1. Figure 8.1 Soil C:N ratio and nitrogen availability for plant growth
    2. Table 8.7 TCLP Test Parameters and Maximum Allowable Levels
      1. _
        1. _
          1. Pros and Cons of
    3. FPR Composting
      1. _
        1. _
          1. Table 8.10 General site criteria for agricultural utilization of FPRs
    4. The Annual Report Outline
      1. _
        1. _
          1. _

Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
After minimizing FPR generation (Chapter 5), and recycling FPRs for human uses (Chapter 6) and
animal uses (Chapter 7), the last available beneficial use option is recycling for soil conditioning or
plant fertilizer. Soil conditioners are substances that produce chemical or physical changes in the soil
to promote and support plant growth. Fertilizers contain essential plant nutrients. When properly
managed through a well-designed land application system (LAS), many FPRs can serve as both a soil
conditioner and fertilizer. FPRs have been recycled through LAS programs for decades. Program
effectiveness depends on the physical and chemical properties of the material and the site
characteristics and crop.
This chapter identifies and evaluates critical components of an environmentally sound LAS – one that
meets your needs, yet remains in compliance with applicable guidelines. The chapter is divided into
five sections: Characteristics of Interest, Treatment Technologies, Components of a Land
Application System, Regulatory Resources, and Additional Reading. Land application of wastewater
involves detailed hydraulic loading considerations, and only limited discussion is provided.
Individuals interested in learning more about FPR wastewater LAS requirements are encouraged to
contact Bureau of Water Quality Management. The LAS detailed in this chapter is for solid, semi-
solid, and slurry FPRs.
8.1 Characteristics of Interest
Clearly, FPR characteristics play an important role in the success of an LAS. The following FPR
characteristics of interest are covered alphabetically in this section:
?? biochemical oxygen demand (BOD)
?? calcium carbonate equivalent (CCE)
?? C:N ratio
?? fats & oils
?? foreign materials
?? heavy metals & PCBs
?? nutrients
?? odors
?? organic matter (OM)
?? pathogens
?? pH
?? solids content
?? soluble salts
?? toxicity
Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD)
BOD measures oxygen use by a mixed population of microorganisms during aerobic oxidation of
organic matter in a sample. The standard test is run over a period of five days, hence the term five-
day BOD.
High BODs in FPRs are common. At excessive application rates high BOD FPRs can cause
anaerobic soil conditions that slow decomposition of organics, clog the soil, and create odors. To
manage for high BOD FPRs, you must maintain aerobic soil conditions by limiting the application
rate and frequency.
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
Calcium Carbonate Equivalent (CCE)
This characteristic measures the FPR's ability to neutralize soil acidity compared to pure calcium
carbonate. Calcium carbonate serves as the benchmark against which all liming materials are
measured and labeled. For example, a material containing a 100% CCE is theoretically as effective as
an equivalent amount of calcium carbonate. A material having a 50% CCE would need to be applied
at twice the rate of pure calcium carbonate. The fineness of liming materials also impacts
effectiveness since finer materials have increased solubility and make contact with a larger volume of
Most FPRs have relatively low CCE values and do not require analysis for this parameter. When an
FPR is generated by a caustic process or when lime is added for dewatering or stabilization, the CCE
content should be evaluated. Over application of materials having a high CCE value can elevate soil
pH and hinder crop growth and herbicide activity. In some cases, the CCE content of an FPR actually
limits land application loading rates. For more information concerning agricultural liming materials
consult the most recent
Penn State Agronomy Guide
C:N Ratio
The carbon to nitrogen ratio refers to the relative quantities of these two elements in an organic
source or soil. It is used to predict inorganic-N availability for plant growth from OM in the short
term. For FPRs, the C:N ratio is normally computed as the percent of dry weight content of organic
carbon divided by the total N content of the material. The total nitrogen value used in the calculation
comes directly from laboratory reports. Organic carbon content of FPRs is most often estimated by
dividing the organic matter content by 1.72, as suggested by the Waikley-Black Method of
Conversion (North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, 11998).
As a general rule, the C:N ratio of stable soil OM is around 10:1. When the C:N ratio is less than
20:1, a net release of inorganic N is expected that may be available for crop uptake (mineralization).
C:N ratios above 30:1 usually cause immobilization, resulting in little inorganic nitrogen available for
crop uptake. The period of N immobilization, sometimes called nitrogen or nitrate depression, varies
depending on the rate of organic matter decay. For ratios between 20 and 30:1, there may be either
mineralization or immobilization. Figure 8.1 illustrates the link between C:N ratio and plant available
nitrogen. For comparison, Table 8.1 lists the C:N ratio of a number of FPRs.
The C:N ratio of your FPR is important to the overall fertility management program for crop
production. Because N cycling in the soil environment is a complex, constantly changing balance, it
is impossible to guarantee that sufficient soil N will be available to crops at the appropriate times
when you rely solely on FPRs applied at assumed N mineralization rates. If yield reductions cannot
be tolerated in your LAS, underapply the FPR with regard to nitrogen and supplement a portion of
the crop N need with conventional chemical fertilizers. As you gain experience with a particular FPR
and gain confidence that sufficient N mineralization is occurring, you can reduce or eliminate
chemical fertilizer. For some crops, testing for N during the growing season may confirm the need for
additional N. For example, additional chemical N can be side dressed on corn. Remember, when your
program involves private farmers, a significant yield reduction or crop failure can terminate the
program. It's better to manage the program cautiously until all involved are convinced that agronomic
results can be confidently predicted.
Fats and Oils
This refers to fats and oils of plant and animal origin. Certain FPRs, particularly meat and poultry
processing sludges, contain significant quantities of fats and oils. Overapplying such FPRs can
decrease the permeability of some soils. Limiting the application rate of oil and grease to 1.5% of the
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
soil weight, or about 30,000 lb/acre annually, is recommended. Caution is warranted when land
applying liquid FPRs containing significant levels of fats and oils on existing vegetation. Such
applications run the risk of smothering plants by clogging leaf pores.
Foreign materials
FPRs with glass, metal fragments, or plastic contaminants are unfit for land application. Segregate
these materials from the FPR prior to land application.
Figure 8.1 Soil C:N ratio and nitrogen availability for plant growth
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
Table 8.1 Typical characteristic of selected FPRs
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
Table 8.1 (cont’d)
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
Heavy metals and PCBs
Heavy metal amounts in FPRs are determined using the acid digestion method discussed earlier in
Chapter 4 under Sludge/Solids Analyses. Results are considered to represent the total concentration
of each parameter in the FPR. Regulators recognize eleven chemical contaminants as significant to
LAS. Table 8.2 lists these parameters and shows the maximum allowable total concentrations, annual
loading, and cumulative loading guidelines observed by the PADEP. The PADEP observes the same
regulated levels as the USEPA except for PCBs, which the DEP regulates at 4 ppm. Table 8.3 shows
the ranges and typical concentrations for 45 elements in soil, thus illustrating that soil naturally
contains baseline levels of these elements.
Parameters listed in Table 8.2 are regulated because plants can absorb excessive levels. Animals and
humans consuming these plants can accumulate heavy metals and PCBs in body tissue. Cadmium
content of land-applied materials must be carefully monitored for this reason. Copper, nickel, and
zinc are regulated, not because they necessarily present a threat to animals or humans, but rather
because at high concentrations these elements can inhibit plant growth. This inhibition is called
phytotoxicity. FPRs should not ordinarily contain excessive concentrations of heavy metals or PCBs.
However, two metals potentially in excess in certain FPRs are chromium and molybdenum. These are
used for corrosion control in cooling water and boiler water blow-down. They may also be present in
air conditioner water.
Table 8.2 Maximum pollutant concentrations and loading rates for agricultural utilization in
Pennsylvania vs. EPA biosolids criteria
PADEP Residual Materials Regulated Levels (1988)
Max. Conc. (ppm)*
Maximum Loading Life
Arsenic (As)
Cadmium (Cd)
Chromium (Cr)
Copper (Cu)
Lead (Pb)
Mercury (Hg)
Molybdenum (Mo)a
Nickel (Ni)
Selenium (Se)
Zinc (Zn)
* Dry Weight Basis
Note: PADEP criteria shown in table apply to FPR agricultural utilization programs
a) EPA high quality levels for Molybdenum were suspended in March 1994 pending further research.
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
Table 8.3 Ranges and Typical Concentrations of Soil Elemental Content for Select Parameter
Range in Soils (ppm)
Typical (ppm)
Aluminum (Al)
Arsenic (As)
Barium (Ba)
Beryllium (Be)
Boron (B)
Bromium (Br)
Cadmium (Cd)
Calcium (Ca)
Carbon (C)
Cesium (Cs)
Chloride (Cl)
Chromium (Cr)
Cobalt (Co)
Copper (Cu)
Fluorine (F)
Gallium (Ga)
Germanium (Ge)
Iodine (I)
Iron (Fe)
Lanthanum (La)
Lead (Pb)
Lithium (Li)
Magnesium (Mg)
Manganese (Mn)
Mercury (Hg)
Molybdenum (Mo)
Nickel (Ni)
Nitrogen (N)
Oxygen (O)
Phosphorus (P)
Potassium (K)
Rubidium (Rb)
Scandium (Sc)
Selenium (Se)
Silicon (Si)
Silver (Ag)
Sodium (Na)
Strontium (Sr)
Sulfur (S)
Tin (Sn)
Titanium (Ti)
Vanadium (V)
Yttrium (Y)
Zinc (Zn)
Zirconium (Zr)
10,000 - 300,000
1 - 50
100 - 3000
0.1 - 40
2 - 100
1 - 10
7000 - 500,000
1000 - 200,000
0.3 - 25
20 - 900
1 - 1000
1 - 40
2 - 100
10 - 4000
5 - 70
1 - 50
0.01 - 40
7000 - 550,000
1 - 5000
2 - 200
5 - 200
600 - 6000
20 - 3000
0.01 - 0.3
0.2 - 5
5 - 5000
200 - 4000
200 - 5000
400 - 30,000
50 - 500
5 - 50
0.1 - 2
230,000 - 350,000
0.01 - 5
750 - 7500
50 - 1000
30 - 10,000
2 - 200
1,000 - 10,000
20 - 50
25 - 250
10 - 300
60 - 2000
Source: Data from several references tabulated in Lindsay, W.L.,
Equilibria in Soils
, Wiley-Interscience, New York, 1979.
