CFIA gives inspection notice for producers, importers to arrange biosolids PFAS lab test

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CFIA biosolids sludge storage
The new enforcement announcement gives importers and domestic producers of commercial biosolids four months to arrange for a laboratory to perform the testing and have the certificate of analysis and attestation prepared in advance of the October enforcement start date. Photo Credit: digidreamgrafix, stock.adobe.com

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says that as of October 18 it will begin to enforce an interim standard for biosolids to ensure they contain less than 50 parts per billion (ppb) of per-fluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) as an indicator for PFAS chemicals. 

To verify compliance with the interim standard and mitigate risks to health and the environment associated with land application of contaminated biosolids sold as commercial fertilizer, CFIA inspectors will review the producer’s required certificate of analysis (laboratory report) and attestation form.  

At import, the necessary requirements are written in the CFIA’s Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) under HS Codes: 38.25.20 (sewage sludge) and 38.25.10 (municipal waste). 

The CFIA said the new enforcement announcement gives importers and domestic producers of commercial biosolids four months to arrange for a laboratory to perform the testing and have the certificate of analysis and attestation prepared in advance of the October enforcement start date. 

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Based on CFIA data from both government monitoring and voluntary testing performed by industry, preliminary analysis of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) content in Canadian biosolids indicates that more than 90% contain less than 50 ppb of PFOS, used as an indicator of PFAS contamination.  

“This means that while the interim standard will effectively prevent the small proportion of biosolids products that are heavily impacted by industrial inputs from being imported or sold as fertilizers in Canada, it should cause minimal disruption to waste-diversion efforts across Canada,” the CFIA announced in a June 18 statement.  

Biosolids are the solid phase of municipal wastewater treatment, often reused and applied to land as a source of nutrients and organic matter. They can also increase organic waste diversion from landfill, as well as create biogas and energy. 

The CFIA defines municipal biosolids as “solid, semi-solid or liquid material comprised of septage or municipal sewage sludge, or both, freed from grit and coarse solids, which have been subjected to physical, chemical or biological treatment, or a combination of these treatments, sufficient to mitigate against the presence and effect of generally detrimental or serious injurious substances that may be associated with untreated forms of this material.”  

To be imported into, or sold in Canada, biosolids represented as commercial fertilizers must contain less than 50 ppb of PFOS on a dry weight basis. PFOS is used as an indicator of PFAS contamination. 

PFAS are a group of more than 4,700 human-made substances that are used in firefighting foams, textiles, cosmetics, and food packaging. They can be found in soil, air, water and waste streams, including municipal biosolids. They are contaminants of concern due to their inherent persistence, mobility in the soil and potential for negative effects on human health and the environment. 

Together with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada, and provincial partners, the CFIA says it is still examining the level of risk to the food and feed chains posed by biosolids contaminated with PFAS, and is developing a coordinated approach to protect human health and the safety of Canadian agriculture. 

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