Public Lab Research note

Issue briefing: ultrafine particle pollution from dehydrated biosolids

by liz , zengirl2 | June 14, 2017 15:14 14 Jun 15:14 | #14541 | #14541

lead image: co-product being dumped onto agricultural fields

Issue briefing: ultrafine particle pollution from dehydrated biosolids

Slaughterhouses, human waste treatment plants, and other types of bio-industry use dryers to transform liquid waste into “solid” (powdery) waste and sell it as an agricultural “co-product.” The ultrafine particles of these co-products blow off trucks during transport and during application to farms as fertilizer, causing respiratory and other human health issues.

Regulations around this issue

  • Classifying waste as a “co-product that is beneficial to soil” is a way for industrial operations to avoid regulation. A co-product means the waste is not classified as waste, but instead as a fertilizer. Pennsylvania’s DEP will not investigate agricultural issues.
  • There are regulations at state and federal level about waste from slaughterhouses. See Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection Residual Waste Regulation:
  • The US EPA Office of Water (OW) regulates biosolids. The regulations, 40 CFR Part 503, are usually referred to as the 503s. Despite the agency’s claim to the contrary, OW also promotes land application.
  • There are no federal environmental air quality regulations on ultrafine particles.

Communities engaged in this

  • Rural Pennsylvania
  • Rural North Carolina
  • Rural New York
  • assuming many others: check out the case studies and description of regulations by Caroline Snyder (Founder of Citizens for Sludge-Free Land)

Related Questions


From @zengirl2 , an article about dehydrated biosolids plant in Detroit, in this case from human waste:
Seems like the air pollution issue here is sulfur dioxide.

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2002 article citing scientific studies and legal issues with biosolids:

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