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Biosolids - Publications

March 25, 1996

To Interested Parties:

The Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB) of the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences recently issued an important new report, "Use of Reclaimed Water and Sludge in Food Crop Production." The effort leading to this new report provides a timely critique of the practice of using treated municipal wastewater effluents and biosolids in the production of crops for human consumption.

The three-year study was undertaken to help answer some of the questions that have been raised about the safety of crops grown in fields where treated municipal wastewater effluents or biosolids have been applied. It provides an independent assessment of the risks associated with these practices and provides recommendations to improve these recycling practices and their acceptance. Sponsors of the study included the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Water Environment Research Foundation, the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, the National Water Research Institute, and the National Food Processors Association, as well as several water and wastewater authorities and private companies.

The WSTB report confirms the basis of Federal policy that properly treated and managed wastewater effluents and biosolids can be safely and effectively used in food crop production, while presenting negligible risk to the crops, consumers, and the environment. While the report indicates that irrigation of food crops with treated municipal wastewater effluents has been safely practiced and generally accepted by the public, it also points out that concerns persist regarding the potential for exposure to contaminants, nuisance problems and adequacy of oversight of programs for agricultural use of biosolids. The report suggests that wastewater treatment plants, private processors, distributors, and applicators should not only comply with all regulatory requirements and management practices, but also take extra steps to demonstrate such compliance to various stakeholders (e.g., neighbors, farmers, food processors, and consumers). It recommends full public participation, self-monitoring and reporting programs, and public education campaigns. The report found it especially important that these public information efforts be continuing and detailed, as public awareness that safe practices are in fact being followed is necessary if monitoring by state or local entities is likely to be minimal.

The report was published by and is available from the National Academy Press in Washington, D.C. Both EPA and the Water Environment Federation have reprinted the document and plan to use it as a part of ongoing public education programs and other efforts associated with encouraging water reuse and safe biosolids recycling practices. You will find this new report helpful in addressing many of the concerns that are raised regarding the safety of land application practices involving the use of treated municipal wastewater effluents and biosolids in crops production.


Robert Perciasepe
Assistant Administrator