Biosolids Guidelines and Best Management Practices Reform in Alberta

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EPCOR Water Services Inc.

The current biosolids management guidelines in Alberta, “Guidelines for the Application of Municipal Wastewater Sludges to Agricultural Lands,” enables the application of biosolids to productive agricultural land.  In developing new options for City of Edmonton biosolids, SYLVIS identified a number of opportunities that fell outside the purview of the guidelines, including mine reclamation, marginal land improvement and applications to “off-spec” agricultural land excluded from the definition within the guidelines. 

While not novel approaches to biosolids management, the proposed beneficial biosolids uses in the aforementioned “non-agricultural” options were new to Alberta.  SYLVIS took a proactive approach to developing the projects by engaging Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), early in the development process.  SYLVIS met with ESRD to introduce the concept of non-agricultural biosolids management, and solicited input from ESRD on project design.  Each demonstration project had an element of research and monitoring, designed to answer questions that ESRD had with respect to biosolids use and environmental protection.  Monitoring and research included evaluating the protection of soil and water resources, crop quality, and movement of mobile constituents following biosolids applications.  Letters of No Objection from the ESRD were issued for each project prior to commencement. 

SYLVIS has incorporated research and monitoring into a total of seven operational-scale biosolids management projects.  SYLVIS also developed and validated best management practices for short-term (i.e. less than nine months) stockpiling of biosolids at land application sites prior to applications.  Information obtained from the research and monitoring is regularly communicated to ESRD.  SYLVIS has demonstrated that non-agricultural biosolids management and short-term stockpiling can be conducted in a beneficial and environmentally protective manner.  The information obtained from the projects will be used to support the development of new guidelines to enable non-agricultural biosolids applications in Alberta.  Through the completion of our demonstration projects SYLVIS is on the leading edge of innovative biosolids management in Alberta.