The Varieties of “Beneficial Use”

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A certain person I know well claims that, for his psychological well-being, an occasional fine cigar is beneficial.  That determination is based on weighted values known only to him, and arguably with willful and sublime ignorance of the values held by, say, his wife.  

Spouses aside, individuals are pretty much free to deem whether something is beneficial to them or not and take it from there. But in public policy, others get to decide what is beneficial for the rest of us.  

This post is about the “beneficial reuse” of biosolids, which got me thinking about who declared their reuse to be so, and how, where, and when it’s considered a good thing. 

How biosolids come to be.  Wastewater treatment relies on both physical and biological processes to clean water. Primary clarifiers physically remove most of the organic materials simply through settling them out as primary sludge. The remaining soluble organic matter that passes on to the aeration tanks is biologically converted by bacteria. The bacteria multiply, so to keep their population in check, a portion of them is “wasted” out of the system to digesters along with primary sludge. Sludge digestion is either done aerobically or anaerobically (some sludges are incinerated), but under the EPA 503 Rule, the end product becomes “biosolids.” Read more