Australian research highlighted at biosolids conference

Wednesday, 28 May, 2008

Exploiting the solid by-product of sewerage treatment and reducing the amount of waste added to landfill were two of the driving factors triggering a six-year nationally coordinated study into biosolids, the results of which will be highlighted at the Australian Water Associations Biosolids Specialty Conference on 11–12 June in Adelaide.

Australian researchers have developed a database of materials on potential risks and limits to the use of biosolids on agricultural land over the six-year program. The research, which was led by the CSIRO, has indicated that benefits lie in the land application of biosolids, particularly where soils are poor in nutrients and where carbon content is low, such as is prevalent in Australia.

The final report is now complete and will be summarised at the conference by Prof Mike McLaughlin from the CSIRO. Recommendations on when and how to apply and best use biosolids have also resulted, and it is intended that the data be used to assist the water industry to make beneficial use of wastewater biosolids, rather than disposing them to landfill.

Biosolids are one resource that has yet to be fully embraced; this conference will help explore how we can manage the environmental and health factors to ensure we don't squander precious nutrients, according to  Australian Water Association chief executive, Tom Mollenkopf.

The conference will also examine new research into the carbon component of biosolids, which has indicated the potential for carbon to be appropriated over time into soil. This research, initiated by Dr Georgina Kelly of the NSW Dept of Primary Industries, has shown that applying biosolids to forestry plots substantially boosts the rate of timber production. Kelly will be speaking of her research and reinforcing the conference message on re-use and sustainability.


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