Rowlands C.L.
Severn Trent Water Ltd


Approximately a decade ago, there was an awakening of retailer and other stakeholders’
interest in biosolids production and use in agriculture, as a consequence of various food
quality and health alarms both in the UK and worldwide. These issues heightened
stakeholder anxiety, which resulted in the industry having to agree to develop and adhere
to a Safe Sludge Matrix and microbiological standards that go far beyond requirements
technically necessary to protect human health and the environment.

In parallel to this development (and contributing to the process) was significant
research into biosolids use and its risks by various research organisations (managed by
UKWIR), jointly funded by the industry, Defra and the Environment Agency (amongst
others); key aspects were levels of organic contaminants, heavy metals concentrations and
impact on soil ecology, microbiological safety of biosolids treatment and application

The privatisation process of the water Industry in 1989 resulted in funding being made
available in the 1990’s to invest in sludge treatment, which resulted in greater quantities
of well treated biosolids becoming available for agricultural use. Increasing environmental legislation,
(European and UK driven), also had its own impact upon biosolids production, availability
and use. The article also considers what the potential possible threats to biosolids use are.

Biosolids, British Retail Consortium, Dioxins, microbiological standards, PTE,
Risk Assessment, Safe Sludge Matrix, sludge treatment, Stakeholders.

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