This was the main theme for the new WERF, that is WE&RF: the new Water Environment and Reuse Foundation. Most of you recognize WERF as the Water Environment Research Foundation. But you may not know the other Alexandria- based group called WRRF, or the Water ReUse Research Foundation. Two groups with such homonymous and mission similarities would make a synergistic merger as WE&RF seem, in retrospect at least, obvious. And that is what they did this summer. This important development is described in a recent WEF article: WERF and WateReuse Merge To Advance Concept of One Water.
The new executive director for WE&RF, Melissa Meeker, said in a WEF article: “for the utility of the future that seeks to maximize recovery and deliver fit-for-purpose water…[a] “One Water’ concept emphasizes that water quality is our focus, not the history of where the water has been … [This] will have a positive impact on the public’s understanding of water quality issues in general.”
But do biosolids, in the case of wastewater, and brine, in the case of reuse processes, fit into ONE WATER? Not really.
How about “ONE RESIDUAL”?
Many of us have already played with the notion that biosolids deserves to play in the same sandbox as manure and other organic residuals. We took on many years ago the regulatory discrimination of biosolids made part of the USDA’s National Organic Program, and lost, salving our feelings with the notion that this was a marketing decision, not a science-based decision.
More recently there was Whole Foods. We were alerted to its pending “policy” on biosolids [Whole Foods to stop selling produce grown in human sewage sludge], which was pressed on them by the same group, PR Watch, that brought you Toxic Sludge is Good for You program. But we again faced a marketing campaign that had no interest in considering scientific and rational arguments. A quick tour of the CDC’s Food Safety News will give you the source of real health risks from food (General Mills flour and E coli…. Hmmm, how did that happen?), and that risk isn’t from biosolids. Occasionally “organic” products show up in the CDC site. But when it comes to biosolids, the marketing people at the USDA and Whole Foods just aren’t interested in science.
Noble is also the conceptualizer of a “bioproducts market,” with feedstock, technology and products comprising three legs. His background analysis contains estimates that show biosolids is a mere 1 percent of the total organic biomass available for conversion into useful bioproducts for the marketplace. He estimates that over two-thirds of the biomass in the US and Canada is animal manures. Our industry’s paltry 7 million dry tons annually of biosolids contrasts to the 500 million dry tons of animal manures.
Oh my! How can we confirm this wide gap in tonnages when there is no “Manure Environment Federation” nor a “National Manure Partnership?” 500 million tons annually of manure apparently is not sufficient to cause a professional organization to be formed, as we have with wastewater and biosolids. This is sarcasm.
Few national summary reports are available on the topic of environmental effects of concentrated animal feedlots. One such is Understanding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and Their Impact on Communities, prepared by the National Association of Local Boards of Health. It concludes that local health officials have very many reasons to be alert to CAFOs.
The science of manure and the science of biosolids should share considerable common ground. For instance, how does research into manure compare to research on biosolids on the lively topic of TOrCs (Toxic Organic Compounds)? In biosolids we have many dozens of papers, and WE&RF has a couple of projects completed and in the pipeline. But what is known about TOrCs in manure?
Not as much as one might hope. This is from an abstract of a literature review for December 2016 publication (already?!), Occurrence and transformation of veterinary pharmaceuticals and biocides in manure: a literature review : “Within the 27 evaluated publications, 1568 manure samples were analyzed and 39 different active substances for VMPs [veterinary medicinal products]and 11 metabolites and transformation products of VMPs could be found in manure. Most often, the samples were analyzed for sulfonamides, tetracyclines, and fluoroquinolones. Not one study searched for biocides or worked with a non-target approach. For sulfadiazine and chlortetracycline, concentrations exceeding the predicted environmental concentrations were found.”