Algae Blooms on the Rise: Scientists Point to Biosolids as Possible Culprit

In July, Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, which provides drinking water to 6 million residents in the event of a drought, tested positive for blue-green algae. Since then, algae blooms have surfaced across the state, appearing in the Manatee River, Safety Harbor, Lake Washington, and Stick Marsh.

Now, Brevard County is considering biosolids as a culprit in the increase in blue-green algae blooms.

Biosolids, fertilizer created by treating and processing domestic sewage, are spread over crop fields in order to improve crop growth and yield. Biosolids replenish the soil’s nutrient levels by providing nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and other trace elements as well as improve soil structure by increasing water absorption and the storage of moisture.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), however, has not concluded that the use of biosolids is safe. According to a 2002 report by the National Research Council of the National Academies, further research is needed to conclude whether or not biosolids pose adverse health effects from exposure.

Farmers in Florida have fertilized their fields with biosolids for decades, spreading them across land upstream from Lake Washington and Taylor Creek Reservoir. According to recent research conducted by the St. Johns River Water Management District, phosphorous levels are rising in these two bodies of water, which supply citizens with 67 percent and 30 percent of drinking water, respectively.

Farmers and treatment centers claim that biosolids are not dangerous to humans, but some scientists believe that the phosphorous from biosolids is a leading cause in the rise of toxic algae blooms.

Brevard County Commission Vice Chair Bryan Lober has introduced the idea of banning the application of biosolids in Brevard County. Other counties, such as Indian River, have already banned the use of Class B Sludge, a type of biosolid that is considered more dangerous due to traces of pathogens.

Biosolids not only contain pathogens, but they also contain other contaminants, such as steroids, pharmaceuticals, and flame retardants. In a 2017 study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and Colorado State University, researchers found that biosolids runoff contained antimicrobials, flame-retardants, and plasticizers that are harmful to the environment.

Bryan Lober of Brevard County makes an excellent point: biosolids are great fertilizers because of their phosphorous and nitrogen concentrations, but the increase in nutrient loading isn’t limited to the soil. Nutrient loading will occur in the water as well, when rain washes the fertilizer into Florida’s water resources, wreaking havoc on its freshwater ecosystems.

Unfortunately, this is an effect of using fertilizers—especially conventional chemical fertilizers.

Conventional fertilizers—which contain harmful ingredients, such as ammonium nitrate, calcium nitrate, and potassium nitrate—cause eutrophication of freshwater and saltwater bodies, decreasing the water’s oxygen level and killing aquatic life.

xVital, xVirity’s revolutionary liquid fertilizer, is chemical-free and environmentally friendly. We combine nitrogen with ionized water, using an electromagnetic field instead of chemicals. Thus, the only thing going into the soil is essential nutrients.

Because our fertilizer is liquid, you can determine the appropriate ratio needed to complement your unique plant health care plan. This eliminates the use of excess fertilizer, which leads to the production of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, and the eutrophication of water bodies from runoff.

While biosolids are nutrient-rich, until further research is conducted, they shouldn’t be used so heavily. Switch to an environmentally friendly, chemical-free fertilizer to keep our freshwater ecosystems clean, and check out xVital today!



Frequent Questions About Biosolids

Should Brevard Ban Biosolids as Fertilizer Due to Environmental Concerns?