Keywords: sewage sludge, incinerator ash, publicly owned treatment works, POTWs, radioactive materials, radioactive contamination, health hazards, sewage treatment, exposure, waste management, United States, USA, environmental management, recycling, reuse
Management of sewage sludge and ash containing radioactive materials
Approximately 50% of the seven to eight million metric tonnes of municipal sewage sludge produced annually in the US is reused. Beneficial uses of sewage sludge include agricultural land application, land reclamation, forestry, and various commercial applications. Excessive levels of contaminants, however, can limit the potential usefulness of land-applied sewage sludge. A recently completed study by a federal inter-agency committee has identified radioactive contaminants that could interfere with the safe reuse of sewage sludge. The study found that typical levels of radioactive materials in most municipal sewage sludge and incinerator ash do not present a health hazard to sewage treatment plant workers or to the general public. The inter-agency committee has developed recommendations for operators of sewage treatment plants for evaluating measured or estimated levels of radioactive material in sewage sludge and for determining whether actions to reduce potential exposures are appropriate.