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
FPRs used for land application should contain some plant nutritive value. Essential plant nutrients are
typically grouped into three categories based on the relative quantities needed for healthy growth.
Primary nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are needed in large quantities.
Micronutrients are used in very small quantities. They include iron, manganese, boron, chlorine, zinc,
copper, and molybdenum. The secondary nutrients--sulfur, magnesium, and calcium--are used at
intermediate levels. The following paragraphs discuss the significance of primary nutrients in an
Nitrogen (N) is a key component of the chlorophyll molecule; photosynthesis would not be possible
without this element. Nitrogen is also a critical element in proteins and important in the regulation of
metabolic processes. Sufficient N promotes vigorous growth and imparts a dark-green color in
vegetation. A lack of N causes stunted plant growth and pale-green or yellowish leaf coloration,
usually affecting older leaves first. Normally, yellowing begins at the tips of leaves and progresses
down the leaf midrib. When N deficiency is particularly severe, yellowing vegetation continues to
brown and die. While N deficiencies cause their own problems, so do N excesses. Excessive N
application beyond the nutrient need of the crop being grown at the land application site can result in
nitrate leaching. Groundwater supplies contaminated with nitrates are unfit for consumption. The
maximum permissible level of nitrate-nitrogen in public drinking water supplies is 10 mg/l. It is not
uncommon for groundwater nitrate levels in concentrated livestock agricultural areas to exceed this
FPR-N occurs in several basic forms; ammonium-N (NH4+), nitrate-N (NO3-), nitrite-N (NO2-), and
organic-N. Ammonium-N and NO3- are used by plants. Kjeldahl-N is the sum of NH4-N and
organic-N components. Total N is the sum of all forms. FPR N forms depend on many factors, such
as the type of material, its age, and how it has been stored. Nitrogen transformations continue after
the FPR has been land applied. Figure 8.2 illustrates how nitrogen changes through the various forms
as it cycles through the soil environment. Table 8.1 summarizes typical total N contents along with
other characteristics found in various FPRs.
Nitrogen is usually the limiting factor in a LAS. For this reason, FPR LASs must observe a nutrient
management plan (NMP) that considers the amount of nitrogen being supplied by all FPRs, manure,
and chemical fertilizers that are being used in the context of the crop and expected yield. Factors
involved in NMP preparation and N availability estimates are discussed under Components of a Land
Application System later in this chapter.
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
Figure 8.2 FPR nitrogen transformations and potential fates in a land application system
Phosphorus (P
is essential for metabolic processes and reproduction. Seeds and fruit often contain
large quantities of P. Sufficient quantities of P improve crop quality, root growth, straw strength, and
crop maturation. Phosphorus deficiency causes poor plant growth, delayed maturity, and small fruits.
Insufficient P can often be recognized in small plants by a purple coloration of the veins.
Phosphorus fertility is usually expressed in terms of phosphate (P
). Laboratory reports often
express results as elemental P. This value must be multiplied by 2.3 to determine the equivalent P
value. The conversion factor is related to the different molecular weights of the two forms.
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
When FPRs are land applied on the basis of nitrogen loading, P loadings often exceed crop need. As
a result, P slowly builds in the soil. Excessive buildup of any particular nutrient in the soil is
generally not considered a sound agronomic practice because it can lead to inefficient use of other
nutrients or toxicity in some cases. While high soil P levels are not toxic, in extreme cases excessive
soil P has been linked to induced crop zinc deficiencies. Excessive P also causes enrichment of
streams when it washes from agricultural fields in runoff.
Avoid repeated overapplication of P by monitoring FPR content and soil P buildup. When
overapplication is unavoidable, space applications (perhaps every other year or every third year) to
allow crop uptake between applications. Soil testing will indicate when rotation to another field is
Potassium (K
plays a key role in many physiological processes such as protein synthesis and fluid
balance. As with other primary nutrients, K deficiency is usually evident in older vegetation first.
Yellowing and/or burning of leaf edges are a clue that K deficiency is occurring. Other symptoms
include reduced plant growth and straw or stalk strength, reduced disease resistance, and reduced
winter hardiness of perennial or winter annual crops.
Potassium fertility is usually expressed in terms of K
O. Laboratory reports often express results as
elemental K. Multiply the K value by 1.2 to determine the equivalent K
O value. This conversion
factor accounts for different molecular weights of the two forms.
Offensive odors originate from biodegrading FPRs. Historically, regulatory criteria in Pennsylvania
have not differentiated between odor control and pathogen reduction. Stabilization processes
discussed under Pathogens generally alleviate odor concerns for most land-applied materials, though
this is not necessarily the case for all FPRs. Stabilization does help to reduce the potential that
offensive odors will become a problem. One qualitative way to assess the potential for offensive
odors from stored FPRs is to place a representative sample in a plastic wide-mouth jar for 1, 2, 4, 8,
24, and 48 hours and conduct a sniff test at those intervals. Information on FPR odor control is
provided in Chapter 3 and at the end of Chapter 8. Additional Resource C provides a list of common
odor characteristics you can use to characterize the odor.
Organic Matter (OM)
This important constituent of soil is a direct indicator of soil fertility and influences many other
characteristics. The significance of soil organic matter should not be underestimated. Many
agronomists feel that soil pH and organic matter together constitute the most important measures of
soil fertility. FPRs are organic materials and therefore add to the soil OM reservoir. The most notable
soil characteristics influenced by OM include:
?? soil color - higher OM imparts darker color, brown to black
?? moisture holding capacity - OM increases water retention
?? aeration - OM improves aeration
?? soil structure (e.g. granulation) - OM stabilizes and improves soil structure
?? cation exchange capacity (CEC) - OM increases CEC
?? nutrient retention in organic slow release forms - organic nutrients are less likely to leach
?? bulk density and compaction characteristics - OM decreases bulk density and lessens the effects
of compaction
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
Organic matter content is normally determined by the mass of sample lost on combustion at high
temperatures (550°C). Results are expressed as a percent of sample dry weight.
Some FPRs contain pathogens, which have a negative health impact on humans or animals if they are
not properly managed. One way to reduce pathogenic risk is to disinfect or stabilize FPRs before land
application. For example, FPR wastewater must be disinfected, typically using chlorine, before
irrigation. For solid and slurry FPRs, Pennsylvania has set no specific number or species of indicator
microorganisms that may be present in a stabilized material. The definition of stabilization is based
on the process used to treat the material. An FPR that has been treated by a Process that Significantly
Reduces Pathogens (PSRP) is generally considered stabilized. When an FPR is aggressively treated
through a Process that Further Reduces Pathogens (PFRP), better pathogen reduction is presumed.
The following box describes PSRPs and PFRPs that are recognized in Pennsylvania.
If you want your FPR to qualify for relaxed land application siting criteria, you are required to use
one of the PSRP or PFRP processes.
This parameter is important for assessing handling, storage, and hazardous characteristics of the FPR.
It is also a significant indicator parameter for composting. One method of stabilizing FPRs to reduce
pathogens involves raising the FPR pH to 12.0 and maintaining that pH for at least two hours.
Inducing a high pH for the purpose of stabilizing FPRs does not constitute formation of a corrosive
hazardous waste. A high pH FPR may contain significant CCE.
Solids Content
This measures solid material in your FPR and is an indirect indicator of how much water is present.
Solids content is commonly expressed as percent by weight. Knowing this property is essential for
planning storage and handling facilities and calculating land application loading rates.
Soluble Salts
Soluble salts are materials that dissolve in water or are already in solution in the FPR. Major soil
solution ions include calcium (Ca2+), magnesium (Mg2+), sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), chloride
(Cl-), sulfate (SO42-), bicarbonate (HCO3-), and nitrate (NO3-). The sum of all ions in solution is
called total dissolved solids (TDS). Four principal elements, Na+, K+, Ca2+, and Mg2+, usually
dominate TDS.
The soluble salt content of a material may be determined by analyzing the concentration of the
individual constituents and summing them--a tedious procedure. A satisfactory estimate of TDS for
solid materials can usually be accomplished by measuring the electrical conductivity (EC) of an FPR
water mixture. EC can be measured directly on liquid samples. TDS is found by multiplying the EC
reading in millimhos/centimeter by 700 to give TDS in ppm or mg/l.
Soluble salts are of interest for three reasons. First, excessive salt concentrations can reduce
germination and plant growth. As TDS increases, osmotic pressure effects make it increasingly
difficult for plant roots to extract water. A soil exhibiting this phenomenon is called a saline soil. The
second reason for monitoring soluble salts is that excessive levels of Na+ relative to divalent ions
(Ca2+, Mg2+) can dramatically alter soil structure and reduce soil permeability. Soils having this
characteristic are called sodic or alkali soils. Saline-sodic soils are characterized by both high TDS
and excessive Na. The third reason for investigating soluble salts in FPRs is that specific ions can
induce plant toxicities. Assessment of sodic- or toxic-inducing characteristics requires analysis of
specific individual ions. The EC test will not yield the needed information in these cases.
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
Aside from the salinity and soil structure problems induced by high salt FPRs, certain ions can
become toxic when plants are exposed to high concentrations. Sodium, boron, and chloride ions are
in this category. Maas (1986) in his paper Salt Tolerance of Plants, presents a review of toxicity
considerations regarding these elements. Chapman (1986), also provides coverage of this subject.
Full citations for these references are given in the Additional Reading section.
The literature provides little guidance for land application of solid FPRs having high salt
concentrations. However, a logical approach is to limit the application rate to a level that maintains
the soil water solution concentrations below levels that may be harmful to crops or soil structure. To
simulate field soil water solution conditions, mix the FPR with soil from the site at the proposed land
application loading rate ratio. The soil/FPR ratio should be made on a dry weight basis. See
Additional Resource E to learn how to prepare a soil/FPR sample to perform EC or SAR evaluations.
