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Senior Contributor

"Undercover Boss"

The episode of undercover boss this Sunday is supposed to be  about the company my DIL works for.  The company name is Synagro(sp) and they are recyclers of organic material. 

She says he doesn't go into the part of the business she is involved in though.  She works with farmers in application, as I guess a fertilizer, one of the end(?) products of the company.  Apparently he does something with sampling a biosolids which is what Deidre deals with (the biosolids)

As you can tell I don't really know a lot about her job.  Maybe I'll learn more if I watch the show.

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Veteran Contributor

Re: "Undercover Boss"

This episode takes place about 40 miles from here.  I was contacted at the time they were shooting this concerning disposal of the waste legally.   If I had only known this was being done because of a TV show!!   That little bit of info was not divulged.  I hope I remember to watch it.

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Honored Advisor

Re: "Undercover Boss"

It's an interesting industry.  I've heard of Synagro and dealt with one other biosolids company, in the mining reclamation of my homeplace and the management of Mike's homeplace, in VA.  Actually, it's been several years, but they may have done my place.  The name is buried in the documents somewhere in my office.  Mike had biosolids applied on his place for forage nutrient a couple years ago...again, I cannot recall the company there, but I know it was not Synagro.     

Synagro also talked with Smithfield on the topic of composting mortalities, a few years ago, I think.  That market is still out there, more promising now, as diesel for collection of deads fo rrendering gets more costly.   I expect the subject to crop back up soon. 

I do not think people are aware of the huge industry that waste recycling is, especially on the East Coast, where population is much denser.  "Biosolids" is a polite euphemism for human "poo." 

Night soil is a vastly important source of fertilizer in China and other underdeveloped countries.  It was largely used here when rural families had pit johns, too.  Fell out of use with electrification and better sanitary facilities dependent upon running water. 

I love it when I attend an environmental conference and someone says something negative about the hog industry, and I ask them if they know where THEIRS ends up???? Rarely ever encounter anyone who has a clue what happens after they flush. 

I did a bit of research on the Class A and Class B biosolids designations, heavy metals and pathogens.  They do essentially the same thing that we do as small business people in hog farming, but on a huge industrial scale, in terms of analysis and application to crop fields. 

I find that biosolids get stockpiled and cause more environmental problems in some places than does manure, however.  It was a big problem in our home county in VA in say 2002-4.  They stockpiled the stuff on an old lumber mill yard site on a hill, had a wet winter, and could not move them off into fields, so got runoff into streams from the storage piles.  I am not sure, but I think the site was not properly licensed under county code, either.  Much hell was raised by the neighbors. 

Biosolids got into some legal gray territory, too, if I recall right, and I think some interstate commerce clauses were invoked.  Farm Bureau stood up for the free fertilizer.  Like I said, an interesting subject. 

I've heared presentations on the topic at forage conferences, and have both surface application test plots and a biomass tree recycling pit test on my farm.  My theory is that cities need to compost and stabilize biosolids,  then use their own in close proximity to grow biomass like switchgrass for alternative energy sources.  We're one good enzyme away, for efficient cellulosic digestion. 

You daughter's job, if it's in the land app portion of the process, is probably to work with farmers in permitting the use of the product on their fields.  It is tons of paperwork, matching waste analyses with soil tests and tracking them in writing for permit recordkeeping.  Lots of land mapping and GIS now, too,I am sure. 

Landowners have to sign to accept, not just a tenant farmer may accept them.  Setbacks from property lines, wells,  residences, public buildings, and streams, etc., must be established and observed.  Determining who the landowners are, and making sure that the signator has authority to accept the material  is crucial.  I am sure she spends a lot of time mapping, or working with GIS mappers, in this position, and may have to work with company counsel to some extent, too.   

Nutrients from wastestreams can be utilized as fertilizer, but the state regulates how much can be applied (an agronomic rate) and how often it may be applied (usually, every three years is as often as it's allowed on a given field.) 

The agronomic rate is calculated by either actual yields for a given crop on that field, as supported by historic yield data, or by use of a Realistic Yield Expectation for that soil class.  So, soils mapping is an essential, too. 

She also has to work with farms to make sure application is done within a given time of growing crop establishment.  Usually, you can apply no more than thirty days before planting.  Forage fields an pastures are very attractive as a rule, since they present an out-of-cropping-season land app siting availability. 

I cannot recall whether or not incorporation into the soil v surface application has any bearing on timeline, but it does on application rates.  All of our apps were on established forages, or done with the researchers, so I was not deep into the permitting loop there, just had to execute written permissions. 

Actually, the first application on my land was a special Health Department permit for an experimental use of 3x normal application.  She may deal with state or local health departments, state and local regulations governing application, and state environmental agencies in their regulatory oversight of the Clean Water Act, relative to this activity. 

I'm not usually crazy about that show, but I'll try to catch this episode.  If you have any questions abotu what I've written, so you can strut some stuff with yoru daughter, let me know...I'll see if I can find any of my document files and fill you in! 

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