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Ontario community calls for paper biosolids regulation

Council for the Township of Clarington, on the eastern border of Toronto, has passed a resolution that opposes the ...


Council for the Township of Clarington, on the eastern border of Toronto, has passed a resolution that opposes the mixing of compost with paper-fibre biosolids, at least until the recommendations are known from a provincial panel of experts that has studied the matter. The town is concerned about the safety of mixing compost with the paper sludge, which is a byproduct of newsprint- and other fibre recycling. Some critics consider the sludge a “waste” and claim that land disposal of the material (e.g., to construct berms) may be dangerous to groundwater.

Clarington wants Ontario’s environment ministry to regulate such byproducts throughout transportation, processing, storage or stockpiling, and final disposal or land application using a Certificate of Approval and via provisions of the Nutrient Management Act (for agricultural applications).

Citizens’ groups such as Protect The Ridges in rural areas east of Toronto (and elsewhere) have long sought a policy from the provincial government to obtain greater regulation and oversight of paper-fibre biosolids. The most well-known products are “Nitro-Sorb” — paper sludge mixed with compost — and “Sound-Sorb” — paper sludge mixed with sand. Sound-Sorb is often used as filler in berms, while Nitro-Sorb is spread on some farm fields and ploughed in, marketed as fertilizer.

More than a year ago, an expert panel convened by the environment ministry released recommendations for these products, including that they should be controlled by ministry Certificates of Approval or other legal instruments to ensure protection of human health and the environment. Some of the recommendations, such as groundwater monitoring, are being implemented, but the material is still not considered as a “waste” under the province’s environmental rules.


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