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Biosolids

Biosolids are nutrient rich organic and highly treated solid materials produced by the District’s wastewater treatment process. This high-quality product can be recycled as a soil amendment on farm land or further processed as an earth-like product for commercial and home gardens to improve and maintain fertile soil and stimulate plant growth. The Elsinore valley Municipal Water District’s biosolids are hauled to a private composting firm for final treatment and conversion to compost.

Frequently Asked Questions concerning Biosolids

What is the difference between biosolids and sludge?
Sewer sludge is made up of deposits collected after primary and secondary treatment. Biosolids are sewage sludge that has been carefully treated, monitored and regulated.

How are biosolids generated and processed?
The treatment of biosolids begins before the wastewater reaches the EVMWD’s sewage treatment plant. Pre-treatment regulations require businesses and industrial facilities when it applies to pre-treat their wastewater and to remove pollutants before it is discharged into the sewer. EVMWD’s source control program monitors wastewater before it enters any of its treatment facilities.

Once the wastewater reaches the treatment facility, the sewage goes through physical, chemical and biological processes that clean the wastewater and remove solids. The solids are further processed to reduce disease-causing organisms, such as certain bacteria, viruses, parasites and other organisms capable of carrying disease. This is done through a composting company the District contracts with.

Why are biosolids recycled?
Aside from reuse, the other options for the disposal of biosolids contribute to the depletion of our natural resources. Landfills are quickly disappearing, more than 1,200 of the existing 1,500 landfills in the United States have closed because of the increased cost of meeting environmental requirements and many more are running out of space. Keeping biosolids out of landfills and placing them where they can be beneficially used helps reduce the landfill shortage problem. It also provides a process for renewing the soil with nutrients and organic matter. Biosolids recycling is the best means of returning to the soil, nutrients and organic matter that were originally removed in agricultural products and consumed by the public. It is recycling a resource, just like recycling newspapers or bottles. When the right safeguards are taken, biosolids use can be environmentally protective and even beneficial.

Why apply biosolids on farmland?
Farmers and gardeners have been recycling biosolids for ages. Biosolids helps to grow crops, fertilize gardens and parks and reclaim mining sites. Recycling of biosolids on land has increased over the past 20 years. Over 50 percent of all biosolids in the U.S. are managed through reuse. Land application of biosolids takes place in all 50 states.

How do biosolids help the soil and crops?
Biosolids add organic matter to the soil. This organic matter allows the soil to breathe and at the same time, hold more water and nutrients. The plant nutrients are released slowly, improving crop production. The result is better crops, less water runoff, less soil erosion, and more water conservation. Biosolids recycling on farmland is a safe, reliable, and a cost-effective method for managing biosolids. Biosolids enrich the soil with essential nutrients and organic matter. Plants need a complex mixture of nutrients, soil, air, and water to grow well. Biosolids contain a full range of essential plant nutrients released slowly, as the plants need them during the growing season. The organic matter acts as a sponge for water, nutrients, and air where soil organisms can prosper and plant roots can better develop. This “sponge” reduces the possibility of leaching nutrients to the groundwater.

Are there pathogens in biosolids?
Yes, because biosolids are a product of the wastewater treatment process. Approximately 99 percent of the pathogens are destroyed during the collection and treatment of wastewater, and most of the remainder through the solids treatment process. Most pathogens cannot multiply outside of living hosts. For example, the AIDS virus is transferred only through intimate body contact with transfer of body fluids and the virus has never been found to survive the wastewater treatment process.

How are biosolids treated to kill pathogens?
The presence of pathogens in wastewater and the biosolids resulting from wastewater treatment requires treatment of these solids to reduce any remaining pathogens to a safe level before reuse. Municipal wastewater treatment includes a wide variety of processes to kill germs. The resulting products (biosolids) are then safely recycled as a soil amendment or fertilizing material.

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