There’s no doubt that one of the biggest markers of sustainability is being able to reuse something that seemingly has no value whatsoever and applying it to a situation where it serves an integral, crucial purpose to an entirely new system. In this way, biosolids are and continue to be a pinnacle example for green innovation—after all, what’s more a model of ingenuity than applying human waste in something like agriculture, to grow bigger, healthier, stronger crops?
But while it might be something to marvel at the beneficial reuse of biosolids in Bethel, OH, what’s even more stunning is the decontamination process that makes biosolids applicable in such a wide swath. Few people realize that reusing biosolids means more than just transporting effluent from your septic tank to a farm and dumping it on crops—the in-between process is extensive, technical and essential for a myriad of reasons.
The first thing to realize about the treatment of biosolids is that before they can be used, numerous pathogens must be completely eliminated, otherwise the application of these biosolids could have an adverse effect. Pathogens present in human waste can actually strip the soil of its nutrients, create toxicity levels that destroy plants and nullify any previous attempts at soil remediation via the chemical combination of effluent, digester bacteria and any other such microbes present within the septic environment.
To eliminate these pathogens, biosolids are treated in anaerobic digesters, to both strip them of their toxicity and to make them less appealing to destructive forces that include bacteria, insects and even mammals that may disturb them later. Effluent is mixed with water and heated to high temperatures to kill off most bacteria, usually occurring over a period of 15-20 days.
When removed from the anaerobic digestion chamber, treated effluent can now be naturally applied to an agricultural environment. But, this beneficial reuse of biosolids in Bethel, OH does mark the end of the decontamination or treatment process—just the end of human intervention. When applied, biosolids will then be further purified by ultraviolet light, which will serve to eradicate any leftover microbes that may be seeking to fester within the reapplied biosolids.
Over a short period of time and very little UV exposure, biosolids quickly become neutral and as a result, prove to be the perfect addition to fertile soil.
As you can see from the above processes, the beneficial reuse of biosolids in Bethel, OH is far from simple or uncontrolled. In fact, this system is heavily monitored and regulated to ensure a zero transmission rate of bacteria or pathogens! Even beyond just treating biosolids themselves, buffer zone applications and other such practices ensure that there’s limited opportunity for contamination to occur once a biosolid is applied.
Biosolids are the peak of innovation in sustainable culture, but as with most innovations, there’s more to them than meets the eye!