The public is invited to attend a stakeholder meeting Aug. 14 relating to the land application of biosolids in Ellis County.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality staff members will be on hand to receive input on the farming practice, which has come under fire in some areas of the county.

Available information indicates that Ellis County has 47,000 acres comprising 69 sites and 34 landowners that have submitted a letter of notice to the TCEQ that they want biosolids applications. Of that noticed acreage, from 3,600 to 4,200 acres will have the material applied to the soil on an annual basis.

The meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. at the Midlothian Conference Center, is the result of a rule-change petition filed by Midlothian area resident Cole Turner in May. The petition cites nuisance odor issues and asks that the state’s environmental regulatory agency prohibit the land application of sewer sludge in or within three miles of a city limit in a county with a population of 140,000 or more that is located adjacent to a county with a population between 2 million and 4 million.

TCEQ commissioners discussed the rule-change petition during their June meeting in Austin, with a consensus that the agency’s staff take a look at the issue from a statewide perspective. In addition to the meeting in Ellis County, others are scheduled for Aug. 13 in Springtown, Aug. 22 in Brookshire and Aug. 28 in Austin.

The meeting topics will include:

• Background and rulemaking process

• Slideshow – what are biosolids; class A vs. class B sewage sludge; permits vs. notification authorizations.

• Overview of petition

• Rulemaking process and timeline

• Additional stakeholder involvement in the rulemaking process

• Purpose of the stakeholder meetings (rule and non-rule options to address odors at bulk sewage sludge application sites)

• Field investigations

• Documenting nuisance conditions

• Citizen-collected evidence

• Non-rulemaking options

• Permit provisions triggered by verified nuisance odors for generators and haulers/land applicators

• Rulemaking options

• Sewage sludge treatment processes – polymer addition, dewatering, composting, pelletization, lime stabilization, heat addition

• Transportation, staging and storage – covered vs. uncovered storage areas, storage and staging area holding times

• Management practices and site restrictions – buffer zones, weather forecasts, scheduling, slope requirements, applying through incorporation vs. surface spreading, requirements to reduce transport off-site on vehicle tires, additives, odor control plans, notification requirements

• Open discussion and comments

Written comments are being accepted on the issue until Aug. 30 and can be mailed to Brian Sierant, TCEQ Water Quality Division, P.O. Box 13087, MC-148, Austin, TX 78711-3087. Comments also may be submitted via email to Brian.Sierant@tceq.texas.gov. For questions or additional information, contact Sierant by email or by phone at 512-239-1375.

The TCEQ executive director is slated to present findings and recommendations on the issue, as gathered through the stakeholder meetings and comments, to the agency’s commissioners during their Nov. 20 meeting in Austin.

The petition can be viewed online at the TCEQ’s website http://www7.tceq.state.tx.us/uploads/eagendas/Agendas/2013/6-18-2013/2013-033-RUL-%20Petition.pdf

Musing Green is a graduate project of Jo Ann Livingston, who is completing her master’s degree at the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism at the University of North Texas. The focus is on environmental and nature-related topics. Visit the website at www.musinggreen.com, the blog at musinggreen.blogspot.com or the Musing Green Facebook page. A current topic of interest is the use of biosolids in Ellis County.