FAQs

FAQs

You have questions about biosolids? We have answers.

What are biosolids?

Biosolids are the result of the wastewater treatment process. They are produced from sewage solids that have been treated to eliminate harmful bacteria. The nutrients and organic matter found in composted biosolids and soils enhanced with biosolids feed our land, improving its stability, health, and productivity over time. Adding biosolids to our soils helps reduce runoff and soil erosion as well as the need for chemical fertilizers and irrigation water.

How are biosolids produced?

Before society started treating wastewater from toilets, sinks, and dishwashers, it was taken directly into our lakes, rivers, and oceans. Today, everything that goes down our drains is sent to wastewater treatment plants where the solids are separated from the liquids and are cleaned and treated to produce a sludge. This sludge is further sanitized, stabilized, tested, and shrunk to produce biosolids.

Are biosolids the same as sewage sludge?

Biosolids are not untreated waste like sewage or manure. They are also not the same as sewage sludge, which is what’s produced in the first stage of wastewater treatment process, when the solids and liquids that go down our drains from toilets, sinks, and dishwashers are separated, cleaned, and treated to remove harmful bacteria.

Biosolids are produced when sewage sludge goes through a biological decomposition process where bacteria and high temperatures sanitize, stabilize, and shrink wastewater solids, converting them to an earthy, soil-like material referred to as biosolids.

What are the different ways communities deal with biosolids?

Biosolids can be incinerated; sent to landfills; or recycled into composts and amended soils. In BC, 94% of our biosolids are recycled and applied back to the land. Using soils enhanced with biosolids to reclaim disturbed areas, develop land, and improve nutrient-poor soil offers communities a safe, socially responsible and environmentally sound disposal alternative for the waste they generate.

How are NutriGrow soil products made?

NutriGrow soil solutions are carefully designed and blended for specific applications and customer requirements. We blend biosolids and biosolid composts with feedstocks like sand, wood products, and rock, to provide drainage, improve soil structure, and give plants what they need to grow. Our products meet stringent quality standards defined by the BC Organic Matter Recycling Regulation, as well as standards set by the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment (CCME) and the BC Landscape Nursery Association (BCLNA).

Why do NutriGrow soil solutions contain biosolids?

We add biosolids and biosolid composts to our soil solutions because they make our products better. Biosolids are an excellent source of nutrients and organic materials that feed our land, improving its stability, health, and productivity over time. Adding biosolids to our soils helps reduce runoff and soil erosion, boosts plant growth, and limits the need for chemical fertilizers and irrigation water.

NutriGrow’s composts and manufactured soils meet and exceed the rigorous standards set by the BC OMRR, as well as standards set by the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment (CCME) and the BC Landscape Nursery Association (BCLNA).

Are biosolids safe?

Soils enhanced with biosolids are held to higher standards than most commercially available soils. Recycling biosolids and adding them to soils is among the most extensively researched and studied recycling practices in North America. Scientific studies continue to demonstrate the safety and benefits of using biosolids-enhanced soil solutions. Many of these international studies also help define best management practices, introduce improved treatment technologies, and provide scientific foundation for regulations.

In BC, the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation (OMRR) governs the production, quality and application of biosolids and other organic matter. OMRR provides clear guidance on how to use organic material while protecting soil quality and drinking water sources. Regulations like OMRR exist for the management and use of biosolids in jurisdictions around the world.

What are the benefits of enhancing soils with biosolids?

Many commercially available soils lack of organic matter and nutrients, or are contaminated with weed seeds, herbicides or bacteria (if untreated manures are used in the manufacturing process). Because biosolids are an excellent source of nutrients and organic materials, adding them to soils improves soil stability, health, and productivity over time. They also help reduce runoff and soil erosion, boosts plant growth, and limit the need for chemical fertilizers and irrigation water.

Biosolids are a particularly good source of nitrogen but also supply all of the macro and micro nutrients required for plant growth. Biosolids act as a slow-release fertilizer, releasing nutrients slowly over time. An application of soil enhanced with biosolids this year will still be providing some nutrients next year.

What is the difference between Class A and Class B biosolids?