Table 8.4 shows how EC readings for the two-soil/FPR water solution methods in Additional
Resource E are interpreted. Table 8.5 provides more specific guidance for interpreting saturated-
extract EC readings. These tables provide guidance for selecting appropriate crops for high salt
content LAS programs. Alternately, the tables can be used in combination with soil/FPR water
measurements to determine safe loading rates for a particular crop.
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
Stabilization Processes Recognized in Pennsylvania
Processes That Significantly Reduce Pathogens (PSRP)
Sewage sludge must be properly stabilized or digested to reduce odor potential and pathogen
content of the sludge. The acceptable stabilization and digesting processes are as follows:
Aerobic Digestion
This process is conducted by agitating sewage sludge with air or oxygen
to maintain aerobic conditioning at residence times ranging from 60 days at 15°C to 40 days
at 20°C. The level of volatile solids in the sewage influent must be reduced by at least 38%
after processing.
Anaerobic Digestion
This process is conducted in the absence of air at residence times
ranging from 60 days at 20°C to 15 days at 35°C. The level of volatile solids in the sewage
influent must be reduced by at least 38% after digesting.
Lime Stabilization
Sufficient lime is added to produce a pH of 12 after 2 hours of contact.
Using the within-vessel composting method, the sludge is maintained at
operating conditions of 55°C or greater for three days. Using the static aerated pile
composting method the sludge is maintained at operating conditions of 55°C or greater for
three days. Using the windrow composting method, the solid waste attains a temperature of
55°C or greater for at least 15 days during the composting period. Also, during the high
temperature period there will be a minimum of five turnings of the windrow.
Heat Drying
Dewatered sludge cake is dried by direct or indirect contact with hot gases, and
moisture content is reduced to 10% or lower. Sludge particles reach temperatures well in
excess of 80°C, or the wet bulb temperature of the gas stream in contact with the sludge at
the point where it leaves the dryer is in excess of 80°C.
Air Drying
Liquid sludge is allowed to drain and/or dry on under-drained sand beds, or
paved or unpaved basins, in which the sludge is at a depth of nine inches. A minimum of
three months is needed, two months of which temperatures average above 0°C on a daily
Heat Treatment
Liquid sludge is heated to temperatures of 180°C for 30 minutes.
Other Methods
Other methods or operating conditions may be acceptable if pathogens and
odors of the waste (volatile solids) are reduced to an extent equivalent to the reduction
achieved by any of the above methods, and the method is approved by the Department.
Processes That Further Reduce Pathogens (PFRP)
Any of the processes listed below, if added to the processed described above, further reduce
pathogens. Because the processes listed below, on their own do not reduce the attraction of
disease vectors, they are only add-on in nature.
Beta Ray Irradiation
Sludge is irradiated with beta rays from an accelerator at dosages of at
least 1.l0 megarad at room temperature (20°C).
Gamma Ray Irradiation
Sludge is irradiated with gamma rays from certain isotopes, such
as 60 Cobalt and 137 Cesium, at dosages of at least 1.0 megarad at room temperature (20°C)
Sludge is maintained for at least 30 minutes at a minimum temperature of
Other Methods Other
methods or operating conditions may be acceptable if pathogens are
reduced to an extent equivalent to the reduction achieved by any of the above add-on
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
Table 8.4 Interpretation of EC Readings (mmhos/cm) for Soils.
Units (mmhos/cm)
Saturated Paste
2:1 Water: Soil
Salinity effects mostly negligible, excepting possibly
beans and carrots.
Very slightly saline, but yields of very salt-sensitive
crops such as flax, clovers (alsike red), carrots,
onions, bell pepper, lettuce, and sweet potato may be
reduced by 25 to 50%.
Moderately saline. Yield of salt-sensitive crops
restricted. Seedlings may be injured. Satisfactory for
well-drained greenhouse soils. Crop yields reduced by
25 to 50% may include broccoli and potato plus the
other plants above.
Saline soils. Crops tolerant include cotton, alfalfa,
cereals, grain, sorghum, sugar beets, Bermuda grass,
tall wheat grass, and Harding grass. Salinity higher
than desirable for greenhouse soils.
Strongly saline. Only salt-tolerant crops yield
satisfactory. For greenhouse crops leach soil with
enough water so that 2-4 quarts (2-4 L) pass through
each square foot (0.1 m2) of bench area, or one pint
of water (0.5 L) per 6-inch (15 cm) pot; repeat after 1
hour. Repeat again if readings are still in the high
Very strongly saline. Only salt-tolerant grasses,
herbaceous plants, certain shrubs, and trees will grow.
Source: Penn State University. Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory, 1991.
Saline FPRs
For saline FPRs, you need to manage application rate, site selection (soil texture), crop selection,
tillage, and timing. Generally, fine-textured soils have a higher saturation percentage, which reduces
soil water EC more than coarse (sandy) soils. However, coarse-textured soils have lower clay content
and are less subject to Na+-induced soil structure problems. Also, coarse soils have higher infiltration
and permeability. This permits more rapid percolation or flushing of the root zone. Coarse-textured
soils, like sandy loam, are preferred soil textures to manage saline FPRs.
Crop selection is another important consideration for saline FPRs since plants vary in tolerance to
saline conditions, as Table 8.5 indicates. Species that are moderately tolerant exhibit decreased
growth and yield as salinity increases. Barley and Bermuda grass are exceptionally tolerant species.
Beans, lettuce, and onions are among the least tolerant of saline conditions.
Finally, tilling helps to reduce the overall FPR salt content by mixing the FPR with a greater soil
volume. Failure to adequately mix your FPR with the topsoil will invalidate your soil/FPR laboratory
predictions and place your program at risk. Seeding directly into untilled application areas can hinder
germination and early plant development. Limit high-salt FPRs to conservative loading rates and
incorporate. Time your application well ahead of seedings. In the worst case, allow at least several
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rain events to occur before seeding. Monitor the soil soluble salt levels through regular soil analyses.
As experience is gained with your material, adjust loading rates accordingly.
Sodic FPRs
Excessive sodium in the soil solution disperses soil colloids and swells clay particles, thus reducing
hydraulic capacity of the soil. As a general rule, sodic or alkali soil structure problems related to
excessive Na+ application are a secondary concern for application of solid or slurry FPRs in
Pennsylvania. It is likely that salinity limitations would occur well before soil structure became
seriously affected. Evaluate the soil/FPR water solution (as described in Additional Resource E) for
the SAR when the FPR is known to contain significant amounts of Na+.
Determination of the SAR of irrigation water is a standard practice in arid areas. Similarly, all FPR
irrigation programs should consider the SAR of applied effluent. SAR is determined by the following
SAR= Na+/[(Ca2++Mg2+)/2]0.5
(ion concentrations in meq/l)
Knowing the SAR of irrigation or soil solution water alone is insufficient to determine whether Na+
will affect soil permeability. There is a relationship between the SAR and the EC such that relatively
high SAR values can be tolerated when elevated EC levels exist. This relationship is illustrated in
Table8.6, which shows the potential for soil permeability limitations from irrigation water having
various combinations of SAR and EC.
Sodium hazard of irrigation water is aggravated by the presence of carbonate (CO32-) and/or
bicarbonate (HCO3-) ions, or by free calcium carbonates (CaCO3) in the soil. Carbonate and
bicarbonate ions tend to precipitate calcium and magnesium in the soil solution, thereby reducing
their concentrations relative to sodium. This results in a net increase in the SAR.
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Table 8.5 Salt tolerance of select agricultural crops
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Chapter 8: Recycling FPRs as Soil Conditioners or Fertilizers
Table 8.5 (cont’d)
Table 8.6 Potential for permeability limitations from irrigation
Sodium Absorption Ratio
Source: Reed, et al., 1988
Note: All electrical conductivities are in mmhos/cm
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As recommended earlier under saline FPR conditions, select an application site with coarse-textured
soils. Addition of gypsum (CaSO
) to irrigation water will increase the Ca
content and reduce the
SAR. When adding constituents to affect the SAR it is important to monitor the EC of the resulting
mixture. Increasing the EC may assist in counteracting Na
-induced soil structure problems but end
up increasing the salinity to unacceptable levels. Blending elevated SAR wastewater with low SAR
wastewater prior to land application may be another alternative. Perhaps the best approach is to focus
efforts on reducing sodium contamination of the FPR.
This characteristic is assessed using the TCLP, as described earlier in Chapter 4. The TCLP measures
a contaminant's probability of leaching under slightly acidic conditions. Table 8.7 lists TCLP
parameters and maximum allowable test concentrations. Materials that exceed maximum allowable
concentrations are considered hazardous wastes. Normally, FPRs will not exceed these
concentrations but if you suspect the presence of one or more of the parameters in Table 8.7, test for
that parameter. For initial LAS planning, it is wise to have one TCLP test series conducted to
document that your FPR is nonhazardous. Further TCLP testing would not be necessary unless the
FPR changed significantly. Remember, if you elect not to test for toxicity you must be prepared to
certify in writing that none of the constituents in Table 8.7 are present at or above the allowable
8.2 Treatment Technologies
The soil conditioner/fertilizer level of the hierarchy has four categories of treatment technologies: (1)
land application of wastewater, (2) land application of solids, semi-solids, or slurries by application
vehicles, (3) composting of solid FPRs, and (4) dewatering technologies like heat drying and
Land Application of Solids, Semi-Solids, or Slurries
Beneficial end-use application of solid, semi-solid, or slurry FPRs can be conducted as agricultural
utilization, or land reclamation. These approaches usually require land application vehicles for
spreading. Each alternative is described briefly in the following paragraphs. Note that land
reclamation requires a site-specific permit. Agricultural utilization of FPRs can be conducted without
a permit as long as you adhere to the guidance provided in this manual as summarized in the
Regulatory Resources section.
