LETTER TO VIRGINIA POLLUTION INFORMATION NEWSLETTER (PIN) July 2006
by ALAN RUBIN (EPA, retired)
Is Dr. Rubin a victim of a con game or is he a con artist?
Rubin is a SELF PROCLAIMED SLUDGE EXPERT
RUBIN DOESN'T APPEAR TO KNOW MUCH ABOUT HIS OWN SLUDGE REGULATION or federal law?
Quality of life issues (i.e. human health and environmental) of concerned Virginia citizens are not valid?
Sickness and death is just a perception of negative human health.
USEPA position on these issues does not include compliance with federal laws
Scanned from August PIN.
Dr. Rubin has requested that I publish his view points. While there may be discrepancies to be challenged, it is the
position of PIN to offer differing view points to its readers. All article authors assume personal responsibility for their
submittal. Letter for CW Williams to publish in the PIN July 12, 2006
Dear Mr. Stoneman:
am Dr. Alan B. Rubin and I retired from the USEPA in January of 2005. I had the honor during my last 20 plus years at
USEPA to be the lead author of the Federal Part 503 Standards for the Use/Disposal of Sewage Sludge (Biosolids).
During that period of time, I reviewed thousands of comments from the public (hundreds from the Commonwealth of
Virginia) on the safety, efficacy, and acceptability of the land application of biosolids and, from this activity, became one
of several EPA staff that helped to shape the USEPA position on these issues.
Even before I retired, I closely followed the somewhat contentious debate on the land application of biosolids in Virginia.
Today in retirement, one of my principal interests is keeping abreast of biosolids issues in my state (Virginia). I attended
the last BURAC meeting in May, 2006 and I will be in attendance at the BURAC meeting this Friday, July 14. It is obvious
that there is a small but quite vocal and somewhat effective cadre of Virginia citizens that have concerns about the
continued biosolids land application program in the State. Several of these citizens are members of BURAC which you
chair in an extremely efficient manner (my observation at the last BURAC meeting). Their concerns about biosolids
land application are many. Their main and overt concern about this practice is "safety" and their perception
of negative human health and environmental impacts. Based on my experience at EPA and my expertise,
this concern is not valid. Both the Part 503 Standards as well as the VA Department of Health (VDH) standards
protect public health and the environment with a large margin of safety when biosolids are land applied in the
No, these citizens' real issue is "Quality of Life" issues of odor, dusts, noise, traffic, etc. associated with some biosolids
land application projects. Regulatory standards (and amendments to these standards) more than adequately protect
public health and the environment when biosolids are land applied or managed by other means. These regulatory
standards, however, rarely if ever address these "quality of life" issues and, therefore, in my experience, only marginally
reduce their "quality of life impacts" from some biosolids projects. This unfortunately leaves the citizens with continuing
(and maybe even enhanced) feelings of distrust and anger toward biosolids land application and the regulatory officials
that administer the Federal and the State's biosolids programs.
There is an effective solution to address and significantly mitigate if not eliminate these citizens' concerns which I would
like to introduce and get some discussion at Friday's BURAC meeting. That solution is the establishment of a Statewide
Environmental Management System (EMS) for all wastewater treatment authorities that generate biosolids which are
subsequently land applied in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is not a new concept in Virginia. The Virginia
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) administers their own EMS program (the Environmental Excellence
Program) for municipal wastewater treatment plants. The District of Columbia (DCWASA) is the largest land applier of
biosolids in the Commonwealth and fortunately, they operate all of their biosolids projects in Virginia under an EMS
program certified by an independent auditor and sponsored by the National Biosolids Partnership (NBP), a consortium
of the Water Environment Federation, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, and the USEPA. All three of
these organizations as members of the NBP are committed to superior environmental management of biosolids in all of
its practices including land application. I am personally aware of the superb environmental performance associated with
DCWASA biosolids projects in Virginia. This behavior has paid tangible dividends in the form of increased public
acceptance of DCWASA biosolids projects in the Commonwealth. In addition, other EMS enrollees who land apply
biosolids in the Commonwealth of Virginia include the Alexandria Sanitation Authority, the Hampton Roads Sanitation
District, and the City of Richmond Wastewater Treatment Authority. A complete list of the NBP's list of EMS enrollees can
be found on the NBP website at www.biosolids.org <http://www.biosolids.org>
It seems logical that all biosolids projects in Virginia should be operated in an EMS mode. Please note that EMS-certified
wastewater treatment authorities that generate biosolids are committed to operate their biosolids projects in total
conformance with all appropriate Federal and State biosolids standards and, where appropriate, all provisions of local
ordinances. Total compliance with all appropriate regulations/standards from all level of government is the "bedrock" of
the NBP's EMS program- one of its four "cornerstones". However, EMS-certified wastewater treatment authorities also
pledge to voluntarily operate their biosolids projects in a manner that goes beyond regulatory standards to
mitigate/eliminate any "quality of life" issues in the community that hosts the biosolids project. The EMS program is the
only way to reduce if not eliminate citizens' complaints and eventually increase public acceptability of this practice.
The NBP is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. Their National EMS program has enrolled approximately 90
wastewater treatment agencies with 12 of them certified by a third party auditor. Should you be interested in learning
more about the EMS approach which yields real benefits to agencies and communities that host biosolids projects and
its applicability to wastewater treatment authorities that land apply biosolids in Virginia, the NBP can be contacted at
What I am proposing has attracted the interest of a number of Virginia legislators in the House of Delegates. They look
upon this as a non-partisan issue and an opportunity for urban/suburban legislators representing districts that generate
biosolids to work with their colleagues in rural districts which are hosts to biosolids projects to achieve bi-partisan
cooperation on an issue that has impact throughout Virginia. I have been encouraged by one member of the House of
Delegates to introduce this EMS concept before your Committee and have your Committee shape the specifics of a
Virginia Biosolids EMS program. This delegate has indicated that if legislation is needed to accelerate EMS programs for
biosolids in Virginia, he would be very receptive to introducing this legislation at the beginning of the 2007 session of the
Virginia General Assembly.
So these are the thoughts that I would like to introduce to members of BURAC on Friday. I will be brief, working from this
e mail that I have sent to you, and I anticipate that I will need approximately 10 minutes to make my presentation. In
addition, I will be available to meet with any BURAC members and observers after your Committee meeting to further
discuss this EMS concept and solicit their support.
I await your reply on the opportunity to present the biosolids EMS concept to members of BURAC. Should you act
favorably on my request, please feel free to distribute copies of this e mail to BURAC members and observers at the
BURAC meeting this Friday in order to facilitate my presentation and subsequent discussion.
Alan B. Rubin, Ph.D.
Citizen of the Great Commonwealth of Virginia: