Biosolids may return to SoCo farms

Published 8:13 am Saturday, February 21, 2009

COURTLAND—The application of biosolids to farmland may be returning to Southampton County this spring, nearly five years after it was last applied to a farm here.

In a Feb. 4 letter to County Administrator Michael Johnson, the state Department of Environmental Quality said it had received a permit application from Recyc Systems Inc. of Remington, Va., to spread biosolids — treated waste from sewage plants that can be used as fertilizer — onto about 1,168 acres of farmland owned by J.H. Lee & Sons. The Lee property, also known as Flaggy Run Farms, is near Courtland.

DEQ is reviewing the company’s application and will schedule a public hearing on the matter soon. The company is required by state law to give the county a 100-day notice before it may spread biosolids.

Recyc said in a Feb. 3 letter to the county that it may spread biosolids at Flaggy Run Farms in May or June. The company also listed five additional farms in the county that could also be permitted for biosolids during the 100-day interim period. Those farms are owned by Cathie Bradshaw, F.T. Brown, Virginia Daughtrey, Sue Edwards and the Pope Investment Co.

“The reason a farmer would be interested (in biosolids) is that it’s basically a free fertilizer,” said Nathan O’Berry, extension agent for Isle of Wight County. “The way fertilizer prices are right now — close to $1,000-per-ton just for normal nitrogen, phosphorus and potash — it’s a lot cheaper way of fertilizing that land.”

O’Berry said the use of biosolids is still being studied by the government and universities, but from the data collected so far the process is deemed safe for the public, provided that extra precautions are taken to make sure the treated sewage does not enter any water systems.

Recyc also disclosed to the county where it receives its treated waste. All of the sources are on the East Coast, from Virginia to Pennsylvania. According to that list, Recyc receives 460,000 wet tons of sewage annually from the DC Water and Sewer Authority in Washington, D.C. Another 200,000 wet tons come from Philadelphia.

The company receives treated sewage from 13 municipalities in Virginia, including 93,000 wet tons from Richmond, Petersburg and Henrico County combined. Front Royal and Farmville send the company 3 million and 2 million gallons of treated sewage, respectively.

Another eight wastewater facilities in Maryland send the company their


Recyc’s pending state permit application is an agenda item for Monday’s meeting of the Southampton County Board of Supervisors. The board may discuss the matter, but it does not have the power to stop the permitting process.

At the suggestion of the Virginia Association of Counties, Southampton enacted a model biosolids ordinance in September 2004.

The last time biosolids were applied to farmland in Southampton County was October 2004, when Synagro Technologies Inc. spread it on 746 acres.