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Table 8.7 TCLP Test Parameters and Maximum Allowable Levels
Regulatory Level in
TCLP Extract (mg/L)
Regulatory Level in
TCLP Extract (mg/L)
Carbon tetrachloride
Heptachlor (and its epoxide)
Methyl ethyl ketone
2,4,5-TP (Silvex)
Vinyl Chloride
(a) A waste having a TCLP extract with values exceeding any of these listed is considered a
hazardous waste by virtue of toxicity. Where the waste contains less than 0.5% filterable solids,
the waste itself, after filtering using the methodology outlined in Method 1311, is considered to
the extract for the purpose of this section.
(b) If 0-, m-, and p-cresol concentrations cannot be differentiated, the total cresol concentration is
(c) Quantitation limit is greater than the calculated regulatory level. The quantitation limit therefore
becomes the regulatory level.
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Table 8.8 Comparison of Design Features for Principal Land Treatment Processes
Principal Processes
Slow Rate
Rapid Infiltration
Overland Flow
Application techniques
Annual application rate, ft.
Field area required, acresb
Typical weekly application rate, in.
Minimum preapplication treatment
provided in United States
Disposition of applied wastewater
Need for vegetation
Sprinkler or surfacea
2 to 20
56 to 560
0.5 to 4
Primary sedimentatione
Evapotranspiration and
Usually surface
20 to 560
2 to 56
4 to 120
Primary sedimentation
Mainly percolation
Sprinkler or surface
10 to 70
16 to 110
2.5 to 6c
6 to 16d
Screening and grit
Surface runoff and
evapotranspiration with
some percolation
Source: USEPA, 1977.
a) Includes ridge-and-furrow and border strip.
b) Field area in acres not including buffer area, roads, or ditches for 1 Mgal/d (43.8 L/s) flow.
c) Range for application of screened wastewater.
d) Range for application of lagoon and secondary effluent.
e) Depends on the use of the effluent and the type of crop.
Agricultural utilization involves spreading FPRs at a rate that will improve soil properties for crop
growth. The types of crops may range from agricultural field crops to turf grass, or even silvicultural
crops. Benefits may include added nutrients, soil conditioning, or pH adjustment. You can apply
these materials annually as long as the cumulative loading of key parameters is below the maximum
cutoff values listed in Table 8.2 and nutrients are applied in accordance with a nutrient management
plan. The key components of agricultural utilization systems are described in the next section of this
In land reclamation, FPRs may improve disturbed soils to better support vegetation. Generally only
one heavy application is performed. Since this method allows heavy application of material, less
acreage is needed annually. However, new acreage is required each year. A site-specific or general
permit is required for land reclamation. Contact the PADEP, Bureau of Land Recycling and Waste
Management for land reclamation requirements.
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Composting is a biological process that metabolizes readily degradable organic matter into a soil-like
material called compost. This process generates heat energy, water vapor, and carbon dioxide. High
composting temperatures destroy pathogens and weeds, thus producing a stable, storable mixture that
can be used as a soil conditioner. Dating back
to the eighteenth century, composting offers a
number of advantages over direct land
application of FPRs. Composting has been
used for treating apple, peach, pear, grape,
apricot, tomato, chocolate, coffee, brewing,
and other FPRs with great success. Sidebar 8.2
lists some of the advantages and drawbacks to
composting FPRs.
Most FPRs are compostable under suitable
environmental conditions. Four factors must be
satisfied for successful composting: First, the
compost must contain a good mix of organic
materials with sufficient carbon and nitrogen
for microbial growth (C:N ratio). Second, an
adequate supply of oxygen must be present to
maintain aerobic microbial activity. This factor
depends on porosity, structure, texture, and
particle size. Most times bulking agents such
as sawdust or wood chips are used to promote
aerobic conditions. The third factor is
sufficient moisture to support microbial
activity without reducing pile aeration. Finally, composting must occur at temperatures that promote
and support thermophillic ("heat-loving") microorganisms. Material pH also affects composting.
Table 8.9 summarizes reasonable and preferred values for these factors that promote rapid
Pros and Cons of
FPR Composting
Saleable product
Improves FPR handling and storage characteristics
Improves land application
Lowers risk of pollution and nuisance complaints
Pathogen destruction
Bedding substitute
May reduce soil-borne plant diseases
Possible revenue from processing of tipping fees
Fewer regulatory restrictions/constraints on
finished product
Land required for operations
Possibility of odors
Weather interferes with composting
(unsheltered operations)
Marketing is necessary
Source: After NRAES, 1992
Table 8.9 Recommended Conditions for Rapid Composting
Reasonable rangea
Preferred range
Carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio
Moisture content
Oxygen concentrations
Particle size (diameter in inches)
Temperature (degrees F)
20:1 – 40:1
Greater than 5%
Much greater than 5%
Source: NRAES, 1992.
(a) These recommendations are for rapid composting. Conditions outside these ranges may also be successfuls.
(b) Depends on the specific materials, pile size, and/or weather conditions.
Four methods of composting – passive, windrow, aerated piles, and in-vessel systems – are described
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Passive composting
Passive composting involves piling piles of organic residues allowing nature to take its course. This
system usually cannot maintain the desired conditions for rapid composting and therefore results in
slow decomposition. Passive composting is not commonly used for FPRs.
Windrow composting
Windrow composting uses mixed raw materials in long narrow piles called windrows that are
periodically turned or agitated. Though more efficient than the passive system, air exchange still
relies on natural processes. Turning the pile replenishes pile porosity, disperses decomposition gases
and water vapor, and rotates outer material to the inside of the pile where temperatures are higher.
Mixing also promotes even composting of the entire volume and results in a better kill of pathogens
and weed seeds. This system is not commonly used for FPRs.
Aerated pile
Aerated pile systems are broken down into two separate categories: passively aerated piles and
aerated static piles. Passively aerated piles use open-ended pipes placed through the base of the pile.
Due to the chimney effect, air flows into the pipes and up through the pile as heated gases in the
compost rise. In the aerated static pile, piping is installed to supply air provided by mechanical
blowers. The blowers help to control the composting process. This method allows formation of large
piles, and no turning or agitation is required once the pile is formed. Well-constructed aerated static
piles can complete the active composting phase in three to five weeks. Aerated static pile systems are
probably the most common approach to FPR composting.
In-vessel systems confine the composting process in a container or vessel. Bins, agitated beds, silos,
and even rotating drums are used. Most in-vessel systems are commercial systems that require a
license for use or direct purchase--both substantial capital investments. The potential advantages of
in-vessel systems include reduced labor costs, fewer weather problems, better operational control,
faster and more consistent composting, reduced land requirements, and better odor control
Heat Drying
Heat drying subjects the FPR to high temperatures and reduces moisture content to 10% or less. The
benefits of heat drying make a land application system much easier to operate. One Pennsylvania
meat processor has reported substantial savings by moving from direct land application of dewatered
FPR sludges to land application of the same material after heat drying.
8.3 Components of a Land Application System
This section provides guidance for the siting and operation of an FPR land application system. By
this point, you should have generally assessed the suitability of your FPR for land application. The
next step is to determine whether or not suitable land application areas exist close to your plant. This
part of the manual describes the basic components of an LAS so that you can select a site and operate
the LAS. Ten components we described in this section:
?? siting
?? site preparation
?? nitrogen availability
?? field selection
?? monitoring
?? recordkeeping
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?? odor control
?? storage
?? transportation
?? reviewing system performance
As you read this section, keep in mind that the design of an LAS involves the interaction and control
of several physical, chemical, and biological processes. Site-specific variables such as climate, crop,
soil, and waste characteristics limit LAS alternatives. However, in all cases, it is the engineering
design process that accounts for this variability in choosing a practical and efficient LAS to meet FPR
use and environmental quality objectives. If correctly designed and operated, an LAS site with
limitations can be compensated for with changes in loading rates, cropping systems, pretreatment,
surface and subsurface water control, and more intensive monitoring.
The ideal land application site would be an isolated farm growing a variety of animal feed crops in
large ten-acre fields. The landscape would be flat to gently sloping with deep, well-drained, medium
textured, loamy soils. No streams, wetlands, wells, or sinkholes would be near the fields and regional
groundwater would be deeper than 4 feet. If farmer operators had any livestock or imported animal
manures, they would be actively following a soil conservation plan and a nutrient management plan.
Unfortunately, the ideal site does not exist for most processing plants. So what criteria can we use to
assess the suitability of farmland for FPR land application? The following discussion answers this
Table 8.10 provides a summary of general site criteria for agricultural use of FPRs. These factors
relate to soil and local water resources. Observing these characteristics assures that an adequate soil is
present. Remember, land application technologies all rely on the soil to act as the treatment medium.
Adequate soil depth, drainage, and texture are important elements that directly impact the soil's
ability to physically, chemically, and biologically renovate applied FPRs.
Adequate soil depth provides room for biological activity, healthy root development, and plant
nutrient uptake. Sufficient depth also assures that a good filtration medium is present to remove
suspended matter in soil percolate water. Historically, 20 inches has been the minimum requirement.
However, if pathogens, odors, or vectors are not problems with your FPR (e.g., stabilized) and it is
applied with a technique other than direct subsurface injection, a 12-inch soil depth to bedrock is
considered satisfactory. This reduced soil depth requirement is unique to FPRs because of their origin
– human food and animal feed products.
Like soil depth, soil drainage requirements for land application of FPRs are relaxed if the FPR does
not contain pathogens or has been stabilized. Soil drainage is the depth to the seasonal high water
table (SHWT) and reflects the degree to which a soil maintains an aerobic environment. Aerobic
conditions promote rapid degradation of organic materials, an important function of the soil treatment
medium. The presence of drainage mottles in a soil profile is an indicator of SHWT depth.
Historically in Pennsylvania, a 20-inch minimum depth to mottling has been required for land
application. Since SHWT conditions occur infrequently (usually in the early spring), soils that are
moderately deep (e.g., 20-40 inches) should provide adequate treatment during most of the year.
