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City of Westminster agrees to pay $115,000 for violating its EPA issued biosolids permit

Release Date: 8/23/2005
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      DENVER -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a settlement with the City of Westminster for over-applying sewage sludge, also known as biosolids, and not complying with reporting requirements of the City’s biosolids permit. Westminster will pay $40,000 and spend at least $75,000 on two supplemental environmental projects: A biosolids workshop and restoration of a section of Little Dry Creek.

The biosolids workshop is aimed at preventing non-compliance with the biosolids regulations by other municipalities and regulated facilities. The workshop will be offered free of charge to state municipalities, special districts and commercial biosolid applicators.

The restoration of a section of the little Dry Creek will take place west of Federal Boulevard, at 68th Avenue and Green Court. This project will involve cleaning, re-grading and stabilization of the channel, along with erosion control structures to protect sanitary sewer lines exposed in the creek.

EPA issued an Administrative Order to the City of Westminster on September 1, 2004, requiring the City to submit a Biosolids Management Plan and agronomic rate calculations for all fields biosolids were applied to in 2002, 2003 and 2004. The agronomic rate is considered as the quantity of fertilizer that, when added to the soil, will achieve crop production goals while still protecting groundwater from contamination with excess nitrogen.

The City fully complied with the terms of the Administrative Order, as well as, submitting deep soil sampling results of all affected fields. The sampling results submitted showed normal levels of nitrogen beneath the root zone, indicating that there was no contamination of groundwater. The City of Westminster has been cooperative and dedicated to resolving all issues.

Biosolids are primarily organic, accumulated solids separated from wastewater that have been stabilized by treatment and can be beneficially used as an alternative fertilizer. However, biosolids applied in excess of the agronomic rate can result in nitrate contamination of surface or ground water. Improperly managed biosolids can expose people and animals to unsafe levels of pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, which exist in the biosolids.