A requester recently contacted the Network to ask how states regulate the use of human waste as a fertilizer. Both federal and state law allow for the use of human waste as an agricultural fertilizer. The land application of biosolids, sewage sludge, and/or domestic septage provides considerable nutrient benefits for the soil, but also presents a range of health and environmental challenges.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has adopted regulations that create a minimum national standard regarding the use of human waste as a fertilizer. However, states may institute their own systems that can be more restrictive and extensive than the EPA’s baseline.
There are two main sources of human waste fertilizer under the federal system:
Among the properties of concern with human waste as fertilizer are:
The Network also compared the state regulatory systems of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. There are many similarities between the programs – for example, all the states have adopted the pollutant load standards put forth by the EPA. However, there are areas where states differ in regulatory language and standards. These differences are discussed in detail in a memo produced by the Network titled, “Regulation of Land Application of Biosolids in Select U.S. States”.
Network attorneys are available to answer questions on this and other public health topics at no cost to you, and can assist you in using law to advance your public health initiatives. Contact a Network Attorney in your area for more information.
The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state.