Hence soils that exhibit drainage mottling as shallow as 12 inches from the surface may receive FPRs
as long as the soil is at least 20 inches deep. Surface application is permitted on such sites when soil
saturation is deeper than 12 inches from the surface. When soil saturation is deeper than 20 inches,
injection application may also be employed. During extended wet periods when soil is saturated at
depths shallower than 12 inches, FPRs should not be applied. Keep in mind that soil rutting and
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Table 8.10 General site criteria for agricultural utilization of FPRs
Site Characteristic
15%-20% with well established cover
crop or adequate crop residue
20%-25% with subsurface injection
Soil depth to bedrock
<20 inches to bedrock
[ >12
<20 inches [ <12 inches]
Soil drainage
>20 inches to mottling
[ >12
<20 inches [ <12 _inches]
Soil pH
Consistent with recommended crop
<crop requirement
Depth to regional groundwater
>4 feet to regional groundwater
<4 feet
Source: Based on PA DEP agricultural utilization guidelines and regulations contained in Title 25, Chapter 291.
If a soil conservation plan has been developed to include application on steeper slopes, the slope can be
adjusted accordingly.
Soil depths in brackets apply to FPRs which have been stabilized by recognized PSRP and PFRP methods.
Unless FPRs are used to increase soil pH to recommended crop requirement levels within 6 months,
following the first application. Recommended levels should follow the current
Penn State Agronomy
equipment limitations make application on wet soils impractical. Land application on somewhat
poorly drained sites requires special attention to timing in order to avoid problems in the field.
Historically, sewage sludge land application programs have observed a minimum soil pH of 6.5 to
eliminate the possibility of heavy metal leaching through the soil, minimize crop uptake of heavy
metals, and promote optimum plant growth conditions. Since FPRs typically do not contain
significant quantities of heavy metals, this soil pH standard is relaxed for FPRs. Rather, FPR land
application programs should strive to maintain a soil pH in the range that is recommended for
optimum plant growth in the current
Penn State Agronomy Guide
Determining depth to regional groundwater technically requires a qualified hydrogeologist. However,
for land application site suitability, the principal question is whether the regional groundwater table is
greater than 48 inches below the surface. Usually you can make a reasonable estimate of regional
groundwater depth by talking to nearby well owners or a well driller familiar with the area. `The U.S.
Geological Survey (USGS) and Pennsylvania Geologic Survey (PAGS) are additional sources of
groundwater information. Actual site measurements can also be used. On-site excavation of a
backhoe pit greater than 48 inches and installation of a plastic stand pipe will allow measurement of
standing water level. Let at least 24 hours pass after installation before taking measurements. Be
advised that the standpipe measurement method could give you an invalid measure of the regional
groundwater, since you may be measuring the seasonal high water table. Generally, in Pennsylvania,
depth to regional groundwater is more than 48 inches, except in low-lying areas or along major
stream channels or water bodies.
The principal resource used to screen soil suitability is the USDA soil survey. A soil survey has been
prepared for every county in Pennsylvania. Contact the County Conservation District (CCD) or Soil
Conservation Service (SCS) office to obtain a copy. Soil surveys are good tools for site planning
purposes. Recognize that actual soil conditions in the field may differ significantly from those
suggested in the soil survey. Another good resource is the personnel in your local CCD, SCS, and
Cooperative Extension offices. These offices have an intimate knowledge of farm operations in the
county. They may be able to quickly direct you to some promising contacts and resources.
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A final factor affecting site selection is isolation distance. Table 8.11 shows the isolation distance
standards for Pennsylvania. These buffer distances safeguard local water resources against potential
contaminant migration off-site. Contaminants of concern are not limited to metals and toxic
substances. They include biological contamination and nutrients also. Nitrate nitrogen (NO3-) is the
parameter of most concern since it is quite mobile and often exceeds drinking water standards in
agricultural areas that are heavily manured or over fertilized. Enrichment of surface waters with
nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen compounds) can lead to eutrophication and degradation of water
Table 8.11 Required Isolation Distances for Agricultural Utilization of FPRs
Site Feature
Minimum Isolation Distance(ft)
Property line
Occupied buildings
Individual or public water supply well
Upgradient of a surface water source
Intermittent or perennial streams
Exceptional value wetlands
Sinkhole or area draining to a sinkhole
Perimeter of an undrained depression
Bedrock outcrop
Source: Based on PADEP Residual Waste Regulations, Title 25, Chapter 291.
(a) The listed isolation distances may be reduced with written permission of the site feature owner (i.e.,
adjacent property owner)
Some isolation distances historically observed in land application programs for municipal wastes and
non-FPR residual wastes can be reduced for FPR land application programs. Buffer distances to
property lines, dwellings, and water supplies may be reduced with written permission from the
owner. In all cases, remember that isolation distances are a safety precaution and sometimes only a
means of avoiding nuisance complaints from neighbors. Maintaining correct isolation distances never
compensates for deficiencies in the other components of an LAS.
Once you identify a suitable site, have the area examined by a qualified soil scientist. A SCS district
conservationist may be able to visit the site and confirm that the soil survey either does or does not
accurately represent the soils. A professional soil scientist can also be hired to confirm site suitability.
Skipping this step could lead to future operational problems if the site turns out to be unsuitable.
Site Preparation
Site preparation includes accurately mapping the farms, establishing a conservation plan, soil
sampling, and preparing a nutrient management plan.
Take the time to establish accurate mapping of your land application farms. Start by locating farm
sites on a USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle. These maps are usually available at minimal cost from local
sporting goods shops, bookstores, and the County Conservation District. USGS maps are excellent
for identifying local physiographic features and road networks. Also, locate your sites on the SCS
soils maps and highlight property boundaries.
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Next, develop or acquire a larger-scale map of each site. Maps should be on a known scale with a
north arrow and show the locations of streams, conservation plan structures, buildings, field roads,
field lines, field ID numbers, and suitable land application fields. Farm site mapping may be as
simple as the 660-scale aerial photography mapping used by SCS in the preparation of soil
conservation plans, or you may conduct an actual topographic survey and generate high-quality
topographic plans. In the latter case, farmers can use such maps for their agronomic planning and
management. Going the extra mile to prepare an accurate and detailed site plan assists you in
managing your land application program and fosters an effective working relationship with the
farmer. The final maps must show clearly where your application sites are and illustrate clearly the
location of principal features and application fields. The true test of your map is that newcomers
would be able to locate the sites and find their way around.
All land application programs must be operated within the context of an implemented farm
conservation plan. The conservation plan outlines the acceptable farming practices that minimize soil
loss from the application site. Conservation practices may include structural facilities such as grass
waterways, and/or nonstructural practices, like contour strip cropping. The conservation plan
incorporates the farmer's objectives, the physiographic setting, and crop rotation. The crop rotation is
the component that is probably the easiest factor to change. The rotation should be projected over at
least the next three years.
Make sure that your planned FPR land application activities are consistent with the conservation plan.
If no plan exists or your program significantly alters the current plan, you must update the
conservation plan. The local SCS office will do the update for the farmer at no cost, but the revision
will take time. You may need to hire an outside consultant. Even if you revise the old plan or start
fresh with a new conservation plan, soil loss constraints may require you to modify your spreading
program. Once the plan is finalized, it must be implemented before you can begin land application
Another preapplication task involves soil sampling to determine soil fertility. At the onset of your
program, test soil chemistry in order to establish a background database. This could be very important
for FPRs that contain heavy metal concentrations substantially higher than background levels. The
drawback to soil chemistry testing is cost; each analysis costs approximately $90. Laboratory test
data and cropping information should be compiled into a single table for each farm and show at a
minimum the field ID, available acreage, the previous crop, the planned crop, soil pH, soil phosphate
(P2O5) status, and the soil potassium (K2O) level. Table 8.12 is an example of such a table.
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Table 8.12 FPR application field data for the 1993 growing season for the John Doe property
Soil Fertility
Field ID
1992 Crop
Planned 1993
1993 Crop
1993 Crop
N which
by FPRs
Corn Silage
Corn Silage
Corn Grain
Corn Silage
Corn Grain
Corn Silage
Corn Silage
Corn Silage
Corn Grain
Corn Grain
Corn Grain
Corn Grain
Corn Grain
Corn Grain
a) N utilization reflects the amount of N which is removed by crop harvest. See Table 8.13 for typical nutrient removal rates by crop.
b) Listed values take into account planned conventional fertilizer use, carry-over N from previous crop (e.g., alfalfa), and organic
fertilizer use history (e.g., manure or FPRs). Consult the latest
Penn State Agronomy Guide
for N carry-over values.
c) From most recent soil fertility analysis reports.
The nutrient management plan NMP is a dynamic crop fertility management tool specially designed
for the unique circumstances found in each field on the farm. An NMP considers field fertility, the
history of organic nutrients applied, the planned crop, and all nutrient sources used to supply crop
needs for the entire farm, including manure, chemical fertilizers, and carry-over nitrogen from
legume crops. Table 8.13 shows the expected nutrient requirements for various crops and should be
used for NMP planning unless another crop nutrient removal rate can be supported. Alternatively,
fertilizer recommendations in the most recent
Penn State Agronomy Guide
can be used. A NMP must
be developed and implemented on any farm where land application occurs. Pennsylvania has enacted
NMP legislation mandating NMP preparation for any farm meeting certain conditions. Specific
regulations governing minimum NMP content are contained in Chapter 83 (Nutrient Management),
which is accessible on the WEB at
http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/025/chapter83/subchapDtoc.html. These regulations will apply
to FPR LAS programs.
Additional Resource J contains "Field Application of Manure" from Pennsylvania's
Management Manual.
This resource provides guidance concerning the nutrient value of manure,
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preparation of NMPs, and the calibration of manure-spreading equipment (see also Additional
Resource K, FPR Field Application Vehicle Calibration). Further manure NMP guidance can be
found in the most current
Penn State Agronomy Guide
. This guide is particularly useful because it
provides the most up-to-date information on manure nitrogen availability.
One Pennsylvania beef processor has been land-applying FPRs for several years. The processor has
identified eight practical factors that lead to a successful land application program:
?? provide a quality FPR product
?? learn and respect the farmer's needs
?? respect your neighbors
?? determine crop needs
?? adhere to regulatory guidelines
?? maintain excellent records
?? establish routine FPR testing
?? provide support services to the farmer when appropriate
For more details on this beef processor's program, see Part III, Chapter 14.
