TCPalm: Biosolids ban encouraged by Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council

Article Posted on July 20, 2018

By: Tyler Treadway, Treasure Coast Newspapers

The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council says dumping human waste on farmland should be eliminated throughout Florida by coming up with a better alternative.

Other municipal groups such as the Florida League of Cities said they could get on board with a ban, depending on what the alternative is.

On Friday, the council representing 52 city and county governments on the Treasure Coast and in Palm Beach County, unanimously approved a resolution calling for phasing out the land application of so-called "biosolids" and seeking money for pilot programs to develop alternative ways to dispose of the partially treated sewage sludge.

A TCPalm investigation in May 2017 showed landowners are spreading tons of wastewater treatment plants' biosolids, which contain nitrogen and phosphorus that can feed toxic algae blooms if they drain off the land and into water.

The council's action is not binding, but a way to "advance the issue a little further," Executive Director Michael J. Busha said.

Busha said he hopes it will prompt other statewide groups such as the Florida Association of Counties, the League of Cities and the Small County Coalition to support alternatives.


The right alternative

The League of Cities could do that, Deputy General Counsel Rebecca O'Hara told TCPalm, but it would have to be the right alternative.

"Who wouldn't support an alternative if it was, in fact, better than what's being done now?" O'Hara said. "But not knowing all the facts at this time, it's hard to take a definitive stand."

The alternative also would have to be something ratepayers could afford, O'Hara said.

"If the utility has to raise its rates for single moms and the elderly a couple of hundred dollars, that's not acceptable," O'Hara said.

Council members Friday touted technology being developed by Janicki Industries and Bioenergy, a Washington state firm backed by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, that turns the nitrogen and phosphorus in biosolids into usable fertilizers, produces enough energy to power the conversion facility and makes distilled drinking water...

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