Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs
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Papers on Fertilizing Residual Materials

  • Agricultural land application of municipal biosolids: PBDE and metal levels in cow's milk

The impact of land application of biosolids (treated municipal sewage sludge) on dairy milk quality was measured in real farm operating conditions where biosolids were applied in accordance with the regulatory framework prescribed in the province of Quebec (Canada).  The milk from 14 farms receiving biosolids were sampled in the Saguenay region in December 2009 and compared to the milk from 14 control farms. The tested farms had used biosolids an average of 11 years. Statistical analysis revealed no difference in the content of inorganic contaminants (arsenic, copper, molybdenum, zinc and thallium) in milk. These results suggest absence of induced hypocupriosis for dairy cows from farms using biosolids. However, the content of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) was higher in milk sampled from the farms using biosolids. Differences could be due, in part, by variability of exposition to dust among farm buildings. PBDE levels were however very low (mean value of 7,2 ng/L), and remained 3-7 times lower than the average levels recorded for various dairy products in the United States and Europe (fat content basis). These low levels could be linked, in part, to lower air depositions on forage in the Saguenay region or lower dust contamination in farm buildings. Based on these results, current knowledge and available data, the application of municipal biosolids under Québec regulations would have no significant impact on PBDE exposure for consumers of dairy products produced in Quebec.
Complete version (PDF file, 295 KB)

Vertigo – Volume 11 - No 2 – October 2011

  • Beneficial use in agriculture of fallen leaves collected by municipalities

In recent years, many municipalities have devoted significant efforts to recover fallen leaves that are collected in the fall. They have also worked hard to abide with the Government of Québec’s beneficial use objectives to transform leaves into useful humus-rich compost, rather than haul leaves to landfill sites and deal with the related environmental issues, including greenhouse gas emissions. 
Complete version (French, PDF file, 287 KB)

  • Beneficial use of municipal biosolids in the silviculture industry

    In Québec, municipal biosolids have been used beneficially for land application over the last 20 years. Although the principal use of most biosolids has been for agriculture and composting, application in the silviculture industry offers an interesting potential.

    This document begins by tracing the early development of use of biosolids in the silviculture sector since the 1990s and discusses research that has been carried out in the province and its impact on development of the Ministère’s technical and legal framework. It goes on to examine the principal advantages and disadvantages of using biosolids in the silviculture industry, along with recent initiatives for use of biosolids in different regions of Québec. It also provides some incite into the outlook for the potential beneficial use of biosolids in siviculture, particularly in terms of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, renewable energy production and public acceptance of biosolid use.
    Complete version (French, PDF file, 649 KB)

  • Biosolids Application and the Precautionary Principle - Comparison with Current Agricultural Practices

    In recent years, certain rural municipalities in Québec have banned the application of municipal biosolids on municipal land, a decision they often justify by citing the precautionary principle. However, case law in 2011 established that such bans do not fall under municipal jurisdiction. But, the question remains, what is the result of applying the precautionary principle to land application of biosolids?
    Complete version (PDF file, 106 KB)

    Vecteur environnement – September 2011

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  • Dioxins, furans, PCBs and PAHs in eastern Canada compost (July 2003)

    Abstract - There is currently no Canadian national standard for levels of dioxins and furans in compost. The CAN/BNQ and CCME compost criteria are now under revision, and the need for a dioxin/furan criteria is being evaluated. This study presents data on the levels of dioxins/furans, dioxin-like PCBs and PAHs in 14 composts made in the provinces of Québec and Nova-Scotia. Levels of dioxins and furans were low, with an average of 9.7 ng I-TEQ/kg dry weight, and a range of 1.0 to 31 ng I-TEQ/kg. All composts met the Québec C2 criteria for dioxins and furans of 50 ng I-TEQ/kg or less, and 86 % met the C1 criteria of 17 ng I- TEQ/kg or less. Dioxin/furan levels of all composts were between 10 and 300 times lower than the risk based limit of 300 ng TEQDFP originally proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). On average, dioxin-like PCBs represent less than 20 % of the TEQDFP total. Levels of PAH were generally low, over 96 % of all analyses were below either the detection or quantification limit. Based on these results, the inclusion of dioxins/furans, PCBs, or PAHs as parameters of concern in the CAN/BNQ or the CCME compost criteria do not appear to be justified.  
    Complete version (PDF file, 80 KB)

    Vecteur environnement - Volume 36 - No 4 - July 2003

  • Fall spreading of fertilizing residuals – environmental risks and preventive measures

