Water Journal : Water Journal May 2012
awa news regular features 30 MAY 2012 water AWA is pleased to announce the formal release of the AWA Biosolids Management Position Paper. Developed in partnership with the Australian and New Zealand Biosolids Partnership (ANZBP), the paper communicates the position that biosolids are a valuable product that can be used safely and sustainably. The ANZBP is a collective of utilities, consultants, academics and government bodies committed to the sustainable management of biosolids. Managed by AWA, the objectives of the ANZBP are to: • Support public engagement with respect to the sustainable management of biosolids in Australia; • Support the Australian and New Zealand water industry on technical and regulatory components of biosolids management; • Establish a global network of parties interested in the sustainable management of biosolids. The ANZBP believes biosolids are a valuable product that can be used safely and sustainably. Their use is consistent with the principle of waste minimisation and use and that applying biosolids to the land closes the nutrient cycle, reducing land degradation and returning fertilisers to the soil. With the completion of a number of key projects exploring the current state of biosolids management practices and regulation in Australia, the ANZBP recognised the need for a document that discusses the current state of biosolids management and provides a vision of sustainable biosolids management. The ANZBP approached AWA to offer support and leadership in the development of an industry position paper that could be used as a communications tool. AWA, supported by its Board and a committee of ANZBP members, developed a position paper that declares that: 1. Biosolids are a valuable by-product of the wastewater treatment process and their use represents an appropriate use of a resource and closes the 'nutrient loop'. 2. Biosolids are currently regulated to protect human health and the environment; noting that there is much room for improvement to make the biosolids management process more efficient. 3. Governments should seek to introduce consistency in regulation and that AWA/ANZBP will encourage governments to introduce reforms accordingly. Educational Tool The Position Paper is a tool that will serve to educate those unfamiliar with biosolids management practices and deliver a scientifically justified message and position. The information provided by the ANZBP is factual, unbiased and open. The following is the core narrative of the Position Paper: • Biosolids are a by-product of the sewage treatment process. Managed in line with carefully designed practices for treatment and application, biosolids are a safe and potentially useful soil-like material that have relatively high nutrient value and soil-enhancement characteristics. • There are a number of uses to which biosolids may be put. The use chosen reflects the quality of the biosolids produced. Lower grades of biosolids may be used for landfill, while the highest grades are used for agricultural application. • Inorganic sources of phosphorus and essential macro- nutrient are declining globally and prices are likely to rise in future. Biosolids are nutrient-rich, so their use may help to defray the increasing cost of phosphorus. Use of biosolids also represents a closing of the nutrient 'loop', returning nutrients to the land from which they were derived in the first place. • Research by ANZBP has suggested that the community is generally supportive of the use of biosolids, with those who have had some experience or contact with biosolids (such as farmers, and householders who live in areas where biosolids are used or produced) being more supportive than the general community. • Australia has some of the strictest regulations and guidelines to control the use of biosolids, significantly stricter than those that apply in the EU or the United States. The multi-barrier approach that is characteristic of these regulations ensures that biosolids are safe for the use for which they are intended. • While Australian regulations are strict, unnecessary inconsistencies exist between the various states and territories and the Commonwealth. These inconsistencies cause confusion for consumers and the community generally and add to costs. There are strong grounds for a review of regulations to reduce inconsistencies, while maintaining the effectiveness of regulations in protection community and environmental health and wellbeing. Key Objectives With the confirmation of a common industry position, a key objective of the ANZBP is to promote the development of an improved regulatory structure for Australia and New Zealand, exploring opportunities to harmonise the numerous regulations and management requirements across the jurisdictions. The Position Paper will form the core of an ANZBP communications campaign to raise awareness of biosolids among all levels of Government, the general public and other parties identified by the ANZBP and AWA. This communications tool will promote biosolids as a valuable by-product Release of the AWA Biosolids Management Position Paper Returning biosolids to the land closes the nutrient 'loop'.
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