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Sewage Sludge Surveys

Surveys of Pollutants in Sewage Sludge / Biosolids

Per the Clean Water Act Section 405(d), EPA must review the biosolids standards every two years. As part of this review, EPA works to identify pollutants in biosolids. Based on EPA’s biennial reviews and three national sewage sludge surveys, EPA identified over 350 pollutants in sewage sludge, including metals; dioxins and dioxin-like compounds; inorganic ions; certain organics (e.g., polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, semivolatiles); polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants); pharmaceuticals; steroids and hormones; and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

The most recent survey, the Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey, is a valuable step in advancing the understanding of what is present in treated sewage sludge and in evaluating what potential harm those pollutants may pose to human health and the environment. It also fulfills an important commitment under the agency's priority focus areas for pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) by providing the first national estimates of which compounds may be present in sewage sludge and at what concentrations.

Separate from EPA, in October 2000 the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA), now known as the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), also conducted a voluntary survey (AMSA Dioxins Sewage Sludge Survey, see report below) to determine current levels of dioxin-like compounds (i.e., polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans and dioxin-like coplanar PCBs) in biosolids (sewage sludge). These data were collected to assist U.S. EPA in developing an environmentally sound and technically correct dioxin decision for land-applied biosolids.

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Survey documents are provided. If you have trouble accessing any content in the following documents, please contact Biosolids Program (

You may need a PDF reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.