State oversight of biosolid applications is sufficient, farmers say

virginia-newVirginia farmers are asserting current state oversight of the use of biosolids as a source of nutrients for farmland is sufficient, though the practice merits an impartial study.

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest farmers’ advocacy organization, is asking state legislators this winter to maintain state oversight and regulation of the application of biosolids and industrial residuals on farms. Farm Bureau also will pursue a state review of current literature, science and regulation regarding the practice.

“Land application of biosolids has been an accepted agricultural practice in Virginia for decades,” said Wilmer Stoneman, VFBF associate director of governmental relations. “And during that time there have been no documented incidents of public health problems caused by this practice.”

Industrial residuals are materials similar to biosolids but are generated by the processing of agricultural and forestry products.

In 1995, the Virginia Department of Health implemented regulations for land application of biosolids. Since 2002 those regulations have been administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Since the mid-1990s, a series of unsuccessful bills has been introduced in the General Assembly that would have expanded the role of local governments in the regulatory process. In 2001, legislation was adopted that allows localities to assess fees to fund local inspection of biosolid applications. At least 15 counties have adopted related ordinances.

“It is our opinion that the current regulations thoroughly address the agronomic, environmental, public health and nuisance concerns that have evolved,” Stoneman said.

Nevertheless, each new bill renews interest in the use and regulations of biosolids. Legislation passed in 2015 to further clarify regulations for the application of industrial residuals.

“This is an optimal time for a thorough and impartial study of the science and current regulation of these practices,” Stoneman said. “Biosolids continue to garner attention each year, and we believe a review of their use, their benefits and their regulation will find that current oversight is adequate.”

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