By Ian Lamb
Monday, July 2, 2012
Driving down a country road in Albemarle County, one would hardly think twice seeing the small sign posted along a driveway. About the size of a “For Sale” sign and forest green, it often escapes the notice of passing motorists.
This sign on Earlysville Road gives public notice that a farm is going to be applying biosolids as fertilizer. The sludge comes from wastewater facilities after it has been treated to reduce pollutants and pathogens. Biosolids can be disposed of through incineration or buried in a landfill, but they can also be used as fertilizer on farms.
Since 2007, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has been in charge of issuing companies permits, and ensures that the companies applying the biosolids follow strict regulations, such as not allowing livestock to graze on biosolid-affected land for 30 days. Although the permits cost the companies around $5,000, the fertilizer is free for the farmer.
Currently, the only two companies permitted to deposit biosolids in Albemarle are Remington-based ReCyc Systems and Synagro, a national organization. As of May, 277 dry tons of biosolids have been dumped in the county this calendar year, all by ReCyc Systems.
ReCyc Systems receives most of its sludge from the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant, operated by the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority. Some is also received from the Maryland Correctional Institution Wastewater Plant, south of Hagerstown.