Pumpers are those professionals and technicians who have to deal with human waste – whether it’s from a septic system, a Port-A-Potty or biosolids left over from the wastewater treatment process.
Gustafson, a University of Minnesota Extension and National Association of Wastewater Technicians instructor, said few people outside of the industry realize that municipalities have to do “something” with the biosolids left over from the sewage treatment process. That “something” usually turns out to be spreading biosolids on farm fuels or burning them in an incinerator.
Just like farmers, pumpers have to follow specific and multiple rules regarding spreading, including how much they can spread, when and where.
They also have to make sure that if there are any pollutants, such as chromium, arsenic, lead and others, in the biosolid that their application level stays below the specified amount so the soil does not become oversaturated, Gustafson said.
“The rules are confusing,” he said of the EPA’s Part 503 Biosolids Rule, which govern what pumpers can and cannot do.
“A critical piece of the process is recordkeeping, including standard operating procedures. Pumpers need to have it written down so when they’re asked about their procedures, the answers are consistent, clear and concise.”
Besides dealing with all the rules, pumpers and farmers face another shared challenge – public reaction.
“The public perception on this is very negative. In general, land application is tougher because of the neighbor response. The Internet can be friend or foe – people go out there and find all this stuff about it – which may not all be true – and then make it harder to get the job done,” he said. “Pumpers and farmers deal with a lot of ‘not in my backyard’ issues.”
Gustafson said there are a lot of similarities between animal and people waste.
“In areas where the spreading of animal waste is questioned, then human manure will run into the same issues. Sewage guys and farmers should be working on this issue together,” he said.
“I wish there was more dollars out there to educate the public about land applying initiatives so they can see all the steps being taken to protect them.”
MaryBeth Matzek is the editor and publisher of Midwest Agriculture Almanac. She can be reached at news@midwestagriculturealmanac@.com.