Senate committee approves bill encouraging higher quality fertilizer

wastewater treatment facility
Certain projects would require a 50% local funding match.

In the vein of turning waste into something valuable, legislation emerging from a Senate committee this week would encourage wastewater treatment facilities to refine solids left over from water treatment into a higher-quality variety for fertilizer use.

There are Class AA, A and B biosolids, with the bill laid out to encourage more facilities to generate Class AA.

“What this act will do is strengthen permitting requirements for Class B biosolids and will work toward a conservative, incremental next step building on the solid foundation of the Clean Waterways Act,” Chairman Jason Brodeur said to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government.

The bill (SB 880) creates a biosolids grant program in the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with which the Department can provide grants to counties and municipalities to purchase or upgrade what they need to in order to have “facilities that convert wastewater residuals to Class AA biosolids,” along with encouraging applicants to enter into public-private partnerships.

SB 880 prohibits DEP from authorizing application site permits for Class B biosolids within the subwatershed upstream of certain impaired waterbodies, unless the applicant can prove it wouldn’t increase the nutrient load in that subwatershed.

Certain projects would require a 50% local funding match.

Class B biosolids have a significant amount of toxic metals and can attract “rodents, flies, mosquitoes or other organisms capable of transporting infectious agents.”

The state tracks land application of Class B biosolids, but the state doesn’t do the same for Class AA, which raised concerns among environmental advocates. With more Class AA biosolids likely ending up on fields, they argue there’s a need to know what effect that fertilizer is having on the water.

“(The bill) specifically bans the land application of Class B biosolids in the most targeted and precise way possible, within the subwatersheds of waterways that are already impaired for both nitrogen and phosphorus,” said John November, representing the Public Trust for Conservation.

“It’s important to know that this bill also will help local communities who are slowly transitioning, and have already started the transition, to treat these biosolids to higher levels of treatment that are more environmentally sustainable, more economically viable and more versatile.”

There are around 2,000 wastewater treatment facilities in the state, which according to 2019 estimates produce around 340,000 dry tons of biosolids annually. One-third of these end up spread on land.

“A recent study in the Upper St. Johns River Basin compared the timing and intensity of Class B land applications of biosolids to long term trends in total phosphorus and total nitrogen concentrations and fluxes in eight pasture-dominated, small-to-medium watersheds with varying intensity and cumulative history of land application of biosolids,” according to the Senate staff analysis.

“The study showed strong correlative evidence that intensified land applications of Class B biosolids caused increases in the total phosphorus and total nitrogen fluxes in the Upper St. Johns River Basin.”

The unanimously passed bill awaits action in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:


  • Julia

    April 13, 2023 at 3:26 pm

    Google pays $300 on a regular basis. My latest salary check was $8600 for working 10 hours a week on the internet. My younger sibling has been averaging $19k for the last few months, and he constantly works approximately 24 hours. I’m not sure how simple it was once I checked it out.

    This is my main concern……….

  • tom palmer

    April 13, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    The problem is making sure contractors dispose of the sludge properly. My county decided to landfill it because the haulers were untrustworthy. Not sure who well we can trust FDEP to monitor since their record is not comforting and they rarely take questions because of the siege mentality that has infected the DeSantis administration.

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