Treated sewage sludge

Sep 03, 2008

Water UK comments on an article regarding the use of treated sewage sludge (biosolids) in agriculture which appeared in the British newspaper Guardian on 29 August 2008.

The article gives an unbalanced view of biosolids usage in the US with unsubstantiated evidence of the health risks. It makes no reference to responses from the US government and regulators to the alleged risks, nor to the research and monitoring work done.

In the UK there is no evidence of any adverse impact on health from the application of biosolids. The use of biosolids has been subject to UK and EU regulation and controls for decades and the practice has been intensively researched. The regulation is based on peer review and sound science leading to the establishment of precautionary standards for substances found in biosolids. In addition to the precautionary standards, the practice is subject to multiple barrier controls which ensure its safety with any one step offering a high degree of protection. For example, the controls require about three-yearly intervals between the application of certain biosolids and the time allowed for harvesting; this step in itself ensures that any health risks from pathogens would be completely eliminated. Rigorous protocols are in place at every level from treatment to application on the land, crop requirements, and soil integrity. These are controlled by HACCP*, the Safe Sludge Matrix, EC Directive, UK regulation and codes of practice. All controls are subject to strict enforcement. Responsible regulators and governments have found no evidence to justify regulating any of the alleged substances reported in the article. Recycling of biosolids is a responsible and sustainable practice that has been used safely on the land in the UK, Europe, the US and other parts of the world for decades.

*Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Points

Link to the Guardian article

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