Economic, Legal and Institutional Issues

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date





The National Academies Press




Earlier chapters have made the case that agricultural use of wastewater effluent and sludge, when appropriately treated (Chapter 3) and applied according to prevailing regulations or guidelines (Chapter 7), can be practiced satisfactorily with respect to public health (Chapters 5 and 6), crop production, and environmental concerns (Chapters 2 and 4). This chapter discusses some of the economic issues, "residual risks", and other regulatory matters facing various interested parties involved in implementation. Residual risks are risks perceived by crop producers, food processors, and the public (such as local nuisance, food consumer safety, and agribusiness liability as examples) that persist despite federal (for sludge) and state (for effluent) regulatory safeguards. This chapter begins with an examination of the economic incentives driving beneficial reuse from the perspectives of society, the municipal wastewater treatment utility (also known as the "publicly-owned treatment works" or POTW), the landowner or farmer, and the food processor. Discussion then turns to key concerns about residual risks for the various groups. The chapter concludes with a review of the regulatory framework for food safety and environmental protection and its capacity to address the residual risks. Thus, the chapter provides an assessment of the adequacy of existing economic, legal, and regulatory mechanisms for addressing these outstanding concerns.

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