Rules for Septage and Sewage Sludges in Other Jurisdictions

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Land application of sewage sludge and septage is widely practised, but the rules vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The examples listed below are a small sampling of how some U.S. jurisdictions are attempting to reduce environmental impacts of these activities.

Sewage Sludge nutrient management plans

The State of Maryland requires nutrient management plans for nitrogen from sludges and manures by the end of 2001, and these plans must be implemented by the end of 2002. Nutrient management plans for both nitrogen and phosphorus must be implemented by the end of 2005.

Protection of aquifers

The State of Texas requires that sewage sludge placed on an active sludge unit shall not contaminate an aquifer. This must be demonstrated either through the results of a groundwater monitoring program developed by a qualified groundwater scientist, or through certification by a qualified groundwater scientist.

Buffer zones

The State of Maine requires that no sludges be utilized within 75 feet of a river, perennial stream or great pond. The resulting buffer zones must be vegetated during application and the following growing season. Buffer zones must be inspected just prior to each spreading, and any areas showing erosion must be repaired, re-contoured and reseeded.The State of Maine allows adjacent property owners to request that sludge not be applied to land within 50 feet of their property boundary.

Restrictions on winter spreading

U.S. federal rules prohibit land application of sewage sludge on a site that is flooded, frozen or snow-covered in such a way that the sewage sludge will enter a wetland or other waters.

Tax credits for better equipment

The State of Virginia provides 25 per cent tax credits to farmers on the purchase of more precise nutrient and pesticide application equipment if the equipment meets state specifications, and if the farmer is willing to prepare a nutrient management plan.


Stabilizing septage

U.S. federal rules (in force throughout the United States) impose grazing and public access restrictions to lands where septage has been applied if the septage has not been stabilized by treatment with lime. Public access restrictions may include no trespassing signs and/or fencing in some instances. But if septage is stabilized and its pH is raised to at least 12 before land application, then grazing and site restrictions are waived, although crop harvesting restrictions still apply.

Testing septage application sites

The State of Maine requires septage land application sites to undergo an annual soil sampling and analysis for available nitrogen phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium, among other parameters.

Protection of aquifers

The State of Maine does not allow septage land application sites to overlie significant sand and gravel aquifers.

Restricting public access

The State of Maine prohibits public access to septage utilization sites and requires operators to have large signs posted at all vehicle access points.

This is an article from the 2000/01 Annual Report to the Legislature from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.

Citing This Article
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 2001. "Management of Septage and Sewage Sludges." Having Regard, ECO Annual Report, 2000-01. Toronto, ON : Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 55.