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Land Application


Oversight of the regulations and permits pertaining to biosolids were transferred to DEQ from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) on January 1, 2008. The VDH Biosolids Use Regulation (BUR) was incorporated into the Virginia Pollution Abatement (VPA) Permit Regulation. Land application of biosolids is now regulated by DEQ under the VPA Permit Regulation and the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) Permit Regulation. Many VDH-BUR permits are still active and will be phased out as DEQ permits are issued. Biosolids treatment and land application requirements have their basis in the requirements found in Federal regulations, 40 CFR Part 503, and additional requirements as specified in Virginia State Water Control Law § 62.1-44.19:3.

Biosolids treated to meet Class B pathogen standards may be land applied on agricultural, silvicultural (forestland) and mined land reclamation sites. Contractors who land apply or propose to land apply Class B biosolids in Virginia are required to obtain a VPA permit for each county or city in which they land apply. Municipal wastewater treatment plants may also be authorized to land apply Class B biosolids; they may be authorized under their existing VPDES permit or obtain a separate VPA permit for land application activities.

A VPA permit is also required for the operation of a facility, other than the wastewater treatment plant, that prepares biosolids from sewage sludge or further treats the biosolids to produce an exceptional quality biosolids product, including compost. Biosolids that have been treated to meet Class A Pathogen standards, as well exceptional quality standards for vector attraction reduction and metals concentrations, may be permitted for distribution and marketing, allowing the product to be sold to the public by the bag or in bulk. The VPA Distribution and Marketing Permit may be obtained by the biosolids preparer or the distributor.

Industrial Waste

Virginia law defines industrial wastes as “liquid or other wastes resulting from any process of industry, manufacture, trade, or business or from the development of any natural resources.” While some wastes can only be safely disposed at specialized facilities, others can be recycled and provide value to agricultural production. These materials may be in the form of a slurry, semi-solid, or solid material (all referred to as residuals) or a liquid (wastewater). Food processing residuals are an example of an “industrial waste” that may have value as fertilizer or as a soil amendment. The Virginia Department of Agriculture (VDACS) regulates some of these materials as “industrial co-products” through the Virginia Fertilizer Law or Virginia Agricultural Liming Materials Law.

For materials not registered with VDACS, a Virginia Pollution Abatement (VPA) permit is required for the land application of industrial waste. The VPA permit application requires the permit applicant to submit details regarding the design of the treatment works, including the storage facility and land area determination. The application also requires a characterization of the waste that includes analyses of heavy metals and other constituents. DEQ examines the specific processes used at the generating facility to determine which constituents may be of concern. Analyses are also conducted to determine the capacity of the land application site to assimilate nutrients, metals, and any other pollutants of concern, in order to demonstrate that adequate land base is provided.

Considering the variability between the different process that produce industrial wastewater and residuals, the VPA Permit Regulation provides the flexibility necessary to derive individual permit conditions and standards that are protective of the environment. DEQ applies the most appropriate technical standards in the land application permit after performing a case-by-case analysis of each material. DEQ establishes these standards based on each individual source, rather than on broader, less specific characterizations. When evaluating the land application of specific industrial wastes, DEQ staff uses a variety of technical resources, including but not limited to, Part IX of the VPA Regulation governing biosolids, 40 CFR Part 503, the Sewage Collection and Treatment Regulations, the Virginia Nutrient Management Standards and Criteria (Revised July 2014, Department of Conservation and Recreation), and input from academic experts.

Municipal Wastewater

Unless the wastewater treatment works maintains an option to discharge pursuant to a VPDES permit, a VPA permit is required for land application of treated municipal wastewater. DEQ's Sewage Collection and Treatment Regulations prescribe the design, operational, and maintenance standards for the municipal wastewater treatment works and land treatment systems, and the pretreatment standards of the wastewater being land applied. DEQ staff will consult with VDH during the permitting process regarding health related issues.

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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