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Table 8.13 Nitrogen, phosphate, and potash removal from soil by various crops
Pounds Removed per Unit Production
Corn, grain
Corn, stover
Corn, silage (65% moist.)
Soybeans, grain
Soybean, residue
Wheat, grain & straw
Wheat, straw
Wheat, grain
Oats, grain & straw
Oats, straw
Oats, grain
Barley, grain & straw
Barley, straw
Barley, grain
Rye, grain & straw
Rye, straw
Rye, grain
Orchard grass
Brome grass
Tall fescue
Blue grass
Reed Canarygrass
Small grain silage (55% moist)
Source: Dr. Douglas Beegle (The Pennsylvania State University) – personal communication.
Note: Values given reflect average of six sources (unless otherwise noted) which estimate unit production
removals. Source: Dr. Doug Beegle (PSU) - personal communication.
a) Legumes fix all of their required nitrogen except for a small amount applied in the starter fertilizer.
However, they also have the capability to utilize nitrogen as indicated.
b) Nutrient removal similar to corn silage.
c) North Central Regional Extension, 1977. Utilizing Municipal Sewage Wastewaters and Sludges on Land
for Agricultural Production. NCRE Publication No. 52. Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.
Nitrogen (N) Availability
Since most FPRs do not contain excessive heavy metals or other deleterious substances, the nitrogen
(N) content often determines the maximum amount of material that can be applied to a particular
field for a given crop. Too little N can result in poor crop yield and possibly place your LAS program
in jeopardy if you are working with private farmers. Too much N beyond crop needs can result in
nitrate leaching and degradation of local groundwater--a liability you don't want. The key to
determining the appropriate amount of material to apply is to know precisely just how much of the
FPR nitrogen will be available for plant growth. Unfortunately, N availability from organic materials
is difficult to predict.
FPR nitrogen occurs in several forms. The inorganic nitrate and ammonium forms are the ones used
by crops, with nitrate being the most important. Usually, most N in FPRs is tied up in the organic
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form. Through decomposition, organic N is converted to inorganic forms and becomes available for
plant growth (see Figure 8.2). Conversion of organic-N to inorganic-N is called mineralization.
Nitrogen immobilization is the opposite of mineralization, where inorganic-N is consumed by living
organisms and incorporated into living tissue. When the organism that consumed the N dies, the
organic-N again mineralizes and is available for other organisms, including plants.
Nitrogen cycling within the soil is a complex process that is affected by many fluctuating
environmental factors. For this reason, the standard agronomic soil fertility analysis does not include
a test for nitrates. By the time a sample is taken in the field, packaged, shipped, and analyzed, the
nitrate content may have changed drastically. Even assuming that sample preservation has been good
enough to minimize nitrogen transformations, laboratory reports on nitrate received two weeks after
sampling may have little resemblance to the actual field conditions when you receive the results. To
improve N testing, recent efforts at Penn State have focused on ways of rapidly assessing soil nitrate
levels. Contact your local Cooperative Extension agent and ask about the Quick-N test for corn
Available N predictions from field application of FPRs are a rough estimate. Reasonable
approximations have been published that provide guidance for manure NMP purposes and for
municipal sewage sludges and composts. No data on mineralization rates for FPRs are readily
available. Perhaps the most reasonable approach is to assume that FPRs will behave much the same
as animal manures. Hence, availability factors developed for land application of manure should be
used unless better data are available. For composted FPRs, a 10% availability factor is appropriate.
This compost-N availability factor has been used for municipal sewage sludge composts and should
roughly approximate FPR compost-N availability. Consult the most current
Penn State Agronomy
to obtain the current N-availability factors used for manures. Table 8.14 shows the manure N
availability factors observed at the time of this printing.
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Table 8.14 Percentage of total manure nitrogen remaining available to crops after storage and
handling, as affected by application method and field history.
N Availability Factor
Current year, time of application and incorporation
Manure applied for corn or summer annuals the following year:
Applied in the spring
incorporation the same day
incorporation within 1 day
incorporation within 2-4 days
incorporation with 5-6 days
incorporation after 7 days
no incorporation
Applied previous fall or winter with no cover crop
Applied the previous fall or winter with cover crop harvested for silage
Applied previous fall or winter with a cover crop as a green manure
Manure applied for small grains
Applied previous fall or winter
Historical frequency of manure application on the field
Rarely received manure in the past
Frequently received manure (4-8 out of 10 yrs)
Continuously received manure (>8 out of 10 yrs)
Source: The Pennsylvania State University, 1993.
These low availability factors do not indicate a net loss of N. A large amount of N is removed in the
cover crop silage. This N will be recycled in the manure when the silage is fed.
Field Selection
After identifying the site and running through the site preparation considerations noted above, you are
ready to select a specific field for application. Follow the seven steps below to make your field
Step 1: Assemble Background Farm Data
Compile FPR application field data tables for each farm in your LAS program. Table 8.12 provides
an example field data spreadsheet. These data were originally compiled during site preparation for the
initial year of operation. These tables need to be updated each year with current crop data and soil
fertility information.
Step 2: Review FPR Sample Analyses
Review the most recent applicable FPR-chemical analysis to determine FPR suitability for land
application. Compare FPR metal concentrations to those in Table 8.2. If your FPR parameters exceed
those in Table 8.2, land application should not be conducted. Identify other FPR-limiting
characteristics such as soluble salts, high BOD, or fats and oils. Refer to the Characteristics of
Interest section of this chapter for guidance.
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Step 3: Evaluate Nitrogen Availability
Compute FPR available nitrogen content using the following formula.
Total N Content
in % dry
weight basis
N availability
factor in %/100
available N
dry ton of FPR
Step 4: Review Individual Field Suitability
Review field data from Step 1. Eliminate the following fields from consideration for FPR application
in the current year:
?? Fields with soil pH less than the optimum range for the crop being grown. An exception to this is
when pH has been, or will be, adjusted according to soil test recommendations prior to FPR
application, or if application of the FPR itself will correct the soil pH to the appropriate range
with six months of spreading.
?? Fields with excessive soil P
(>500 lb/acre) when other fields with lower P levels can provide
adequate application acreage and can be practically scheduled.
?? Second- and third-year pure alfalfa stands, unless specifically authorized by the farm operator.
Step 5: Review Crop Nutrient Requirements
Review Table 8.13 for crop nutrient requirements. Make sure crop-N is based on a realistic crop yield
goal. FPR available-N applications should not exceed this value unless the soil test specifically
recommends a higher N application for that crop, or the current
Penn State Agronomy Guide
application guidelines recommend more N.
Step 6: Review FPR Land Application Data with Farmer
Discuss FPR application and review Table 8.12 with the farm operator(s). Use of specific fields for
FPR application, method, and timing must be coordinated with other farm operation activities.
Limitations on supplemental chemical fertilization beyond FPR-applied nutrients must be discussed.
Review the need for liming of fields with pH less than the optimum range for the crop being grown.
Step 7: Examine Fields for Suitability
Walk the field(s) proposed for FPR application and note any obstructions that may limit FPR
application operations (e.g., sinkholes, depressions, slopes, rock outcroppings). Application area
limits that are not easily seen should be identified and marked in the field prior to application.
Method of Application
Once you have identified fields, application may be performed in several ways, depending on the
solids content of the FPR and the crop. Surface application of liquid or slurry material is performed
using tank trucks or liquid manure spreaders. Solid or semi-solid materials are usually applied using
standard manure application equipment. If odor or soluble salts are limiting factors, incorporate the
material promptly. Inject fluid FPRs using tank vehicles fitted with chisels and hose/nozzle delivery
systems to place the liquid FPR in the chisel furrows. Remember, FPRs that may create noxious
odors, attract vectors, or contain pathogens must be stabilized by one of the methods described earlier
to qualify for relaxed soil requirements (i.e., depth). Direct subsurface injection requires a minimum
20-inch soil depth.
FPR land application of liquids must be performed in a manner that prevents ponding or standing
accumulations of FPRs on the surface. Land-applied material on areas with inadequate litter or
vegetation must be incorporated within twenty-four hours. Also, surface application on harvested
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forage crops (e.g., alfalfa, timothy, reed canary grass, etc.) must be performed within ten days
following mowing. Application following the last cutting for the season may be delayed longer.
Avoid spreading FPRs on land where food crops, that are eaten raw by humans, are being grown
when potential pathogen transmission is a concern.
Winter application of FPRs should follow standard practices established for manure handling.
Additional Resource J addresses winter application as follows: "Winter application (of manure) is
the least desirable, from both a nutrient utilization and a pollution point of view, because frozen soil
surface prevents rain and melting snow from carrying nutrients into the soil. The result is nutrient loss
and pollution through runoff. If daily winter spreading is necessary, manure should be applied to
fields with least runoff potential. It should be applied to distant or limited access fields in early winter
and then to nearer fields later in the season.” Field application of FPRs is not
permitted on snow-
covered ground. Remember, the potential for a pollution incident is greatest in the winter, and
therefore so is your liability.
As the FPR generator you are responsible for making sure that your material is used on suitable areas
and in accordance with the conservation and nutrient management plans. If you contract to have your
FPR land-applied, you should require the hauler to document that all of the requirements for proper
land application recycling are being met. In the end, as the generator, you bear the largest
responsibility for proper handling of your FPRs.
A certain amount of FPR and soils monitoring is necessary. Part I of this manual stressed the
importance of properly characterizing your FPR. Periodic resampling should be conducted to monitor
critical characteristics. Based on knowledge of your FPR you should decide how frequently to check
the FPR. However, the minimum frequency for reanalysis of FPRs is quarterly.
Field soil fertility should be established before your first FPR application. Continue with annual soil
fertility testing for the duration of your land application program. If your FPR has elevated salts, the
soluble salt level in the soil should also be annually monitored. For FPR containing elevated levels of
heavy metals, soil chemistry should be assessed once every five years. It may be advisable to observe
this frequency for monitoring soil chemistry for typical FPR land application sites in order to assure
farmers that no imbalances are occurring in the soil.
