Have you ever thought about farmers using biosolids (human waste) from sewage treatment plants to be used as sustainable agricultural fertilizer? Right off the bat, it sounds unsanitary and unthinkable, however, there are farmers that use it and think it's beneficial. Pharmaceuticals, steroids, flame-retardants, metals, hormones and human pathogens, among other things have been found in biosolids. The Environmental Protection Agency found more than 100 toxins in its January 2009 Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey.
Dr. Alan B. Rubin, a principal author of key E.P.A. biosolids regulations and a staunch biosolids proponent does say that living in proximity to biosolids may be uncomfortable, particularly for “health-sensitive” individuals. “I’m not saying that this causes illnesses like cancer, emphysema or cirrhosis or any other horrible disease,” he said. “But it is causing an impact on the quality of life.”
Many individuals, especially many farmers, find pros in biosolids. People think of biosolids as nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment facility. They believe that when treated and processed, these substances can be recycled and applied as fertilizer to improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth.
They see a difference between biosolids and sewage slugde. Biosolids are treated sewage sludge. Biosolids are carefully treated and monitored and must be used according to regulatory requirements where they exist.
Particular farmers think that after treatment and processing, biosolids can be recycled and applied as fertilizer to improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth. In their opinion, the application of biosolids completes a natural cycle in the environment. By treating sewage sludge, the biosolids can be used as valuable fertilizer, instead of taking up space in a landfill or other disposal facilities. The application of biosolids reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. As more wastewater plants become capable of producing high quality biosolids, some farmers believe that there is an even greater opportunity to make use of this valuable resource.
The general public are the potential stakeholders in this issue. We are the ones that have to purchase and eat what the farmers grow. They provide us with our food to live. In my opinion, we are very influenced by the western view of human waste as an unsanitary and disgusting nuisance. We can't imagaine biosolids and human waste even going near our foods, however, what we probably don't realize is that biosolids are quite beneficial to sustaining our agriculture. There has not been any sign of significant health risks as a result of using biosolids as fertilizer. The pros outweigh the cons in this situation and generally, biosolids are benefitting our society.