Climate Change and Biosolids Management

Climate change is considered a grave threat and immediate steps must be taken to mitigate its damaging effects. Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau has made combating battling climate change a top priority since his election in 2015.

Ontario Climate Change Initiatives

According to the Ontario Climate Change Study paper “Climate change is defined as any significant change in long-term weather patterns. It can apply to any major variation in temperature, wind patterns or precipitation that occurs over time.”

The increase in average world temperature is attributed to the higher concentration of greenhouse gasses caught in the atmosphere. The leading cause of the phenomenon is the burning of fossil fuels in energy production. This has resulted in unpredictable weather patterns causing flooding, soil erosion and even power interruptions. Ontario is set to join Quebec and California in their cap-and-trade programs as a key component of its climate change strategy. The province has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050 expand its capacity for renewable energy.

Agriculture and Biosolids Management

Ontario recognizes the complex link between agriculture and greenhouse emissions. Farming activities such as raising livestock, pollution from farm equipment and food processing all contribute to carbon emissions. Crops and vegetation, on the other hand can capture carbon dioxide and store it within plant and soil. Thus, smart and efficient agriculture practices are essential to ensure the optimal productivity of farming lands while keeping emissions at minimal levels.

One important fertilizer resource are biosolids, which contain essential plant nutrients and organic matter that enrich the soil. When biosolids are applied at rates that meet plant nutrient needs, farmers and researchers are seeing crop yields equal to or greater than those seen with synthetic fertilizer.

Biosolids come from treated domestic wastewater generated from sewage. In most wastewater treatment facilities, strict regulations require that industrial plants pre-treat their wastewater to eliminate hazardous toxins before moving them to the treatment plant. These facilities regularly monitor incoming wastewater to ensure their recyclability and safety levels.

Biosolids Safety Concerns

Some Canadians have expressed apprehension over the use of biosolids as fertilizers due to the perceived contaminants present in wastewater from industrial and household sources. Contaminants may come in from heavy metals, pathogens, antibiotics, and other industrial or household chemicals.

Biosolids are one of the most studied materials that have ever been regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Many years of research has shown that biosolids can be safely utilized for agriculture. The National Academy of Sciences has reviewed current practices, public health concerns, and regulator standards and has concluded that “the use of these materials in the production of crops for human consumption when practiced in accordance with existing federal guidelines and regulations, presents negligible risk to the consumer, to crop production, and to the environment.” Experts have stated that the major classes of contaminants in biosolids pose a minimal risk to human, animal, or environmental health. They appear in very low concentrations to cause harm and are not taken up by crops even when present in soils. To further minimize risk, the application of biosolids is highly regulated.

Abating Climate Change and Environment Degradation

Wastewater treatment involves a naturally occurring process known as anaerobic digestion. In the absence of oxygen, organic matter such as manure, food wastes and wastewater sludge are converted into methane and carbon dioxide into a mixture called biogas. Anaerobic digestion takes place in a large tank commonly known as a digester.

The Canadian Biogas Association encourages the use of biogas to achieve Canada’s climate strategy goals. With government support, the utilization of biogas has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37.5 million tonnes CO2e- more than 10% of Canada’s target.

Biosolids also provide plant-essential micronutrients such as copper (Cu), boron (B), molybdenum (Mo), zinc (Zn), iron (Fe) and a right amount of nitrogen (N). The right proportion of ammonium and organic nitrogen in biosolids is necessary to stabilize the digestion process. Biosolids also supply large quantities of Phosporous (P) when applied to crops. Thus, biosolids can eliminate the need for commercial fertilizers and can provide a long-term benefit to soil fertility. By improving water infiltration, it can help hold water and nutrients, thereby reducing runoff and soil erosion.

According to Glen Murray, Former Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, “Climate change is not a distant threat: it is already costing the people of Ontario. It has devastated communities, damaged homes, businesses and crops, and increased insurance rates. It is crucial that we take steps today to fight climate change, protect the environment, build a low-carbon, high-productivity economy and ensure strong communities for the future.”

Ontario is committed to take the lead in fighting climate change through a series of government initiatives. It has already halted the use of coal-fired power plants, the largest greenhouse gas reduction initiative in North America to date.

If you are a municipality in Ontario and in need of a biosolids management solution, please feel free to contact us at 1 (877) 479-1388.


Climate Change and Biosolids Management
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