In most cases, Class A and Class B biosolids share the same physical properties and general makeup, allowing for traditional methods of land application, composting and soil production. The primary difference between Class A and Class B biosolids is the detectable limits of Pathogens. Class A biosolids must be virtually pathogen free where Class B biosolids may have slightly higher pathogen levels.

As a result, beneficial reuse of Class B biosolids is more restrictive, either under the guidance of a Land Application Plan where by the use is monitored and tested in specific areas, or through further processing such as composting to ensure pathogens limits are reduced to the acceptable levels before distribution is allowed.

NutriGrow chooses to beneficially use biosolids through the production of soils that meet the standards under OMRR for the production of Biosolids Growing Medium or through guidelines drafted in an approved Land Application Plan.

How are biosolids used in BC?

In BC, 94% of our biosolids are recycled and applied back to the land. Using soils enhanced with biosolids to reclaim disturbed areas like mine sites, gravel pits, and landfills; to develop land; and to improve nutrient-poor soil offers communities a safe, socially responsible, and environmentally sound disposal alternative for the waste they generate.

How are biosolids regulated in BC?

The beneficial use of biosolids in BC is regulated by the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation. This regulation contains standards for the processes used to produce biosolids in wastewater treatment plants, the quality of the Class A and Class B biosolids produced, and the quality of soils blended with biosolids.

What is OMRR?

The Organic Matter Recycling Regulation of BC (OMRR) governs the production, quality and land application of certain types of organic matter. It provides clear guidance for local governments, as well as compost and biosolids producers, on how to use organic material while protecting soil quality and drinking water sources. Learn More.

Are biosolids used to improve grazing for other animals like dairy cows or horses?

Biosolids are often used to improve lands used for agricultural and livestock purposes because they improve forage yield significantly. Check out this Metro Vancouver page about a couple of local ranches using biosolids to fertilize their lands for grazing.

Are there alternatives to the land application of biosolids?

Biosolids can be incinerated; sent to landfills; or recycled into composts and amended soils. In BC, 94% of biosolids are recycled and applied back to the land. Using soils enhanced with biosolids to reclaim disturbed areas, develop land, and improve nutrient-poor soil offers communities a safe, socially responsible and environmentally sound disposal alternative for the waste they generate.

Gasification and pyrolysis are often discussed as viable alternatives. However, technologies to transform biosolids into waste-to-energy solutions are still in their infancy. The viability of this type of solution will depend on several variables, including the volume of materials, the capital structures in place, and more.

This BC Government table provides a general, high-level comparison of the main biosolids management options used around the world. You can also learn more about biosolids waste in BC here. You can find out more about the City of Kamloops’ short and long-term biosolids management strategies here.

How do Professional Agrologists determine the per-hectare application rate for biosolids?

The rate of application of biosolids to a piece of land is all about understanding nitrogen loading in the soil. Independent Professional Agrologists use a scientific process to look at multiple variables to calculate the optimum amount to apply. These variables include the levels of nitrogen in the native soil and the biosolids at the start of a project; how the biosolids will be applied (nitrogen behaves differently in soil, depending on whether the biosolids are applied through a direct surface application or through fabricated soils); and the course of time over which the biosolids will be applied.

What is a Qualified Professional?

A Qualified Professional is an applied scientist or technologist specializing in a particular field, including agrology and engineering. Qualified Professionals are governed by professional standards, codes of ethics, and regulatory statutes which they must adhere to, irrespective of who they work for or the projects they work on. The British Columbia Institute of Agrologists under BC’s Agrologists Act, governs the professional conduct of its members; Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia governs these professions under the authority of the Engineers and Geoscientists Act. Both organizations ensure the competent and ethical practice of their members in support of the public interest.

Where can I go for more information about biosolids?

We encourage you to visit the City of Kamloops’ Biosolids pages, the BC Government site about biosolids, and Metro Vancouver’s About Biosolids to learn more about the safe and responsible use of biosolids in and around British Columbia. We also encourage you to read this open letter from well respected researchers responding to biosolids hysteria.

For more information on the project at the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch, you can read the newsletters we produce for the community on our Resources page.

Where can I go to find out more about the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch project?

We publish a newsletter about the project which we distribute to Turtle Valley residents. You can read past issues of the newsletter on our Resources page.

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