Proper management of any FPR land application program requires that you maintain good records of
FPRs and application fields. A record of the amount and all known characteristics of land-applied
FPRs must be maintained. All soil analyses (fertility and chemistry) should also be accessible.
Compile laboratory data into a spreadsheet that is updated as analytical results are received to
monitor characteristics for any sudden changes. This works for both FPR and soil information. One
meat processor uses a computer database to track NMP parameters and field scheduling with great
success. Application records containing date, driver name, FPR volume, solids content, reference to
applicable laboratory data, target application rate, application area, and weather conditions must be
maintained. See Figure 8.3 for an example of a daily log. You should also maintain records of
observed crop yields and any problems. Complaints should be investigated and notes concerning the
nature of the complaint and how it was resolved should be maintained.
An annual report which compiles laboratory reports, daily operation logs, complaints, and any other
management data collected throughout the year should be prepared. This document compiles annual
information into one concise source. The annual report is your documentation that your land
application program is conducted within the guidelines of this manual. This report, in addition to your
current ongoing program files, contains all the information a regulator is likely to request if your
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facility is inspected. The annual report does not have to be submitted to PADEP, but it must be
available for review upon request. A suggested outline for annual report preparation is shown.
Odor Control
The Annual Report Outline
Report Body
??Land application site general information (ID
number, location, owners, operators, etc.)
??Summary operational narrative (describing period of
use, general land application goals, and
accomplishments for year including crop yields if
??Summary of FPR quantity applied (by field and
??Site map (indicating application field and dry tons
??Summary of FPR quality analyses (covering ranges
and averages).
??Summary of soil chemistry and/or fertility analyses.
??Nutrient loading analysis summary (including
estimated amounts of primary FPR nutrients supplied
through the land application program by field and
??Summary narrative of any complaints or special
difficulties and how they were resolved.
A. Daily FPR land application reports
B. FPR analysis laboratory reports
C. Soil analysis laboratory reports
The best odor control measure you can
implement is to thoroughly stabilize
your FPR prior to land application.
However, this is not possible in many
cases. The following list provides
general guidance concerning land
application and odor control:
?? keep FPRs well aerated
?? select land application areas that are
distant from neighboring residences
?? avoid spreading when wind is
blowing toward populated areas or
when nearby neighbors are likely to
be engaged in outdoor activities
?? spread in the morning when air is
warming and rising rather than in
late afternoon
?? spread on turbulent and breezy days
to dissipate and dilute odors
?? avoid spreading near heavily
traveled roads and clean up any
spills promptly
?? incorporate odorous FPRs into soil
?? liming FPRs can reduce biological
activity and odors; however,
sometimes this only changes the
odor and it remains objectionable.
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Figure 8.3
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Odors arouse public complaint against a farm operation. Thus, knowing how to handle public
complaints can be important to your overall land management program. The Pennsylvania Farmers'
Association (PFA) in cooperation with PADEP has established the Environmental Resources Local
Affairs Program to solve farm problems related to public complaints received by PADEP. By using
this program you can avoid potential penalties and solve the odor problems that may arise on your
farms. Figure 8.4 shows how the program works. For more information, contact PFA's director of
local affairs at 510 S. 31st Street, Camp Hill, PA 17001-8736, (717) 761-2740. For further
discussion on FPR odors refer to Chapter 3
Storage Considerations
FPRs must be stored in a manner that prevents pollution of local water resources and avoids creating
nuisance conditions. Surface water running into storage areas must be eliminated and runoff must be
controlled so that surface or ground water is not polluted. Construction of upland surface water
diversion ditches will eliminate "run-on.” Runoff from stored FPRs can be eliminated by sheltering
under roof or plastic membrane tarps. Alternatively, an impermeable curbed storage pad can be used
which provides for leachate collection. Accumulated leachate must be disposed appropriately as
Nuisance control involves elimination or control of conditions conducive to the harborage, breeding,
or attraction of vectors (e.g., flies, rodents, etc.) and offensive odors. Odor control techniques used
for storage facilities are addressed in Chapter 3. Remember, odors are the most common source of
complaints, so don't treat this issue lightly. For your FPR land application program to succeed you
must direct sufficient thought and resources into storage facility considerations. As noted earlier in
this manual, inadequate storage facilities can quickly unravel an otherwise well-conceived program.
Regardless of the type of activity--whether it is land application, composting, storage, or some other
activity. All FPRs should be stored in a manner that complies with Chapter 299 of the Residual
Waste Regulations.
When you transport FPRs, they must be completely enclosed or covered unless the nature of the
material is such that it will not disperse from the vehicle. Putrescible FPRs must not be stored in a
transportation vehicle for more than twenty-four hours. Stable, non-putrescible FPRs may be held in
transportation vehicles for up to five days. Keep transportation equipment clean and maintain fire
extinguishing equipment on the vehicle. Make sure that vectors, such as rats, don't have an easy
means for access to the FPR.
Transportation of nonhazardous FPRs is regulated under Title 25, Chapter 299, "Storage and
Transportation of Residual Waste.” PADEP administers these regulations. In general, these
regulations include a requirement that the vehicles be completely enclosed or covered. The
appropriate signs should be used and records should be kept in conformance with the regulations.
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Figure 8.4 PFB/PADEP Environmental Affairs Program reporting process
Program Performance Review
Evaluate performance of FPR application activities with respect to the desired application rates,
problems, etc. Discuss results of your evaluation with the farm operator. In some cases you may need
to modify planned supplemental chemical fertilization or FPR application procedures to improve
performance of your LAS.
8.4 Regulatory Resources
Regulatory resources are specific to land application and composting. The following section is
broken down accordingly.
Land Application Operating Requirements
Aside from any local ordinances, all regulation of land application programs is done at the state level.
Land application of FPR wastewater is regulated under Title 25, Chapter 91, Water Resources
Regulations. Permits for treatment facilities and land application/irrigation facilities are required.
Contact the PADEP, Bureau of Water Quality Management for more information concerning specific
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Land application of nonhazardous FPRs other than wastewater is regulated under Title 25, Chapter
291, Land Application of Residual Waste of the Residual Waste Regulations. The PADEP, Bureau of
Land Recycling and Waste Management (BLRWM) administers these regulations.
The use of food processing waste or food processing sludge in the course of normal farming
operations does not require a permit from PADEP if certain operating requirements in the regulations
are met and no pollution is caused by the activity. This permit exemption can be found in section
287.101(b)(2) of the
Residual Waste Regulations
. To be considered a "normal farming operation," the
food processing waste must be used in a customary and generally accepted practice on a farm. The
practice must be one that is used in the production or preparation for market of agricultural
An example of a normal farming operation involving land application is one where the FPR is used
on a farm as a soil amendment. Such an activity may not pollute the air, water, or other natural
resources. The land application must improve the condition of the soil, improve the growth of crops,
or restore the land.
The following is a summary of operating requirements that must be met in the residual waste
regulations in order to qualify for the permit exemption as a normal farming operation. These
requirements can be met by following the best management practices for land application identified
in this chapter.
Nuisance Prevention
Land application is to be conducted in a manner to prevent odors, vectors, ponding of liquids, public
nuisances or adverse effects to the soil, food chain, or the environment.
Metal Loading Rates
The lifetime metal loading rates cannot exceed the limits identified in Table 8.2. The annual loading
rate should be applied in accordance with the nutrient management plan for the site and cannot
exceed the nitrogen requirements of the crop.
Isolation Distances
The land application cannot be conducted within the isolation distances identified in Table 8.11,
except as otherwise noted in the table footnotes.
General Site Criteria
The land application area must comply with the general site criteria for agricultural utilization
identified in Table 8.10.
Prior to land application the FPR must be stabilized or treated in accordance with the PSRPs and
PFRPs described under the section on Pathogens, except as otherwise noted elsewhere in this chapter.
Health and Safety
FPRs that have the potential to cause problems if directly ingested by humans or animals should not
be applied in areas where root vegetables which are eaten raw or will be grown within two years of
the land application.
Conservation Plans
A farm conservation plan, prepared in accordance with Chapter 102, is required to be implemented
on areas receiving FPRs.
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Prior to land application, the FPR must be stored in accordance with Chapter 299 of the Residual
Waste Regulations.
Water Supply Protection
If the land application operation adversely affects a water supply, a temporary water supply must be
provided within 48 hours and a permanent water supply must be provided within 90 days.
FPR Characterization
A chemical and physical characterization of the FPR must be conducted prior to land application, as
described in Chapter 4.
Field Marking
If the application area is not easily and visibly identifiable, the area must be marked prior to land
application operations.
Daily Records
Daily records must be maintained that include the following:
?? type, percent of solids, and weight or volume of FPR that is applied
?? name, mailing address, county, and state of each generator
?? transporters of the FPRs
?? USGS map of all areas used for land application
?? the application rate of FPRs
pH Requirements
The pH of the site must be maintained in the optimum range for the crop being grown during the
application of the FPR.
Weather Condition
Land application when the field is frozen can occur when no storage capacity or other means of
storage or disposal exists at the generation facility. During these conditions, the slopes at the land
application area cannot exceed 3% and sufficient vegetation must exist to prevent runoff of FPRs.
The application of FPRs must be in accordance with the site nutrient management plan and the farm
conservation plan.
When an application of FPRs is not considered a normal farming operation, a permit, either general
or site-specific, must be obtained from PADEP. An example of this activity is land reclamation use.
PADEP may initiate a general permit to cover the land application, beneficial use, or processing of
FPRs where such activities are not normal farming operations.
As the generator of land-applied FPRs, you may have additional obligations under the residual waste
regulations. If you, as the generator, use your FPR in a normal farming operation, you will not be
required to meet the specific regulatory obligations for generators. If, however, your use of FPRs is
not a normal farming operation you will be required to prepare a biennial report, develop a source
reduction strategy, and perform a chemical analysis of your FPR. If you follow this manual, these
requirements will be accomplished, with the possible exception of the biennial report.
