Biosolids facts and information

Farmers First land application program

Biosolids are natural soil amendments that are safe for the environment, lower utility fees for the community, and reduce fertilizing costs for farmers. Rich in organic matter and vital nutrients, recycling biosolids can be an efficient and effective way to get value from waste while generating renewable energy and resources. The earth-friendly compost has been used successfully around the country in agricultural lands, mine reclamation sites, parks, golf courses, and forestry.

The biosolids used for land application in Farmers First are designated as Class-B products. Class-B biosolids are generally applied to agricultural fields where the nutrient-rich compost is mixed with soil to help fertilize and condition the land for healthier crops. Farmers prefer to use Class-B biosolids because they are high in organic matter and contain greater levels of plant-available nutrients.

Benefits of biosolids

  • Biosolids are a proven and effective alternative to chemical fertilizers. Rich in nutrients and organic matter, biosolids can improve soil health and provide key elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for plant growth.

  • Recycling biosolids for land application reduces landfill usage which extends the lifespan of available landfill space to communities.

  • The production of biosolids generates biogas, a renewable energy. The biogas produced at the Empire wastewater plant is used to heat and power the facility. This lowers utility fees for local residences.

  • Recycling biosolids cuts down on the manufacturing and application of chemical fertilizers. Inorganic fertilizers are more susceptible to nutrient runoff than biosolids. Runoff and leaching can cause rapid algae growth that is hazardous to local waterways and aquatic life.

  • Two key reasons that farmers prefer biosolids over chemical fertilizers, they’re very cost-effective and they’re high organic matter.

    • Biosolids are an endlessly renewable fertilizer that’s being produced daily at the Empire wastewater plant. Local farmers can take part in free biosolids land application services through the Farmers First program which greatly reduces their operating costs.

Biosolids are safe

  • The Farmers First program utilizes a Class-B biosolids product that’s manufactured locally by the Empire Wastewater Treatment Plant. Before it can be used for land application, the material must meet strict regulations and quality standards that are governed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). These agencies monitor the use of biosolids, set site & product standards, and determine reporting requirements.

  • Biosolids contain organic micronutrients. Organic forms of nutrients have slower release rates than those used in traditional chemical fertilizers. Slow nutrient release mechanisms work by supplying crucial minerals to the crops gradually throughout the growing season which in turn lowers the risks of leaching into ground water and/or runoff to surface waters.

  • The EPA promotes the beneficial use of biosolids based on years of extensive research and experience. Studies have shown that neither contact with biosolids nor consumption of foods grown with the organic fertilizer pose a significant risk to human health (biosolidsresources.org).

  • The National Academy of Sciences has reviewed current practices, public health concerns and regulatory 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.

Biosolids and PFAS​

Polyfluorinated Substances, also known as PFAS, are chemicals that have been produced since the 1940s. They are currently found in many common household products such as cleaners, food packaging, clothing, carpeting, and beauty products. This includes items like non-stick frying pans, pizza boxes, dental floss, and firefighting foam. Because of its many uses over the years, PFAS can be found in our bodies, the environment, and biosolids.

Drinking water treatment systems, wastewater treatment facilities, and municipal solid waste landfills are not “producers” or “users” of PFAS. Rather, they are “receivers” of these chemicals every day from manufacturers and consumers. Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS from common household products is exponentially higher than those that can be found in wastewater products such as biosolids.

It is imperative that we all discontinue the use and production of polyfluorinated substances. As long as PFAS continues to be used in our everyday lives, these chemicals will continue to be found in our “receiver” streams.

Become an MCES partner

MCES is accepting new landowner partners for spring and fall application seasons. Reach out to Colton Janes:
612-597-1728
Colton.Janes@metc.state.mn.us