Abstract - Fertilizing residuals (FR) and composts are often beneficially used post-harvest, at the end of the summer or the fall, both for practical reasons and to reduce odour problems. However, this practice is questioned due to the risk of water contamination. This article examines the main parameters (contaminants) that must be considered, based on a review of the pertinent Québec literature. These parameters are examined as a function of their environmental pressure as determined by the quantities and characteristics of the FR, the state of the environment in terms of water, air, soil and food, and the level of protection offered by the current government standards (the Pressure-State-Response). Studies show that the environmental and human health risks from spreading FR in the fall are low and generally less than those of farm manures. This is particularly true for composts and paper mill biosolids with a C/N > 20, even more so considering that most FR do not contain pathogens. Fall spreading of FR is also preferable to a spring or summer spreading in terms of odours and bioaérosols. Spreading FR high in organic matter and compost in the fall, rather than discarding them, would permit, either directly or indirectly, to reduce : soil erosion of the receiving soil, contamination of surface waters (suspended solids) and greenhouse gas emissions (CH4 and possibly N2O for FR with a high C/N ratio). Simple preventive measures are proposed to minimize losses of nitrogen to the environment, as a function of the C/N ratio and the N-NH4/Ntotal of FR, and to reduce risks of surface water contamination by pathogens.
Complete version (PDF file, 303 KB)

Agrosol - Volume 16 - No 1 - June 2005

  • How do the BNQ and the CCME define compost quality criteria?

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) guidelines and the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ) CAN/BNQ 0413-200 compost standard have become the authoritative references in Canada in this field. These documents have facilitated the development of the compost industry and fostered a higher level of requirements harmonization throughout the Canadian federation. But how were these decisions taken, and by whom?
Complete version (PDF file, 311 KB)

Vecteur environnement – November 2012

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  • Independent quality control of fertilizing residuals by Environment Québec: Summary of parts I & II

    Abstract - An independent quality control done by the ministère de l’Environnement (MENV) demonstrates that all of the fertilizing residuals (FR) sampled in 2000 and 2001 respected the maximum limits for contaminant and pathogen content. The determination of category based on chemical contaminants (category C1 or C2) by the promoter was reliable or conservative in 96% of the cases. The determination of category based on pathogen levels (category P1, P2, or P3) by the promoters was reliable or conservative in at least 83% of the cases. In 17% of the cases, the samples taken by the MENV showed a P2 category, while the promoters claimed that their product was P1. This implies a possible underestimation of risk by the promoters. However, the pathogen exceedances beyond the P1 criteria for E. coli were relatively low, and the numbers measured were well below those typically found in manure. The fertilizing element content alleged by the promoters were also generally reliable for the purpose of determining agro-environmental spreading rates. However, the use of a complementary nitrogen fertilizer indicated to minimise the risk of over or under fertilization with certain FRs.
    Complete version (PDF file, 86 KB)

Part 1 : Vecteur environnement - Volume 35 - No 5 - September 2002
Part 2 : Vecteur environnement - Volume 36 - No 1 - January 2003

  • Municipal biosolids and forestry development in Québec, from yesterday to tomorrow

    Fertilization of farmland with municipal biosolid waste has been practiced for some twenty years in a number of Québec regions, but development of this forestry sector has remained sluggish. And yet, this type of residue commonly serves as a forest and reforestation nutrient elsewhere in the world, and has for decades. The question is, why hasn’t this practice taken off here?
    Complete version (French, PDF file, 366 KB)

Vecteur environnement -  January 2011

  • Municipal Biosolids – What is the Best Option for the Climate?

    Climate change is here, and it’s real: Immediate action is required to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For this reason, in 2011, in parallel with its Climate Change Action Plan, Québec has set GHG goals as part of its new policy on residual materials management, that include zero organic matter in waste disposal sites by 2020 and reusing 60% of such matter by 2015 through biomethanation, composting and spreading residual matter fertilizers.
    Complete version (PDF file, 138 kB)

    Vecteur Environnement - September 2011

  • Municipal wastewater sludge – Recycling and GHG emission evaluation policies

    In 2011, the Government of Québec enacted its Québec Policy on Residual Materials. One of the policy’s objectives was to stop the practice of landfilling and incinerating organic waste such as municipal wastewater sludge absent significant energy reclamation. The goal is to increase the practice of controlled sludge spreading, which is safe, enables farmers to reduce the dollars spent on imported fertilizers and is often a less expensive solution for municipalities. Moreover, models have demonstrated that spreading treated sludge (biosolids) is carbon-neutral, unlike disposal on land and incineration.
    Complete version (French, PDF file, 170 kB)

    Ecotechs’2012 - October 2012 

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  • Paper-based bedding, a possible solution?