Keep in mind that even though PADEP permits may not be required for many FPR land application
alternatives, you as the FPR generator still bear the major responsibility for proper handling and
ultimate use. By following this manual you will greatly reduce the likelihood of facing a compliance
problem. If a problem does arise, your response to pursuing a resolution may play a significant role in
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determining the posture assumed by PADEP in seeking a resolution. It is always best to assume a
proactive approach in attacking environmental problems. If a problem arises, don't waste time
pointing fingers, go after the problem and correct it. Questions relating to land application or
composting of non-wastewater FPRs should be directed to the regional office of the PADEP.
Composting Operational Requirements
Composting of Food processing waste is regulated under Title 25, Chapter 295, Composting
Facilities for Residual Waste. The PADEP administers these regulations.
The actual composting activity is considered "processing" under the Solid Waste Management Act.
Therefore, the operation of a composting facility requires a permit. An exception to this permitting
requirement is the use of FPRs in the course of normal farming operations. There are two options for
permitting: an individual processing permit or a general permit. A general permit application may
incorporate both the actual composting activity and the beneficial use of the compost. An individual
permit application may only cover the composting activity, so a general permit for the beneficial use
of the compost will also be required.
If FPR composting is carried out in the course of a normal farming operation, the activity does not
require a permit. As stated earlier in this chapter, the FPR must be used in a customary and generally
accepted practice on a farm. Also, the practice must involve the production or preparation for market
of agricultural commodities. An example of a normal farming operation is one where the FPR is
composted on a farm and the resulting compost is used on a farm as a soil amendment. It is not
required that both activities, the composting activity and the beneficial use of the compost as a soil
amendment, be conducted on the same farm.
To qualify for the permit exemption for the composting of FPRs in normal farming operations, you
must meet the following operational requirements:
Water Pollution Control
A composting facility should be operated to prevent and control water pollution.
Nuisance Control
Composting is to be conducted in a manner to prevent odors, vectors, public nuisances, or adverse
effects to the soil, food chain, or the environment.
Compost Additives
Other than agricultural waste and leaves, no other municipal or residual waste may be composted
with the food processing residuals.
Isolation Distances
The facility cannot be within the isolation distances identified in Table 8.15.
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Table 8.15 Compost facility isolation distances
Site Features
Minimum Isolation Distances
Exceptional value wetland
Other wetland
Occupied dwelling
Perennial stream
Property line
Private or public water source
Water table
Not within 100-year floodplain
300 feet
100 feet
100 feet
300 feet
100 feet from actual composting process
50 feet from actual composting process
1/4 mile upgradient and within 300 feet downgradient
4 feet
a) May be waived if storage or processing will not occur within that distance and either dams and waterways
permit has been obtained under Title 25, Chapter 105 regulations or no adverse hydrologic or water quality
impacts will result.
b) May be waived with consent of landowner.
c) May be waived if actual composting of waste is not occurring within that distance.
Erosion Control
A plan to manage surface water and control erosion during all phases of construction and operation at
the facility must be implemented. The plan must be based on the requirements of Title 25, Chapter
102, Erosion and Sediment Pollution Control Regulations.
Land Application of Compost
The land application of the resulting compost in normal farming operations must comply with the
land application requirements of this manual or Chapter 291 of the Residual Waste Regulations. The
distribution or marketing of the material for operations other than normal farming operations must be
done under a coproduct determination or general permit.
Water Quality Protection
If the composting operation adversely affects a water supply, a temporary water supply must be
provided within 48 hours and a permanent water supply must be provided within 90 days.
Maintenance of Compost Operation
The composting must be conducted on a pad or a vessel that is capable of collecting all liquids or
solids generated by the process. Any liquids generated should be reused on the compost pile or spread
in accordance with the land application standards identified in this manual or Chapter 291 of the
Residual Waste Regulations. Residues from the processing must be managed properly.
Daily Records
Daily records must be maintained that include the following:
?? type, percent of solids, and weight or volume of FPR that is applied
?? name, mailing address, county, and state of each generator
?? transporters of the FPRs
?? USGS map of all areas used for land application
?? the application rate of FPRs
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Any storage of food processing waste associated with the composting activity, including the compost
itself, must meet the requirements of Chapter 299 of the Residual Waste Regulations.
FPR Characterization
A chemical and physical analysis of the FPR must be conducted prior to composting. Chapter 4
describes how to conduct a chemical and physical analysis of the compost.
If after composting, a determination can be made that the compost is a "coproduct" as described in
Chapter 3, then no further regulation is required. A beneficial use permit would not be required.
The following box provides a brief question and answer summary addressing the location of
composting facilities, normal farming operations, and compost distribution requirements. This
overview will help you to see the distinctions made by the PADEP for regulatory oversight purposes.
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Composting Facilities
Normal Farming Operations, and Compost Distribution Requirements
FPR Co. wants to compost its apple pommace from its cider processing operation and apply the compost to the
a. Where can the composting activity occur:
1) on-site at a farm which is contiguous to the food processing facility; or
2) on-site at the actual site of the production facility; or
3) off-site at a farm owned by FPR Co. or farmer McDonald; or
4) off-site at a location other than a farm.
b. What processing permits must be obtained or requirements must be met for the operation of a
composting facility at each of the above locations?
Location 1
If the composting is performed at a farm which is contiguous to the processing facility, and the resultant
compost is applied to the land at either that same farm or another farm, then no permit is required because
the "normal farming operation" exemption applies. The exemption only applies, however, if a benefit to
the soil is realized and no pollution is caused by the activity. As a normal farming operation, the operating
requirements identified in this manual should be followed. If the resultant compost is generated for a non-
normal farming operation, then the composting activity does not qualify for the permit exemption and a
general permit or site specific permit must be obtained for the composting facility.
Location 2
If the composting is performed at the food processing facility, unrelated to a farm, then the FPR processing
(composting) would be covered under a "permit by rule" for captive processing facilities. In other words,
the facility is deemed to be "permitted" without PADEP review if it is operated in compliance with the
requirements under section 287.102 for captive processing facilities.
Location 3
If FPR Co. takes its FPR off-site to a farm owned by FPR Co. or to a farm owned by Mr. McDonald for
composting and the resultant compost is applied to a farm, then no permit is required because the "normal
farming operation" exemption applies. The exemption only applies, however, if a benefit to the soil is
realized and no pollution is caused by the activity. As a normal farming operation, the operating
requirements identified in this manual should be followed. If the resultant compost is generated for non-
normal farming operations, then the composting activity does not qualify for the permit exemption and a
general permit or site specific permit must be obtained for the composting facility.
Location 4
If FPR Co. takes its FPR to a location which is not a farm for composting (processing), then either a site-
specific permit or general permit must be obtained. A general permit for the beneficial use of the resultant
compost must also be obtained, which may be combined with the processing permit.
c. When is a beneficial use general permit required for distribution of the compost material
If the compost is derived from an on-farm composting operation and the compost is used in normal
farming operations, no beneficial use permit is required for the land application if a benefit to the soil is
realized and no pollution is caused by the activity. As a "normal farming operation," the operating
requirements identified in this manual should be followed.
If an on-farm composting operation generates compost for non-normal farming operations, distribution, or
sales, a beneficial use general permit must be obtained prior to any sale or distribution of the finished
If an off-farm composting operation (waste processing facility) generates compost for use on or off a farm,
a beneficial use general permit must be obtained prior to any sale or distribution of the finished compost. If
the finished compost will be land applied, a site-specific individual permit may be obtained instead of a
general permit.
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Marketing Compost
In addition to deciding whether a general permit is required for the distribution and beneficial use of
compost under the PADEP's Residual Waste Regulations, the PDA plays a role in marketing.
Marketing of FPR-derived soil conditioners or fertilizers requires registration with the PDA in
accordance with the Pennsylvania Fertilizer, Soil Conditioner, and Plant Growth Substance Law.
Registration deals primarily with "truth in labeling" issues. The following is a partial list of
compliance requirements:
?? the FPR must contain recognized plant nutrient components
?? the manufacturer producing the FPR fertilizer products must be licensed as a fertilizer
manufacturer as required by the Pennsylvania Fertilizer, Soil Conditioner, and Plant Growth
Substance Law
?? the FPR must not be adulterated with a material harmful to humans, animals, or plants
?? the FPR must be labeled properly as required by the fertilizer law
Contact the PDA, Bureau of Plant Industry to learn more about product registration.
8.5 Additional Reading
Chapman, H.D. 1966. Diagnostic Criteria for plants and soils. University of California, Division of
Agricultural Sciences. Riverside, CA.
Clemens, J.S. 1993. Heat dried food processing solids. In
Utilization of food processing residuals,
Ed. P.D. Robillard and K.S. Martin, NRAES-69, 54-56. Northeast Regional Agricultural
Engineering Service. Ithaca, NY.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 1955. Pennsylvania fertilizer, soil conditioner and plant growth
substance law, Act of 1955, P.L. 1795 as amended. Harrisburg, PA.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 1986. Manure management manual-field application of manure.
Harrisburg, PA (included as an additional resource in total).
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 1988. Guidelines for the agricultural utilization of sewage sludge,
under the rules and regulations of the Department of Environmental Protection, Chapter 275, May
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 1992. Residual Waste Regulations, chapters 291 and 295.
Harrisburg, PA.
Katsuyama, A.M. 1979. A guide for waste management in the food processing industry. National
Food Processors Association. Washington, DC.
Maas, E.V., and G.J. Hoffman. 1977. Crop Salt Tolerance-current assessment. Journal of the
irrigation and drainage division. June 1977.
Maas, E.V. 1986. Salt Tolerance of Plants, Applied Agricultural Research. Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 12-26.
Springer-Verkig NY, Inc.
Naylor, L.M., and G.A. Kuter. 1993. Composting Apple processing residuals. In
Utilization of food
processing residuals,
Ed. P.D. Robillard and K.S. Martin, NRAES-69, 57-61. Northeast Regional
Agricultural Engineering Service. Ithaca, NY.
Ritter, W.F. 1989. Land application of food processing residual wastes. In
Proc. Food processing
waste management and water conservation conference
, Ed. P.D. Robillard and H.A. Elliott, 103-
114. Hershey, PA, 14-15 November.
NRRP. 1985. Criteria and recommendations for land application of sludges in the northeast. Bulletin
951. Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.
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