Turtle Valley Biosolid Land Application

Arrow Transportation and Turtle Valley Bison Ranch submitted notification under the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation for the land application of biosolids from the City of Kamloops wastewater treatment system. The purpose of the application is to establish vegetation and improved habitat for an area that was previously logged.

In an effort to inform the public about the land application of biosolids in the Turtle Valley, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (the ministry) has provided the following information based on the questions we have received.

About Biosolids & Regulations

Biosolids are residual products from sewage treatment processes that have been treated to reduce pathogens and vectors. They are primarily used as a fertilizer to promote grass growth on rangeland, for forest fertilization and for site reclamation at sites like gravel pits and mines. Biosolids are not sewage sludge.

The application of biosolids to land in British Columbia is regulated under the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation (OMRR) under the Environmental Management Act and the Public Health Act. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy does not issue permits for the land application of biosolids.

Someone who wants to land apply biosolids must submit a notification to the ministry and hire a Qualified Professional to write a Land Application Plan that meets all the requirements of the OMRR. If the biosolids are proposed to be used on agricultural land or within a watershed, the local Health Authority must also be notified.

Lastly, for applications within the Agricultural Land Reserve, a notification has to be sent to the Agricultural Land Commission as well. All applicants must comply with all the requirements of the OMRR.

The OMRR sets requirements to ensure protection of human health and the environment during and after land application, including:

  • Storage requirements for biosolids at proposed land application sites
  • Setbacks for waterbodies and property boundaries
  • Risk-based limits for soil metal concentrations that ensure low risk application rates
  • Grazing and planting restrictions on fertilized sites
  • Signage requirements

The land application of biosolids does not pose a risk to human health or the environment when they are applied in accordance with all of the requirements in the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation. Biosolids should be handled in the same manner as animal manure; efforts should be taken to minimize the risk of accidental ingestion or body entry. The primary method of reducing risk is to limit direct exposure to biosolids.

Land owners who wish to land apply biosolids are required to have a qualified professional (QPs) prepare a Land Application plan (LAP) prior to the application commencing. The LAP must include information such as:

  • A description of the application site
  • Intended application date
  • Storage and leachate management requirements for the biosolids
  • Application rates
  • A description of the biosolids to be applied

The land owner (or their agent) is then required to submit notification of the proposed land application at least 30 days in advance of the proposed application date to:

  • a director at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy;
  • the medical health officer at the local Health Authority if the application is on agricultural land or in a watershed  and
  • the Agricultural Land Commission if the application is within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Under the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy has 30 days to respond to the notification with a request for additional information. The medical health officer has the authority to veto the land application or impose conditions on the application within the 30-day notification period, if these are deemed to be necessary to protect human health. The application can proceed if there is no communication from either of these parties 30 days after the notification has been provided, or 30 days after receipt of additional information that was requested. The Agricultural Land Commission has no authority under the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation to either request further information or veto a proposed application. 

The land application of biosolids must be undertaken in accordance with the land application plan developed by a Qualified Professional and upon completion of land application, who must also certify upon completion that the land application was conducted in accordance with the land application plan.

The Organic Matter Recycling Regulation regulates the concentration of trace elements and pathogens allowed in biosolids used for beneficial reuse and land application. Other substances that may be present in small quantities in biosolids include heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, personal care products and hormones. To date, research has not demonstrated a risk to human health or the environment from the extremely small amounts of these compounds which are present in biosolids.

Research shows the following with regards to some of these substances:

  • Most of these compounds are degraded to some extent during the wastewater treatment process
  • They are found in very low concentrations in wastewater residuals (parts per billion or trillion (a part per trillion would be the equivalent of a drop of water into 20 Olympic sized swimming pools);
  • They break down in the process of biosolids production;
  • They break down rapidly in soils after land application;
  • Plant uptake of these compounds has been demonstrated to be very low and not of concern for human health; and
  • There are no documented significant negative effects of these substances on growth and reproduction of earthworms, plants and bacteria.
  • Some of the literature may be found at Biosolid Waste in B.C.

