Sunday, April 24, 2011

Washington DC to Make Better $#!*

Blue Plains upgrade could produce valuable farm fertilizer, but critics are wary

Blue Plains Treatment Plant
Blue Plains is the sewage treatment plant for all of Washington DC.  Located on the Potomac River just within the southern border of the district, it processes an average of 375 million gallons per day.  As for the solids:
...Blue Plains, for instance, for years has squeezed water out of sludge, added lime to it and dried it. This partially treated Class B biosolid is then trucked free of charge to farms, most of them in Virginia, where the fertilizer is used with substantial restrictions. The yearly cost to the facility of getting rid of the Class B solids is $10 million.

But the economics of Blue Plains biosoil could change soon, now that the facility plans to spend $400 million to upgrade its product to Class A biosolids. These are deemed safe enough to put in your mouth — though it’s not encouraged — and would carry few restrictions.

And like Milorganite, a Class A biosolid produced by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District on a smaller scale, the Blue Plains Class A solids could eventually be sold...
One of the products you can count on a large city producing is shit.  And since Washington D.C. is a city large dedicated to maintaining and developing non-material things, laws, regulations etc, shit is probably its largest single material product. 

In the course of work, I have sampled at Blue Plains.  It's remarkable to see the river of brown, well, shit, start at one end, and come out clear water.  Clearer than the river it dumps into much of the time. (That doesn't mean I'd want to drink it...).  However, you have to do something with the solids, and using it as fertilizer seems  to be an appropriate use, and having sterile Class A solids rather than potentially contaminated Class B solids seems a good thing.

Some people are never happy, however:
Opponents say no class of biosolid can be viewed as safe. In areas where it’s been spread, residents have complained of foul odors that last for weeks, queasiness and problems with their lungs. One man said a substance spread on a neighboring farm gave him a life-threatening illness.

“Now they’ve got this great product, but it still has the potential to contain chemicals,” said Chris Nidel, a lawyer who represented residents in Surry County, Va., who said foul-smelling Class B biosolids made them sick.
It's always easy to find someone who claimed something made them sick.  It's always turns out much more difficult to proved exactly what made them sick.

The article doesn't shed a lot of light on this with its discussion of the hazards of biosolids:
There are, however, known hazards: Class B biosolids contain viruses that can cause diseases such as Ebola, which can sickens and potentially kill people. Farmers need permits to spread the Class B fertilizer on pastures and are forbidden from using it for food crops. Any field treated with Class B biosolids has to be cordoned off for 30 days or more.
EBOLA?  Are you shitting me? Ebola, that's the example of a virus spread by biosolids?   Why don't you cite an actual pathogen known to be a threat from sewage, like say Hepatitis A?  I had to get Hep A shots to work safely in the Anacostia River, just a bit upstream from Blue Plains, and which doesn't have any sewage treatment plants on it.

No comments:

Post a Comment