Richmond VA > Public Utilities > Biosolids

Last Updated: 2017-10-31

Biosolids Collage

Every day, we flush used water down sinks, bathtubs, showers, and toilets. This wastewater travels to the wastewater treatment plant where the organic matter and nutrients are removed during the treatment process. This solid waste is additionally treated to removed disease-causing organisms and reduce odor. The result is biosolids, also known as treated sludge.


The Department of Public Utilities' biosolids program has been certified with the National Biosolids Partnership's (NBP) Biosolids Management Program. Richmond is the 32nd organization and the second in Virginia to achieve NBP certification.


The term biosolids was created in 1991 by the Water Environment Foundation to differentiate between raw, untreated sewage sludge and properly treated sludge that can be beneficially used as fertilizer.

In Richmond, sewage goes through physical, chemical and biological processes that clean the wastewater and removes solids. Richmond treats about 45 million gallons of wastewater a day and discharges the clean, treated water into the James River.

The City's wastewater treatment plant recycles its biosolids to farms in close proximity to Richmond, which is currently 43 farms in nine surrounding counties, including Amelia, Buckingham, Caroline, Charles City, Charlotte, Cumberland, Hanover, King William, and Powhatan. Biosolids add organic matter to soil, improve soil properties, provide plant nutrients, increase crop yields, and reduce soil erosion.

Wastewater treatment and biosolids recycling is good for the environment. The recycling of biosolids is regulated and supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Richmond’s wastewater treatment plant is participating in the National Biosolids Partnership’s Biosolids Management Program (BMP), which continuously improves and advances environmentally sound and accepted biosolids management practices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Biosolids Management Program

Beneficial Recycling Program

Biosolids Management Program Objectives

Biosolids Management Program Key Elements

Biosolids Reports/Documents

Biosolids Management Program Links

Biosolids Recycling

The city's wastewater treatment plant chooses to recycle its biosolids on farms in close proximity to Richmond because we believe it is the best option for the environment, public health and our ratepayers. Biosolids recycle valuable nutrients to help preserve family farms in Central Virginia. Biosolids recycling is a cost-effective, sustainable alternative to other management options.

Biosolids Management Program

Richmond has developed a BMP to demonstrate the continuous improvement of its biosolids management practices through careful planning, implementation and operation of our treatment system. Richmond's BMP requires it to demonstrate this performance to stakeholders.

A BMP is a management framework for integrating environmental considerations into the day-to-day operating decisions of its wastewater plant - ultimately improving performance over time. 17 key elements of a Biosolids Management Program form the foundation of Richmond's BMP.

The city is committed to the principles set forth in the National Biosolids Partnership's Biosolids Code of Good Practice. This includes a commitment to beneficially recycle biosolids, to comply with all applicable regulations and to reach out to the public about our program.

About National Biosolids Partnership (NBP)

The NBP was established to advance environmentally sound biosolids management practices through the development of a model BMP, and to assist utility departments to demonstrate a commitment to environmental and operational performance that is above and beyond regulatory requirements. Additional information on the NBP can be found at www.biosolids.org.

BMP Benefits

The city of Richmond's wastewater treatment plant made the decision to implement an BMP for its biosolids program to document its environmental performance and ensure that biosolids are processed appropriately and safely. While a BMP program is voluntary, it requires an organization to look closely at its operational and management practices. It also allows us to surpass minimum regulatory requirements, to stay ahead of potentially more stringent regulations, and to strive for continual improvement.

Contractor performance and expectations

Contractors are selected to recycle biosolids on area farms. Their responsibilities include:

  • Determining nutrient loading rate on farms
  • Application rate monitoring
  • Permitting farms to receive biosolids
  • Community relations

Monitoring of biosolids quality

Richmond monitors for nutrients, trace metals, solids content and pH level to ensure biosolids meet standards established by federal and state regulations.