 

 

About the Turtle ValleyRanch Land Application

A notification under the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation for the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch was submitted to the ministry on January 28, 2019.  The notification indicates that the purpose of the proposed land application is to improve grazing conditions on an area of land that was recently logged by providing nutrients and a growth medium for plants. This will ultimately result in the establishment of vegetation and improved habitat.

According to the notification, a top soil mixture will be created using up to 9% biosolids (dry weight), clean carbon feedstock (wood chips) and native soils. The blend ratio of biosolids to the other materials is calculated to prevent the potential leaching of nitrogen through the soil profile to groundwater or surface water.

The submitted Turtle Valley Bison Ranch Land Application Plan indicates routine sampling and analysis of the manufactured soils will be conducted to determine actual nutrient levels to ensure no overloading of leachable nitrogen occurs. For additional protection of the nearby Chum Creek and Chum Lake, the Qualified Professional has implemented a setback of 60 meters from Chum Creek and 100 meters from Chum Lake rather than the minimum set back of 30 meters required under the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation.

Unlike traditional fertilization where organic matter is directly applied to the surface of the soil to provide nutrients to the plants, the land application plan for the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch is for the application of a manufactured soil. The proposed application rate is not unusual for this method of application.

The creation of a manufactured soil rather than surface application is often used when disturbed soils are severely nutrient deficient, devoid of organic matter, soil biota and nutrient cycling activities and lack adequate moisture holding abilities. The goal at the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch is to reclaim an area that was previously logged. The manufactured soil will not only serve as a nutrient source but will also provide a medium for vegetation to grow.

The rate at which the manufactured soil will be applied to the ranch has been calculated based on the nitrogen content of the biosolids and the amount of biosolids in the manufactured soil. The nitrogen content in the previously-stored City of Kamloops biosolids is lower than nitrogen content of typical fresh biosolids.

In accordance with the Land Application Guideline (PDF), the Qualified Professional must carefully assess site slope and topography, soil texture and permeability, aspect and climate and make a professional judgement of site suitability based on these factors. Where biosolids are to be applied to a slope, it may be appropriate to increase the buffer distance from surface water to reduce the potential for runoff to enter the watercourse.

The ministry understands that the current area proposed for the land application of biosolids on the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch will be re-contoured. The ministry does not have information regarding the proposed final slope; however, it is the ministry’s understanding based on the Arrow Transportation newsletter (PDF) that a surveying company has been retained to ensure  details can be obtained for final contours and soil placement. In addition to any contouring planned, the ministry understands the Qualified Professional has implemented a setback of 60 meters from Chum Creek and 100 meters from Chum Lake, rather than the minimum setback of 30 meters required under the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation, to ensure protection of waterbodies

The ministry will conduct inspections of the site in accordance with standard ministry practice to ensure biosolids have been applied in compliance with all aspects of the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation. 

If the ministry has reason to believe the land application of biosolids is causing or is likely to cause pollution, it may conduct any testing required to make this determination and take action as needed to ensure protection of the environment and human health.  

Additionally, as per the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation, a Qualified Professional must certify that the biosolids have been applied in accordance with the Land Application Plan.

The Qualified Professional has stated in their submitted Land Application Plan that routine monitoring of actual nutrient levels in the amended soils will be conducted. 

In addition to sampling and analyzing the biosolids, soils amended with biosolids will also be sampled and analyzed to ensure they meet the agricultural land use standards in the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation. These standards ensure soil and groundwater are protected and take into account protection of both human health and the environment.

In accordance with the Land Application Guideline (section 11.12.1)(PDF) Class B biosolids and Class B compost cannot be applied in watersheds that are permitted for supply of drinking water as defined under the Safe Drinking Water Regulation, BC Reg 230/92 (amended to the Drinking Water Protection Regulation). Under the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation, notification to the medical health officer is required for applications of managed organic matter in watersheds, and the medical health officer can veto or impose restrictions on the application. 

There are no known drinking water supplies that are permitted under the Drinking Water Protection Regulation (as per section 9(6) of the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation) in this watershed.

Please contact the local medical health officer if you have further questions about the watershed or local drinking water systems.