The following Fact Sheet, used with permission, is a sample of the many postings on

Benefits to Farmers

Using biosolids based fertilizers

The beautiful farms that grace the Pennsylvania countryside are not state parks. They are small family businesses that must make a profit (or sometimes just break even) in order to survive.

But the trend in Pennsylvania and the nation is for more and more farmland to be lost to development—residential subdivisions, shopping centers, offices and industrial plants.  If a farmer can’t earn a living for his or her family from agriculture then the land may be converted to other uses—a loss for the environment and everyone’s quality of life.

The agricultural benefits of biosolids have been documented for many decades by numerous scientific studies and through the practical experience of thousands of farmers.

Plants need a complex mixture of nutrients, soil, air and water.  Biosolids contain some of all the essential plant nutrients, including the primary macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and, to a lesser extent, potassium; the secondary macronutrients magnesium, calcium and sulfur; and such micronutrients as copper, zinc, iron, manganese, molybdenum and boron.  Humans also need many of these elements, which are contained in multi-vitamins.

Given the current high cost of commercial fertilizer, the nutrient and soil amendment value of biosolids to a farmer in Pennsylvania is estimated to be from $150 to $200 an acre.  Given that the average farm acreage in the Commonwealth is only about 100 acres, this could mean a savings of $15,000 to $20,000 every two or three years, since a farm field typically won't receive biosolids every year, depending on the needs of the crops and the soil. 

As an example, the average annual market value of production for each farm in Lancaster and Berks counties is about $150,000 and about $50,000 in York, so it's clear that the savings from biosolids can be significant to the average farmer.

Organic matter in biosolids improves soil tilth, reduces compaction, increases water-holding capacity, and provides an energy source for necessary mircrobial activity.  This results in decreased water runoff and soil erosion, increased water conservation and more resistance to drought.  Biosolids that have been lime-stabilized help neutralize acidity in soils, just as is done by agricultural limestone, which helps maintain the proper soil pH for crop growth.


Chemically, biosolids increase the soil’s cation exchange capacity (CEC), which is a measure of how well a soil retains certain plant nutrients.  The organic matter in biosolids acts like a magnet and attracts plant nutrients.  It helps hold plant nutrients in the root zone and prevents them from leaching.

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Biosolids Blog

Keep informed about the latest biosolids news and trends by following Diane Garvey's Biosolids Blog.


Diane's most recent post is entitled, "Another Look at Triclosan."

News & Events

Diane will be presenting at three upcoming events in September:

EPWPCOA Meeting and Trade Show in Leesport, PA


Friday, September 16, 2016


The title of the presentation is: “The Phosphorus Index and the Impact on Land Application of Exceptional Quality and Class B Biosolids.”


The conditions of the General Permits for Land Application will be revised and reissued in April 2017 to include an evaluation of each field for the Phosphorus Index.   This presentation will evaluate the impacts of this change and provide recommendations to prepare for these new regulatory requirements.



WEFTEC 2016 – Technical Exhibition and Conference in New Orleans


Technical Session #410, “Sludge Hydrolysis,” Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 2 PM


This will be a presentation of a paper written by Diane Garvey et. al. entitled, “Hydrolysis Process and High Solids Liquid Fertilizer Reduce Land Application Costs & Complies with Nutrient Management Regulations” 

The Issue: With the growing interest in Resource Recovery, many biosolids producers are keen to continue to recover the nutrients and organics in their biosolids through land application to agricultural lands. The traditional land application of dewatered biosolids, however, often raises concerns from regulators and the public about odors, dust and nutrient run-off. In addition, newly implemented or soon to be implemented Nutrient Management Regulations in each state will limit how much and where biosolids may be used in agriculture.
The Solution: Over the last 8 years a number of biosolids producers in Canada have made use of a biosolids hydrolysis process to overcome stakeholder concerns. This process produces a high solids EQ biosolids liquid that can be land applied in a way that offers a number of benefits to the ratepayer, the public, environmental regulators, and the farmer.



EPWPCOA Event “Beneficial Use of Biosolids in Mine Reclamation” in St. Clair, PA


Session entitled “General Permitting for Beneficial Use” on Friday, September 30, 2016 at 10:45 AM


This presentation will cover the process of General Permitting for the Beneficial Use of Biosolids, including the requirements for biosolids quality, preparation of sampling plans for biosolids permitting, and the preparation of Biosolids Quality Enhancement Plans for use in the Land Application and Beneficial Use of Biosolids.

DC Water has launched its new branded biosolids product: BLOOM. And you can learn about this project at the new website:



For more information on any of the above topics, please contact Diane Garvey at or call 215-362-4444.

Garvey Resources was a partner in the development of the Rodale Institute's Water Purification ECO-Center.  Read about it on our Biosolids Blog.

Rodale Institute ECO-Center and wetland.

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