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New Sewage Sludge Ordinance in force
The Sewage Sludge Ordinance of 15 April 1992 has been in effect to date and supplements provisions of the Fertiliser Ordinance (Düngemittelverordnung – DüMV). The ordinance regulates pollutants in the use of sewage sludge for fertilising agricultural soils. The ordinance also stipulates that sewage sludge application is to be limited and completely prohibited on land used to cultivate fruit and vegetables, permanent grassland and in certain water protection areas. The ordinance requires that sludge-treated soils be regularly analysed for pollutants and sets out pollutant limits that must not be exceeded in the application of sewage sludge, to ensure unimpaired use of the land.
The new ordinance tightens the existing requirements for soil-related sewage sludge utilisation and extends its scope of application to include landscaping measures. The aim is to better fulfil the objectives of sustainable environmental protection and resource protection. The central element of the ordinance however, is the inclusion, for the first time, of comprehensive requirements for the recovery of phosphorus from sewage sludge and sludge incineration ash. The operators of wastewater treatment plants and sewage sludge incineration plants must comply with these requirements starting in 2029 at the latest. The obligation to recover phosphorous applies when sewage sludge has a phosphorous content of 20 grams or more per kilogram of dry solids. The ordinance does not set out a specific technology for phosphorus recovery but leaves sufficient leeway for the use or development of innovative recovery processes. Sewage sludge with low phosphorus content (less than 20 grams of phosphorus per kilogram of dry solids) is exempt from the recovery obligation.
The current practice of soil-related sewage sludge utilisation will only be permitted for sewage sludge from treatment plants with a capacity of less than 100,000 p.e. starting in 2029. From 2032, this will only be allowed for plants with a capacity of less than 50,000 p.e. This takes into account the special circumstances in rural regions. In addition, the ordinance opens the possibility for soil-related sewage sludge utilisation on the basis of voluntary quality control that supplements regulatory supervision.
The Coalition Agreement for the 18th legislative period calls for sewage sludge to be used for the recovery of phosphorus and other nutrients and for the end of its use as a fertiliser. In light of this, the amendment to the Sewage Sludge Ordinance marks a new direction for sewage sludge utilisation in Germany. The primary goal of the ordinance is to return the valuable components of sewage sludge (such as phosphorus) to the economic cycle more comprehensively than before. The amendment will also significantly limit the conventional soil-related utilisation of sewage sludge with a view to further reducing pollutant inputs into the soil.
On 18 January 2017, the Federal Cabinet approved the Ordinance on the Reform of Sewage Sludge Utilisation (the new version of the Sewage Sludge Ordinance). After the German Parliament approved the draft ordinance on 9 March 2017, the Bundesrat also gave its approval on 12 May 2017 pursuant to amendments.
On 24 May 2017, the Federal Cabinet adopted the amendments the Bundesrat made to the draft ordinance submitted by the Federal Government; the German Parliament gave its approval on 29 June 2017. The Ordinance on the Reform of Sewage Sludge Utilisation of 27 September 2017 entered into force on 3 October 2017.