Biosolids Application Program

The Easterly Wastewater Treatment Facility produces on average 3,325 wet tons or 605 dry tons of biosolids per year, while the Westerly Wastewater Treatment Facility produces on average 3,422 wet tons or 622 dry tons of biosolids per year.

The biosolids program received its first farm approval under the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protections Chapter 275 regulations on January 20, 1995.

The Altoona Water Authority applied for and received permits under the General Permits Regulation (Chapter 271) for the Easterly (PAG-08-3511) and Westerly (PAG-08-3512) Wastewater Treatment Facilities on April 1, 1998. Currently, this program has five active farms approved for land application. They are: The Robert Smith Farm located in Antis Township, Blair County; the Daniel Hegarty Farm located in Antis Township, Blair County; the Loganbell Farm located in Antis Township, Blair County; the Schenk Farm located in Allegheny Township, Cambria County; and the Schraff Farm located in Antis Township, Blair County.

Description of Biosolids

Biosolids are a nutrient rich organic product of the wastewater treatment facilities which can be used as a fertilizer. During the wastewater treatment process, solids are removed from the wastewater and treatment in our four (4) one-million-gallon capacity aerobic digesters (2 at each facility) where the organic solids are stabilized, reducing the volume by about 50%. After digestion, polymer is added to reduce the amount of water leaving a cake of 16% to 20% solids.

Why Use Biosolids as a Fertilizer?

Biosolids are an excellent source of essential plant nutrients and organic matter. The addition of this organic matter may reduce erosion by improving soil texture and increases the soil's ability to hold moisture. Nutrients are returned to the soil where they can enhance plant growth. It also reduces the amount of solid waste that is filling our landfills.

Is it Safe?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the biosolids rule in 1993. It is the most comprehensive set of regulations ever. EPA and a panel of experts examined all aspects of biosolids in the environment, including potential effects on groundwater, air and soil quality, surface run off and food crops.

The PA Department of Environmental Protection adopted these same regulations with additional and more stringent parameters, reporting requirements and records keeping requirements in 1997.

These biosolids rules set quality limits for trace metals and requires pathogen and odor reduction. Biosolids are carefully applied in amounts that provide only the amount of nitrogen needed by the particular crop. The Altoona Water Authority biosolids are spread on corn, alfalfa, hay, and small grains for dairy cattle consumption.

Class A and Class B Biosolids

The Altoona Water Authority aerobically digests biosolids at its Easterly and Westerly Wastewater Treatment Facilities to meet the Class B requirements.

In practical terms, the difference between a Class A and B biosolid is in the type of treatment utilized to reduce pathogens. To meet the Class A requirements, the biosolids must have additional treatment to eliminate remaining pathogens (i.e. composting, lime stabilization, etc.).

With Class B, we rely on the environment to provide this further treatment. Field monitoring has shown a rapid die-off of pathogens when biosolids are applied to soils at agriculture sites.

The Class A and B designation also establishes how the biosolids may be distributed. Class A is required for biosolids to be sold or given away as a garden or lawn fertilizer. Additional permitting, public notification, and site management are required for Class B biosolids to be used a fertilizer on farmers’ fields.