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CSU and L/EWWTP CSU Biosolids Web Site

In 1982, the Littleton/Englewood WWTP contracted with the Colorado State University Department of Agronomy to study the benefit and environmental impact of biosolids application versus the use of nitrogen fertilizer on dryland wheat fields. The soil condition, accumulation of metals, moisture content, and grain quality were measured as part of the study.

The 20+year, on-going study is one of the most in depth and continuously running studies conducted by any Publicly Owned Treatment Works in the nation. The data collected as a result of this study has been used to assist in the development of Federal and local biosolids regulations.

This year L/EWWTP and CSU will work together on three biosolids related projects. The project from 1982 will continue, as will a similar study in Kiowa, though with the focus will be more on how biosolids impact ground water. The third project, slated to begin by the end of this year, will look at biosolids application and progressive farming methods, including crop rotation schemes. Charles Caudill, Process Development Analyst, says one benefit of this study is that the research on various farming methods will have already been done so that L/EWWTP’s farm could be something of a showcase for new technologies.

Biosolids are the organic by-products of the Wastewater treatment process and the natural material once called "sludge". Biosolids are produced when Wastewater solids are treated to remove the harmful organisms (called pathogens) using heat and an anaerobic process (which eliminates free oxygen) and essentially, ‘starving’ the pathogens by not allowing their food to grow. The solid material (biosolids) accumulated from this process is dewatered and transported by truck to farms where it is applied to wheat fields.

Agriculturally, biosolids have been found to be very beneficial. Containing nitrogen and phosphorous, they increase the soil’s nutrient and organic matter content, thus improving soil strength, root penetration, moisture retention, and the plant’s resistance to drought and disease. Biosolid application has been shown to increase plant growth, decrease soil erosion, increase grain protein content by 15%, and increase crop yield by nearly 15%. In addition, biosolids are less expensive than other fertilizers. Studies conducted since 1920 show that there is no threat to human health with proper biosolid use in agricultural applications.

Colorado is above the national average in its use of recycled biosolids. Eighty five percent of Colorado's biosolids are used in either agricultural uses (60%), reclamation (forests, golf courses, revegetation of mining areas, 20%), or sold to nurseries and private citizens (5%). Only 15% is sent to land fills as opposed to the national average of 50%.