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New Florida Rules For Fertilizer from Sewage Waste Don’t Do Enough To Stop Algae Blooms, Critics Say

Toxic algae can cause health problems to local marine, plant, and human life. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

Toxic algae can cause health problems to local marine, plant, and human life. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

The state of Florida is taking steps to crack down on pollution from biosolids. That’s the waste from sewage plants used as fertilizer which can fuel algae blooms.

As Florida continues to grow, so does the waste it produces flowing out of local sewage plants.

That waste has historically been treated to remove pathogens and used as fertilizer. But the nutrients, phosphorus and nitrogen, remain. And that’s becoming an increasing problem as the state battles recurring algae blooms.

Recently, state officials outlined new rules awaiting approval from Governor Ron DeSantis.

“So when we talk about the beneficial use of biosolids, we’re really talking two uses in two classes.”

Maurice Barker is with the Florida Wastewater Management program.

“We’re talking land application. And those are typically Class B biosolids. And the second class is Class AA biosolids, which can be distributed and marketed as a fertilizer.”

He says the rules would limit the use and increase monitoring for Class B biosolids.

But some counties and more than 60 environmental groups that belong to the Everglades Coalition, say the new rules continue to ignore double AA.

Double AA is more highly treated to remove pathogens. But it still contains the same amount of nutrients that foul water.

Laura Reynolds represents the Izaak Walton League and says the same rules should apply to double AA.

“These kinds of changes will help us determine more accurately whether this class of biosolids is influencing harmful algal blooms. It will also tell us where the nutrients are coming from. We think this is a major portion of our problem statewide.”

Barker says the new rules mean the amount of land where biosolids are used will need to increase by up to 10 times to keep up with the biosolids being produced by sewage plants. Critics worry that will lead the plants to switch production to double AA to escape the new, more stringent rules.

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