BMP Objectives

Richmond's wastewater treatment plant is committed to continuously improve critical areas of its wastewater operations that demonstrate a commitment to environmental protection and performance excellence. Wastewater treatment plant operators are doing the right things in the best possible way. Key areas of our Biosolids Management Program include:

  • Quality management practices
  • Public participation
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Environmental performance

Biosolids Management Policy

Consistent with the City of Richmond’s Environmental Policy Statement, the Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) is committed to the following principles of conduct set forth in the National Biosolids Code of Good Practice. The WWTP will focus its available resources to produce Class B biosolids. Further, it shall be the position of the WWTP to promote and practice the beneficial use of biosolids and the reuse/recycling of resources. The WWTP will strive to maintain, improve and protect the environment through its treatment/production of biosolids. The WWTP will make every effort to insure that the public is not endangered or inconvenienced by the treatment/production of biosolids at the WWTP or application sites. The WWTP shall obey all applicable federal, state, county and local laws, rules and regulations.

Code of Good Practice

The Code of Good Practice is a broad framework of goals and commitments to guide the production, management, transportation, storage, and use or disposal of biosolids – in short, a comprehensive BMP. Those who embrace the Code and participate in the BMP commit to "do the right thing." Code subscribers and BMP participants pledge to uphold the following principles of conduct:

COMPLIANCE: To commit to compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local requirements regarding production at the wastewater treatment facility, and management, transportation, storage, and use or disposal of biosolids away from the facility.

PRODUCT: To provide biosolids that meets the applicable standards for their intended use or disposal.

BIOSOLIDS MANAGEMENT PROGRAM (BMP): To develop a BMP that includes a method of independent third-party verification to ensure effective ongoing biosolids operations.

QUALITY MONITORING: To enhance the monitoring of biosolids production and management practices.

QUALITY PRACTICES: To require good housekeeping practices for biosolids production, processing, transport, storage, and final use or disposal operations.

CONTINGENCY AND EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLANS: To develop response plans for unantici¬pated events such as inclement weather, spills, and equipment malfunctions.

SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT PRACTICES AND OPERATIONS: To enhance the environment by committing to sustainable, environmentally acceptable biosolids management practices and operations through a BMP.

PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE: To prepare and implement a plan for preventive maintenance for equipment used to manage biosolids and wastewater solids.

CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENT: To seek continual improvement in all aspects of biosolids management.

COMMUNICATION: To provide methods of effective communication with interested parties regarding the key elements of the BMP, including information relative to system performance.

BMP Key Elements

A Biosolids Management Program is a management framework for integrating environmental considerations into the day-to-day operating decisions of a wastewater treatment plant, ultimately improving performance over time.

The following 17 key elements (based off of the NBP) are the foundation of Richmond's BMP:

Biosolids
  1. Documentation
  2. Biosolids Management Policy
  3. Critical Control Points
  4. Legal and Other Requirements
  5. Goals and Objectives
  6. Public Participation in Planning
  7. Roles and Responsibilities
  8. Training
  9. Communication and Public Outreach
  10. Operational Controls of Critical Control Points
  11. Emergency Preparedness and Response
  12. BMP Documentation and Document Control
  13. Monitoring and Measurement
  14. Nonconformances: Preventive and Corrective Action
  15. Periodic Biosolids Program Performance Report
  16. Internal BMP Audit
  17. Periodic Management Review of Performance

Biosolids Reports

The city of Richmond Department of Public Utilities invites interested parties to view the Biosolids Management Program Performance Report, which provides information on the city's Biosolids Management Program (BMP) and the program performance such as regulatory compliance, environment improvements, and our public participation and communication efforts through Nutriblend.

BMP Links

The following organizations can provide additional information about biosolids and how the biosolids land application program is managed and regulated in Virginia and the United States:

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Contact Information:

Public Utilities
City of Richmond
900 E. Broad St.,
Room 115
Richmond, VA
23219 USA
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Phone: (804)646-4646

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