As outlined in the Dec. 31 Federal Register, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to complete or begin 14 research projects within the next two to three years, "with the goal of strengthening the sewage sludge use and disposal program."
EPA says that it will participate in and use outside research as appropriate. Several of the projects will involve Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), either through completed, ongoing, or planned research, according to the notice.
Two of the U.S. EPA projects--"Methods Development, Optimization, and Validation for Microbial Pollutants in Sewage Sludge" and "Assess the Quality and Utility of Data, Tools, and Methodologies to Conduct Microbial Risk Assessments on Pathogens"--refer to work EPA is conducting with WERF on microbial risk assessment. That work encompasses the two-part WERF project "A Dynamic Model to Assess Microbial Health Risks Associated with Beneficial Uses of Biosolids" (completed; stock no. 98REM1 and ongoing; project no. 98-REM-1a). Ultimately, this work will develop and implement representative risk assessments for exposure to microbial pathogens associated with exposure to biosolids.
Two other EPA projects will involve workshops to be coordinated with WERF. The first, "Participate in an Incident Tracking Workshop," responds to the highest ranked project to come out of the Biosolids Research Summit--a rapid response system to investigate reported health effects from land application of biosolids. The second, "Conduct Exposure Measurement Workshop," will aim to identify exposure-related research priorities.
In response to the NRC recommendations, EPA will include a variety of stakeholders in the research process--as indicated by the project "Improve Stakeholder Involvement and Risk Communication." EPA indicates that it will use WERF research on public partnering to identify ways to expand the use of information sharing in various research projects. Specifically, EPA refers to one WERF project, "Biosolids: Understanding Public Perception and Participation" (ongoing; project no. 00-PUM-5). This project provides guidance on how to incorporate stakeholder priorities by sharing lessons learned. The final report from this study should be available by the end of 2004.