Recent enforcement action by PADEP against a biosolids processor and topsoil blender using Exceptional Quality (EQ) biosolids warrants review of State and Federal regulations, as well as interpretation of the regulations and permit conditions. One little known regulatory interpretation in particular affects processors who are involved with top soil blending.
An EPA publication, “Control of Pathogens and Vector Attraction in Sewage Sludge,” is incorporated by reference into the EPA regulation covering biosolids: 40 CFR Part 503. This document states that EQ standards must be maintained as long as the processor maintains control of the material. Therefore, if the biosolids processor is responsible for top soil blending, “…the new product must undergo pathogen and vector attraction reduction processes and be analyzed for Part 503 parameters including pathogens, vector attraction reduction and heavy metals.”
If, however, the EQ product has left the control of the processor (for example, the WWTP or privately owned composting facility sells the EQ biosolids), then the material falls out of the jurisdiction of federal regulations and any subsequent blending of the material with other products is not covered by the Part 503 regulations.
For biosolids processors in Pennsylvania, there are additional specific requirements in the PADEP General Permit for Beneficial Use of Exceptional Quality Biosolids (PAG-07) that should also be reviewed. These permit conditions are summarized below:
- The permittee (preparer of EQ biosolids) must provide the following information in writing to the person(s) responsible for the blending operations.
- Storage of the EQ biosolids intended for blending and the final product cannot be stored for longer than 1 year.
- The amount of EQ biosolids at the blending site cannot exceed 1000 cubic yards and the final product (blended topsoil) stored by the blending operation cannot exceed 7500 cubic yards. Otherwise, a processing permit is required.
- Blending and storage activities cannot be conducted in a manner that will create conditions that are conducive to the harboring, breeding, or attraction of vectors. This means no standing water.
- Storage must be designed to prevent discharges into surface or groundwater.
- Measures must be taken to minimize and control odors and dust emissions.
- Best management practices must be implemented to minimize run-on and runoff.
- Trucks must be tarped to prevent the potential for dust or spillage.
- Trucks/trailers used to transport EQ biosolids or topsoil cannot be used to transport food or feed without proper cleaning.
- The blending and storage activities cannot be conducted within 100 feet of a perennial stream, within 33 feet of an intermittent stream, within 11 inches of a seasonal high water table, or within 50 feet of a property boundary.
- The person responsible for the blending operations must keep daily records of the weight or volume of exceptional quality biosolids received and final products sold, given away, or otherwise distributed.
Biosolids processors and topsoil blenders need to be aware of these regulations and permit conditions and their interpretations.
What was the “enforcement action”?
I read about the enforcement action in the Pottsville Republican Herald newspaper. WeCare was fined $35,000, but the article did not say what the specific violation was. I called DEP to ask so we all could learn from other’s mistakes, they said the matter is in litigation and they can’t talk about it.
WeCare has always been an upstanding operation so I am hoping it is just a misunderstanding.