February 28, 2013 Biosolids

For centuries, farmers have realized the benefits that animal manure have had on improving their soil fertility. In the 1920s, farmers began to use biosolids from wastewater treatment plants as a fertilizer supplement. Biosolids are the organic materials that have gone through the treatment process in a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and subsequently been tested and deemed by regulators as suitable for beneficial use on land.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) defines biosolids as “nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment facility. When treated and processed to the regulatory standards, these residuals can be safely recycled and applied as a fertilizer to improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth.”

The US EPA has gone further as to prescribe recognized categories of biosolids that have been treated to stabilize organic matter and remove disease-causing organisms (pathogens) using various enhanced treatment methods. The categories are:

  • Class B biosolids: May have low levels of pathogens which potentially die off when applied to soils
  • Class A biosolids: Essentially pathogen-free prior to land application.
  • Exceptional Quality biosolids: Have lower metals concentration than either Class A or Class B and are essentially, pathogen free, just like Class A biosolids. These biosolids may be land-applied in small quantities with very limited restrictions.

In general, chemical fertilizers provide three major plant nutrients; nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The ever increasing cost of commercial fertilizer products is forcing more and more farmers to look for alternative sources like bio-fertilizers and other organically-based solutions.

Two of the primary advantages of using biosolids as a fertilizer alternative are cost efficiencies and nitrogen content. Biosolids typically have about 3-5 % nitrogen, which is released slowly over time after application. They also contain phosphorous and many micronutrients beneficial to crop growth. Biosolids are generally applied at a rate that is appropriate to meet the demands of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in crops and soils

In addition to necessary nutrients, biosolids are also rich in natural, organic matter which, when added to soil, can reduce surface runoff and erosion, thus improving both water and nutrient-retention capacity in the soil. Studies have shown increased organic matter content can dramatically improve soil structure and crop yields.

There are a few advanced biosolids treatments and processing technologies available in the market; however, the Lystek process stands alone  as a safe, proven, innovative, patented, and award-winning biosolids processing technology that:

  • Produces a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) registered high nutrient bio-fertilizer,
  • Meets US EPA Class A EQ (Exceptional Quality) criteria – pathogen free and low in regulated metals,
  • Provides essential nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium components to replace partial to complete requirements of chemical fertilizer demands for specific crops,
  • Delivers more than $400 per acre in equivalent nutrient values
  • Produces a hydrolyzed product that can be recycled to biological nutrient removal (BNR) and anaerobic digester systems for further WWTP optimization including enhanced biogas production and reduced overall volumes of material requiring management
  • Fills the gap for a renewable, nutrient-rich, organic-based fertilizer for agricultural applications that meets the need of farmers, governments and other stakeholders.

Decades of research have led academia, regulators and the agricultural community to recognize the value of applying biosolids to agricultural lands. As the global community strives to reduce Green House Gases and find more natural alternatives to chemical fertilizers, the Lystek process delivers a practical, cost effective, scientifically advanced solution that solves many challenges.