- Report Published -
|A First-Year Report of the Panel of Experts Convened by The Secretary of Natural Resources and The Secretary of Health and Human Resources to Study the Impact of the Land Application of Biosolids on Human Health and the Environment Pursuant to HJR 694 (2007)|
|Division of Legislative Services, Joint Subcommittee|
|HJR 694 (Regular Session, 2007)|
|In 2007, the General Assembly adopted House Joint Resolution 694, which directed the Secretary of Natural Resources and the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to convene a panel of experts to conduct a two-year study of the impact of the land application of biosolids (treated sewage sludge) on human health and the environment. The panel was directed to consider and respond to a number of specific questions relating to the environmental and health impacts of the land application of biosolids in the Commonwealth and to report to the Governor and to the General Assembly by the first day of both the 2008 and 2009 Sessions.|
The resolution directed the Secretaries to appoint individuals to the expert panel who, by training, education, or experience, are knowledgeable regarding the land application of biosolids. The panel members were drawn from the relevant state agencies, institutions of higher education, and the private sector. The individuals selected to serve on the expert panel are as follows:
• Ralph O. Allen, Ph.D., Professor, Director, Office of Environmental Health and Safety, University of Virginia School of Medicine
• Russ Baxter, Deputy Director, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
• Robert Call, M.D., Medical practitioner
• Jerre Creighton, Research Program Manager, Virginia Department of Forestry
• W. Lee Daniels, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech
• Barry Dunkley, Director of Utilities, City of Danville
• Greg Evanylo, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech
• Susan Fischer-Davis, M.D., Deputy Director, Office of Epidemiology, Virginia Department of Health
• Tom Fox, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Forestry, Virginia Tech
• Rima B. Franklin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Virginia Commonwealth University
• James Golden, Deputy Director for Program Coordination, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
• Robert Hale, Ph.D., Professor, School of Marine Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
• Scott P. Johnson, M.P.A., Commissioner’s Office, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
• Howard Kator, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Chair, Department of Environmental and Aquatic Animal Health, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
• Mark Levine, M.D., MPH, Director, Henrico County Health Department, Virginia Department of Health
• John T. Novak, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech
• Karen Pallansch, CEO, Alexandria Sanitation Authority
• Christopher Peot, P.E., Manager, Biosolids Management Division, DC Water and Sewer Authority
• Alan B. Rubin, Ph.D., Consultant (Principal, Envirostrategies, LLC)
• Jonathan Sleeman, VetMB, Dipl. ACZM, MRCVS, Wildlife Veterinarian, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
• Henry Staudinger, JD, Citizen representative
• R. Leonard Vance, Ph.D., JD, Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
Secretaries Preston Bryant and Marilyn Tavenner serve as co-chairs of the panel.
The expert panel held its first meeting on September 18, 2007. At the Secretaries’ request, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) provided facilitators and staff support to assist the panel with its work. The first meeting focused on panel member introductions and areas of expertise; interpretation of the panel’s charge; and background on implementation of the permitting program for land application of biosolids in the Commonwealth. The panel decided to divide into two workgroups, one focusing on health issues and the other focusing on environmental issues. Several panel members have elected to participate in both workgroups. A public comment session was also held at the first meeting to allow the public to share their concerns with the panel.
The environmental workgroup met on October 16, 2007, and the health workgroup met on October 24, 2007. The full panel then met again on November 16, 2007 in Richmond. Each meeting enabled the panel to refine their strategies for addressing the tasks posed by the resolution, as well as to decide which working group would address specific questions in the resolution. Each workgroup is developing an initial work plan to address relevant topics.
The panel offered an opportunity at each meeting for the public to provide comment and will continue to allow for public comment at future meetings.
In addition to posting panel meeting notices on the Virginia Town Hall website, a website dedicated to the work of the expert panel was developed to provide additional information. The panel’s website is housed on the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s website, http://www.deq.state.va.us/info/biosolidspanel.html. The website includes meeting minutes, correspondence from panel members and the public, and links to related technical information. The panel is mindful of the sensitive nature of personal health information that may be obtained in the course of its study and will take appropriate measures to ensure that individual privacy is appropriately protected.
The charge of the panel is so broad that each work group initially focused on determining an achievable scope of work for the coming year. The workgroups and full panel plan to focus on the following topics in 2008:
- Are citizen-reported health symptoms associated with the land application of biosolids?
- Do odors from biosolids impact human health and well-being and property values?
- To what degree do biosolids-associated contaminants accumulate in food (plant crops and livestock)?
In addition, the workgroup will attempt to document and evaluate citizen-reported health symptoms associated with the land application of biosolids. As a component of this exercise, the panel is reviewing recent research on this topic conducted by the University of North Carolina in association with the Water Environment Research Foundation. The workgroup also intends to catalogue specific health complaints made in the Commonwealth. In addition, the health workgroup will review the adequacy of buffers at land application sites for the protection of human health. The panel also plans to examine citizen involvement in the permitting process, and as time and resources permit, the health workgroup will examine other health questions, including transport of disease-causing agents via aerosols, the effect of endotoxins that may be present in biosolids, and health effects related to odors.
- To what degree do biosolids-associated contaminants affect water quality?
- What are the effects of an accumulation of biosolids-associated contaminants in wildlife?
The environmental workgroup also intends to consider the chemical and biological composition of biosolids and evaluate the toxic potential of biosolids constituents derived from land application to humans, agricultural products, soil organisms, and wildlife. The environmental workgroup has requested staff from the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Conservation and Recreation to brief them on the application requirements and water quality effects.
Since a lack of resources prevents the panel from performing its own detailed analysis of the chemical and biological composition of biosolids, the panel will (i) examine the latest research from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding the recent nationwide survey of sewage sludge, and (ii) will solicit biosolids testing and analysis data from wastewater treatment plants that generate biosolids for land application in Virginia.
The full panel will encourage a collaborative exchange of information between the two workgroups to ensure that the workgroups work efficiently to address the tasks outlined in the legislative resolution. The panel also plans to examine a number of issues that are neither exclusively health nor environmental issues, such as:
- the capacity of alternative technologies to facilitate the beneficial use of biosolids and their disposal;
- the availability, costs, and feasibility of technological alternatives to Class B land application;
- the availability, capital and operations costs, feasibility, environmental and human health impact, and public acceptance of alternative technologies for the beneficial use of biosolids; and
- institutional and financial mechanisms for assisting localities in implementing alternative technologies at the state, local, and regional levels.
The panel intends to invite guest experts to address several topics in 2008, such as the risk assessment used in development of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations concerning biosolids. Panel members also intend to visit an active biosolids land application site to observe the practice first hand.
Finally, at the full panel’s request, a bibliography of recommended literature is being compiled, and is available for viewing on the panel’s website: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/info/panelcorrespondence.html.