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Land Application of Organic Waste

Land application of organic waste materials such as sewage sludge, non-sewage sludge, septage, food processing, and other solid waste provides valuable nutrients to help organically enrich soils and restore the opportunity for improved plant growth. The beneficial use of these materials not only serves to provide an effective soil amendment, but also helps divert thousands of tons of waste from landfills and incinerators, saving cost of disposal, while preserving valuable landfill space and eliminating the potential for harmful emissions to the air we breathe.

land application of biosolidsFacilities involved in the land application of sewage sludge, non-sewage sludge, septage, food processing and other solid wastes may be subject to regulation under 6 NYCRR Subpart 360-4 Land Application Facilities. The regulations are designed to establish criteria based upon the potential environmental and human health risks involved and protect against nuisances and other possible ill effects of the land application process. The greatest potential risks to human health and the environment can occur with the direct land application of sewage sludge, also known as biosolids (see NYSDEC Biosolids Fact Sheets - 320 KB PDF), and septage due to contact with disease bearing micro-organisms known also as pathogens.

Currently there are twenty-four (24) facilities permitted to land apply organic waste materials in New York State (see List of Facilities - PDF, 229 KB). Of these, twenty-one (21) are permitted to land apply biosolids. Because of the potential for environmental and health risks due to pathogens, land application of biosolids and septage requires establishment of sound permitting conditions to protect human health, animals, and soil biota. The application for a permit to land apply organic waste material must take into account the potential effects of land application on these media as well as the proposed benefit of the material on a particular soil or crop. Permit conditions are developed in regards to soil characteristics, waste qualities, pathogen reduction, waste stabilization, application location, nutrient loading, potential crop growth, run-on and run-off potential, etc. For pathogen and vector attraction reduction issues, a useful guidance document authored by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is entitled Environmental Regulations and Technology "Control of Pathogens and Vector Attraction in Sewage Sludge".

In addition to State regulations, the EPA has established regulations for land application of sewage sludge under 40 CFR Part 503 Standards for the Use or Disposal of Sewage Sludge. These regulations are more simply described in "A Plain English Guide to the EPA Part 503 Biosolids Rule". Until New York State becomes delegated to administer the federal regulations, both apply. The federal regulations include similar information to that of the State regulations such as general requirements, pollutant limits, best management practices, operational standards, monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting.

In accordance with the regulations, a permitted land application facility is required to submit an annual report to the Department. Information submitted should include the sites used during the year as well as the sites to be used the following year, sludge analysis, the current and next year's quantities and application rates, soil analysis, problems, and complaints. A copy of the annual reporting form may be obtained from the Organic Recycling Facility Annual Report Forms page.

The web links on this page offer some insight into the regulations that govern land application of organic waste. The NYSDEC is currently considering changes to Subpart 360-4 to incorporate Federal Part 503 and make other needed changes.


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