Burr & Forman

06.16.2020   |   Blog Articles, Environmental Law Matters

Alabama Land Application Regulatory Deadline Approaching

In early 2020, the Alabama Environmental Management Commission promulgated rules establishing procedures by which the Department of Environmental Management will regulate land application of eligible non-hazardous by-product materials within the State.  The rules became effective April 13, 2020 and are intended to work in conjunction with the U.S. EPA’s Biosolids Program governing the use or disposal of sewage sludge.

The term “land application” is not defined in the ADEM rules, but, in general, it is the spreading, spraying, injection, or incorporation of by-product materials onto or below the surface of the land to take advantage of the soil enhancing qualities of those materials.  ADEM defines “by-product” as a material that is generated as a result of water or wastewater treatment or residual materials from industrial or manufacturing processes that, barring any form of alternate or beneficial use of that material, would otherwise be discarded at a landfill or other solid waste disposal facility.  As the definition implies, these materials can be reused as a soil amendment or fertilizer (e.g., for agricultural lands or rangelands) in place of a raw material or other feedstock, if certain requirements are met.  There are obvious advantages to reuse of by-product materials through land application, so the ADEM rules intend to encourage those activities.

For ADEM to consider a by-product eligible for land application, the material must not be hazardous waste, and it must be adequately characterized to confirm the use is protective of human health and the environment.  In addition, the material must possess physical and/or chemical properties that make it suitable for the intended agronomic rate, a term separately defined in the rules. With certain exceptions, ADEM requires both an Operations Plan and a Nutrient Management Plan for sites where by-product materials will be applied.

The first major deadline under the rules is July 12, 2020 – the due date for the initial written notification to ADEM.  By this date, all non-exempt generators of by-product material, as well as distributors or suppliers that handle or use by-product material for beneficial use, must notify ADEM of the quantity of material handled (in tons), type of material land applied, and county of land application for the previous calendar year.  As the rules suggest, ADEM will use the information submitted to develop an inventory of potentially-regulated entities.  The deadline for initial applications, applicable to generators and distributors or suppliers who handle 100 dry tons per year or more, is October 10, 2020.

A complete copy of ADEM’s land application rules can be viewed here.

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