Provincial Review of Biosolids Storage, Use Underway

A Tuesday morning clinic heard an update from the Ministry of Environment (MoE) concerning a scientific review that may lead to regulatory changes concerning the use of biosolids. Recommendations arising from the review are slated for release in December of this year.

Chris Ord, from the MoE Environmental Standards Branch, outlined the benefits of using biosolids (sludge from wastewater operations that has been treated to reduce odour and contaminants), including tailings reclamation and enhancing soil. At present in B.C., 60% of our biosolids are used to rehabilitate mining sites, 20% are used in forestry and 20% for agricultural purposes. Utilizing biosolids rather than disposing of them in landfills also reduces the amount of greenhouse gas produced by B.C. landfills.

While biosolids contain trace amounts of harmful substances, MoE staff informed delegates that the risk of using biosolids for agricultural purposes is negligible provided they are used in accordance with existing standards and regulations. Potential contaminants include triclosan (commonly found in detergent), pharmaceuticals and metals. Although some efforts are underway, MoE staff acknowledged that further steps to reduce source contaminants are needed.

Delegates from several communities questioned MoE staff on the issue of odour, and the need for tougher standards on odour control. Metro Vancouver staff also described the use of biosolids within their area and the practice of shipping biosolids to other parts of the province, such as mining operations or ranching operations, where there is a need for the resource.

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