If you are reading this, you are likely aware of the biosolids situation in New England. Biosolids disposition (disposal and beneficial reuse) in New England has been a tenuous daily balance between our production of biosolids and outlets for disposition (land application/beneficial reuse, incineration, and landfills). There have been disruptions in that balance over the years that have resulted in short term challenges for New England water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs). Fortunately, the frontline companies and utilities that manage biosolids in this geography were able to (with hard work) keep the flow of biosolids material moving from our WRRF’s to outlets, sometimes redirecting hundreds of miles and across international borders.
In recent years the biosolids disposition balance in New England has become even more fragile due to concerns over PFAS. The “forever chemical” found in the biosolids and residuals of so many water reclamation facilities has led to new restrictions, strict regulations, and public outcry.
In April of 2022, Maine passed LD 1911 into law which bans land application of biosolids. This had an immediate effect not only on Maine WRRF’s but on WRRF’s throughout the region whose biosolids have historically been sent to Maine for processing and beneficial reuse. Biosolids management companies and utilities had no choice but to increase reliance on landfilling and long-distance hauling to Canada and elsewhere for the disposition of Maine and New England biosolids. The impacts to many WRRF’s have been significant cost increases for hauling and disposition services.
In recent days the situation has gone from fragile and expensive to unreliable, uncertain, and even more expensive due to the recent reduction in biosolids acceptance at a key landfill in Maine. This is forcing more reliance on long distance trucking to Canadian Provinces who are beginning to push back and are likely to ban import of U.S. biosolids. Add to this the recent reduction in liquid biosolids options in Rhode Island affecting several Massachusetts WRRF’s, and you have the current crisis where we are no longer in balance between daily production and stable outlets.
Long term solutions will require a combination of legislative and regulatory actions and permitting that balance the real concerns of PFAS in our environment with the consequences of well-meaning laws and rules. In addition, it is likely that significant capital investment (such as dryers and other volume reduction technologies) in WRRF’s and/or regional management facilities may be required. This will not happen quickly.
What you can do in the meantime
If your facility is already impacted by this escalating problem, we are here to help. We operate more than 50 treatment systems across the country and are working to find solutions for both those facilities and in partnership with our clients in communities throughout New England. There is no magic bullet, but our operating facilities, experience developing biosolids resiliency plans, implementing biosolids-related technologies, relationships with biosolids management services providers, and collaborations with regulators mean that we can be a resource to you as you navigate this crisis. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your questions and concerns.