Going The Extra Mile For Sustainable Biosolids

Toffey, W.E., Philadelphia Water Department, USA


I spent some 100 hours running -- going the extra mile -- training for my first marathon last November. I listened to recorded
lectures to pass the hours of tedious running. One of my favorite was the “Joy of Science,” in which Professor Robert Hazen,
George Mason University, covered the entire span of scientific inquiry, ending it on somewhat philosophical note. He pointed
out that life has been an unbroken chain for 3.5 billion years, leading to us, right here in our seats . He also said that the
fundamental process underway is the capture of energy by living organisms for the principal purpose of gathering, protecting
and transmitting information. Yes, information. And, we humans, today here in Wakefield, are engaged in that very same
process, creating information that we intend to build upon and transmit.

But here is the interesting connection with sustainability. A fundamental aspect of life is that living organisms modify and
protect their environments to help ensure the survival of the particular species. Survival begins and ends with dealing with
waste products, and that is as true for us as it is for primitive molds. If we as human beings fail to convert our waste, some
of which may be toxic and destructive of survival, into a resource for another organism on Earth, then our existence is
threatened. You and I are part of that necessary and vital step of life that started 3.5 billion years ago. The current threats
to survival are very real, and if we, as professionals committed to environmental cleanliness, don’t “go the extra mile” for
creating a sustainable environment for future generations, then who will?

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