By Sally Brown, University of Washington

W-3170 is a group of researchers who meet every year to talk about biosolids.  This group, officially under the auspices of the USDA CREES, has been around for many decades under various names.  This was the group largely behind the science of the EPA Part 503 regulations.  The membership of the group reads like a Who’s Who list for biosolids research having included Al Page (UC Riverside), Jim Ryan, (US EPA), Terry Logan (Ohio State University), Rufus Chaney (USDA ARS) and Chuck Henry (U Washington).  There are plenty of all stars in the current membership too- George O’Connor (University of Florida) and Nick Basta (Ohio State) to name a few.  Despite the all-star membership, the group is a very informal one.  Banter and backtalk are critical to its success.  Researchers come to the meetings to see old friends but also to get critical feedback on their work.  Meetings are places where collaborations are cemented and data is shared.  All are welcome to attend on the condition that you check any attitude or bad data at the door.

This year’s meeting was no exception.  The group met at the main wastewater treatment plant in Chicago.  The Chicago biosolids program has long been led by PhD soil scientists and has a long history of involvement with now W 3170.  There were two special parts to the meeting this year:  We celebrated Tom Granato’s (formerly of the Metropolitan Wastewater District of Greater Chicago) retirement with a number of talks on metal availability in biosolids and the ‘Time Bomb’ theory and we asked for the attendance and participation of regional biosolids associations.  While there has long been an informal association between the group and regional associations, this was a deliberate effort to get input on research questions and potentially leverage funding across the different associations to produce research that is pertinent for all.  

Presentations this year included work on making soil from dredged sediment and biosolids as a way to provide a ‘clean’ source of soil for urban areas from Nick Basta.  Jim Ippolito (Colorado State) talked about measuring soil health on long-term dryland wheat plots with a history of tillage and biosolids use that was also presented at Biofest.  Greg Evanylo (Virginia Tech) talked about his research to develop a ‘Tagro’ style product using DC ‘Bloom’ biosolids.  George O’Connor talked about his work on behavior, plant uptake and binding of antibiotics in biosolids amended soils.  Rooney Kim Lazcano (Purdue University) talked about PFOA and PFOS concentrations in a range of biosolids and composts.  The heads of the regional associations talked about research priorities.  These included soil carbon sequestration and perfluorinated organics.  Next year’s meeting will be at the Blue Plains Treatment Plant in Washington DC.  All are welcome to attend. 

For more information, visit the W-3170 website here: