economic, and social needs of all communities. For more information, contact

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