Original team that initiated research for Part 503 biosolids regulations share project updates with new and returning committee members at annual meeting

W3170 research team

By Sally Brown, University of Washington

Under the auspices of the USDA CREES program, every year a group of scientists   get together to talk about their work related to municipal biosolids.  It is the very same group who, decades back, started and carried out the research that became the backbone of the Part 503 regulations.  Over the years many of the most famous members of the group have retired or moved on.  Last year for example, we said goodbye to Rufus Chaney whose work at USDA over decades added immensely to our knowledge of metals in soils and biosolids.

This year the group met at the Los Angeles Hyperion Wastewater treatment facility.  While many of the regulars (Myself, George O’Connor (U FL), Nick Basta (Ohio State), Greg Evanylo (Virginia Tech) to name a few) were there, it was exciting to see many new faces in the crowd.  Greg Kester from CASA organized the meeting and as a result many program managers were also in attendance.  Ned Beecher from NEBRA was there to both give an update on attempts to limit land application in the Northeast and get input from the experts in the field that were in attendance.  There were also some young scientists there, potential future greats in the biosolids field as well as some returning to the field. For this research blurb, I’d like to introduce you to some new faces in biosolids.

Jim Ippolito (http://soilcrop.agsci.colostate.edu/faculty-2/ippolito-jim/) is back at Colorado State University after a multiple year detour at the USDA ARS research facility in Kimberly, ID.  He got his MS and PhD at CSU and was involved in their long-term dryland wheat research plots.  For his graduate degrees he worked on biosolids from the perspective of both nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) and metal availability with Ken Barbarik, a long time member of the group. He also looked at impact of mixing water treatment residuals and biosolids together.  Much of his time at USDA was spent on studying basics of biochar added to soils.   Here he found mixed responses (see the June library for examples of his work) with the char reducing both yields and nitrogen availability.  Teaching is a very important part of his work with multiple publications on the best way to teach about soils and chapters in texts on soils.  He is very happy to be back at CSU and back with biosolids and has graciously agreed to be one of the speakers at our 2018 meeting at Lake Chelan.  He also bears a striking resemblance to Robert Downey Jr. but claims he has no special affinity for iron.

This was the second W -3170 meeting for Maria Lucia Silveira (http://rcrec-ona.ifas.ufl.edu/faculty/silveira.shtml) from the University of Florida Range Cattle Research and Education Center.  Maria got her graduate degrees at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.  At UFL she has been mentored by George O’Connor.  In Florida biosolids applications are limited by excess P in soils and so land application is based on P requirements.  Maria has worked on ways to reduce soil P including using high biomass crops as a way to mine P from soil.  She presented work on using biosolids in combination with other materials including char and nitrogen fertilizers on pasture grasses.  She is looking at changes in soil carbon as well as yield responses.  She is happy to cooperate and encourages any and all to work with her.

Samantha Yang (http://ucrsoils.weebly.com/) is an associate professor at UC Riverside, prior home to Al Page (one of the founding members of the group, now retired but still a fixture at the Riverside Campus) and Dave Parker, another former member of the group and expert on metal availability.  Sam got two degrees at UC Santa Barbara and her PhD at Stanford with Scott Fendorf.  She has worked on the interaction between soil microbes and arsenic availability and continues to be interested in reduction oxidation reactions and how they impact metal availability.  However, she is also very interested in getting involved in urban soils and biosolids.  In fact she has signed on with the research proposal, organized by Greg Kester, to see if biosolids application to burned forest lands can reduce erosion and decrease recovery time.  Now that just has to get sufficient funding to move forward.  

In addition to the three professors highlighted here, Rebecca Ryals (https://ryalslab.wordpress.com/) who got her PhD at UC Berkeley working on soil carbon storage with Whendee Silver as part of the Marin Carbon project was a newcomer to the group. Harry Allen Jr. from US EPA who has used biosolids for mineland reclamation also came.  There were also a number of graduate students.   It was the best-attended meeting in several years but we still managed to maintain the camaraderie and constructive input that makes the meetings special.  This made me feel hopeful about the next generation of biosolids scientist.