SALEM, Ohio – Biosolid doesn’t mean just municipal waste, it’s also food processing waste.
Both types are used in the same way, said Brian Alger, who works as a technician for a residuals company called Synagro. Farmers still sign contracts and go through the EPA and fall under Class B biosolids regulations.
The benefits are also the same, he said; nitrogen and phosphorous levels are high, it helps build organic matter, and it’s free.
Geauga County farmer Jim Timmons uses biosolids from a cheese plant on 100-150 acres each year and says his crops are noticeably greener where the biosolids are applied.
In the last five years, since using biosolids, he’s cut his phosphorous purchases by 60 percent, he said.
The biosolids are spread in August, when the ground is dry and he’s just harvested his wheat.
The only problem, Timmons said, is he has to be sure land is available. If the fall is too wet and he can’t plant wheat, he needs to plant something in the spring, like oats, that will be out of the field by August.
In Timmons’ case, the cheese processor contacted him wanting an outlet for its waste.
At the time, Timmons was shipping his dairy cows’ milk to the plant and knew he wasn’t putting anything into his cows that he wouldn’t mind ending up in his fields, he said.
Striking a balance
Even food waste’s use hangs in a precarious balance with public opinion.
Anytime neighbors see a tanker injecting something into a field, they will be worried, Alger said.
“If there’s an odor with it, it brings a double whammy,” he said.
“[Biosolids’ use] is done under the most careful, watchful conditions,” he said. “There are responsible people handling it from start to finish.”
Timmons added, “It’s as clean as it gets.”