Québec’s recycled paperboard market experienced difficulties in 2009. In light of the situation, some have contemplated allocating a portion of the accumulated stockpiles of old papers for use as animal bedding, particularly in the beef and meat-producing chicken sectors. Although this idea is not new, the use of paper as bedding has remained marginal in Québec until now. The article presents the advantages and disadvantages of this practice.
Complete version (French, PDF file, 380 KB)

This article appeared in “Bovins du Québec” - Fall 2009

  • Pathogens in biosolids and other residuals: standards and criteria for land application in Quebec

Abstract - The use of municipal biosolids (treated sewage slugge) in agriculture follows the ancient tradition of fertilizing plants with « human manures ». This use is also compatible with the modern concept of sustainable development, as long as levels of contaminants in the biosolids are low. This article focuses specifically on the potential risks posed by pathogens in municipal biosolids and other fertilizing residuals (FR) of municipal and industrial origins. It also presents the current risk management practices of the Ministry of Sustainable development, Environment and Parks to minimize risks to human and animal health. A literature review shows that the Québec criteria are very conservative. Close to 80% of the FR spread on agricultural soils are either disinfected or not contaminated by fecal matter (P1 category). The remaining 20% (P2 and P3 categories) are partially disinfected, in case of fecal contamination, and are subject to many spreading restrictions, which are much more restrictive than those applied to non-disinfected farm manures. Recent studies in Québec suggest that the Québec approach needs certain modifications with regards to the validity of E. coli as a microbial risk indicator. Complete version (French)

Agrosol - Volume 16 - No 2 - February 2006

  • Long-term response of forest plantation productivity and soils to a single application of municipal biosolids - Complete Version (PDF, 437 Ko)   New

    After 16 to 19 yr, we revisited four experimental trials set up in the early 1990s to evaluate the long-term impact of municipal biosolids applied in forest plantations. Tree growth and the soil were sampled to determine the effects of a single application of biosolids applied at (liquid equivalent) rates of 0, 130, 200, and 400 m3 ha−1. Tree radial growth responded markedly to biosolids in the young plantations, increasing from 18% for Pinus resinosa to 62% for Picea glauca, and up to 700% for Quercus sp. Increases in phosphorus (P) concentrations in the tree foliage in response to biosolids could still be detected in the conifer trials. In the top 0-5 cmsoil layer, organic carbon (C), total nitrogen (N), P, and copper (Cu) concentrations and pools increased, while soil compaction and bulk density decreased. In the deepest soil layer sampled (20-40 cm depth), the total N and calcium (Ca) pools were reduced by the biosolids treatments, while the pool of exchangeable acidity increased. Our observations indicate that a single application of liquid biosolids up to 400 m3 ha−1 (30 t ha−1 DM) in young forest plantations is a sustainable practice without undue risk to such podzolic soils.

    Published by Canadian Journal of Soil - March 2015.

  • The Spreading urban compost and digested sludge quiz

    As is the case in many environmental areas, the agricultural recycling of fertilizing residual materials (FRMs) includes its share of truisms, bromides, symbols, stereotypes, sayings and urban and rural legends. This point of this quiz is to separate fertilizing residual materials fact from myth.
    Complete version (French, PDF file, 338 KB)

    Vecteur Environnement - January 2013

  • What should be done with wood stove ashes?

    While the fertilizer value of wood ashes has been known since Antiquity, ashes that result from home heating are often treated as waste and disposed of. Agronomists encourage spreading ashes on residential lawns and gardens more and more, but does this recycling practice bring with it a risk of soil contamination? Alternatively, could the ash be placed in domestic composters or, an even simpler solution, in the brown bin? Answers can be found through a characterization campaign and a review of the literature.
    Complete version (French, PDF file, 187 KB)

    Vecteur Environnement - May 2013

  • Wood ash recycling on agricultural land in Quebec - Current situation, impacts and agrienvironmental practices

The use of wood ash to improve soil pH and increase soil fertility, formerly a common practice, was largely abandoned in the early 20th century when alternative products arrived on the market (agricultural lime, muriate of potash). Burning large quantities of wood industry residues for energy purpose, contributed to increase availability of wood ash in Québec. More than 300 000tm (wet weight) are produced yearly in the province and approximately half of this amount was recycled as soil amendment in 2007; more than 80 000tm were applied for agricultural purposes on 250 farms. Literature clearly shows that using ash is efficient for correction of soil acidity and contributes to bring nutrients to crops. Ash applications to soil also generally allow increase in crop yields compared to agricultural limestone. Its economic value has been estimated between 20 and 65 $/tm for normal ash. Its agricultural use could also reduce greenhouse gases emission, which may lead to credits of carbon. However, ash quality varies, mainly because of wood type, burning conditions and water addition. In addition, alkalinity, potassium and dust contents require both environmental and agronomic precautions. Government regulations and commercial standards (BNQ), govern their use. However, this underlying framework must be complemented with the use of best agronomic practices. Both regulations and appropriate practices allow safe and economical use of ash in agriculture, in accordance with sustainable development. (PDF file, 274 KB)

Agrosol - Volume 19 - No 2 - December 2008


Other articles about residual fertilizing materials were published in journals. (French)

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