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Land Application

IDEM encourages the beneficial reuse of biosolids, industrial waste products, and pollutant-bearing water by land application in a manner that protects human health and the environment. Land application involves spraying or spreading these materials onto the land surface or injecting or incorporating them into the soil. Reuse of these waste products as a soil amendment and/or fertilizer provides many benefits to Indiana’s agricultural community and citizens.

Persons who conduct regulated land application activities must comply with federal and state land application laws and rules and obtain a permit or notification approval, if applicable, from the Office of Land Quality. IDEM staff  assist the regulated community with understanding and achieving compliance with the regulatory requirements. Animal manure handling, storage, application, and setbacks are managed separately under IDEM’s Confined Feeding Program. Land application of septage from on-site sewage disposal systems is managed separately under IDEM’s Septage Management Program under the authority of 327 IAC 7.1.

  • Biosolids are organic materials produced during the treatment of domestic (human) sewage at wastewater treatment plants. Biosolids contain nutrients necessary for plant growth including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, copper, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Biosolids do not include animal manure, high specific gravity materials such as grit or screenings generated during preliminary treatment of domestic sewage, or hazardous waste materials. Wastewater treatment techniques stabilize and disinfect the biosolids, destroying harmful bacteria and reducing odors. Answers to frequently asked questions about biosolids are available in the IDEM FAQs on Land Application Management Practices [PDF] guidance document.
  • Industrial waste products come from industrial processes or the processing of industrial wastes. They may be organic materials such as wastepaper fibers, food processing waste, water treatment residue, and pharmaceutical manufacturing byproducts, or inorganic materials such as spent filtration lime, sand, and ash. Industrial waste products contain nutrients necessary for plant growth including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, copper, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron, or act to improve soil structure when land applied.  Industrial waste products do not contain human waste. Waste from industrial sources containing human waste are biosolids.
  • Pollutant-bearing water is domestic wastewater, industrial process wastewater, or storm water that is regulated under 327 IAC 15-6. Domestic wastewater is effluent from the treatment of human waste (mostly from municipal-type wastewater treatment facilities). Industrial process wastewater is effluent from the treatment of industrial waste and does not contain human waste.

Benefits of Reusing Waste Products

The reuse of biosolids and industrial waste products:

  • Reduces disposal costs and the need for more landfills or incinerators
  • Increases soil’s organic matter and helps balance the pH to improve soil quality
  • Provides nutrients (fertilizer) that enable soil to produce higher crop yields
  • Reduces the total use of petroleum-based chemical fertilizers and lowers fertilizer costs
  • Promotes rapid timber growth
  • Helps reclaim land damaged by open mines and gravel pits

The reuse of pollutant-bearing water:

  • Provides nutrients necessary for plant growth
  • Provides moisture to crops and soil during hot, dry summers

Marketing and Distribution of Biosolids and Industrial Waste Products

Biosolids and industrial waste products can be marketed and/or distributed (sold or given away) for agricultural use (farms, landscaping, and residential use) as a soil amendment and/or fertilizer. Biosolids and industrial waste product used under this program must be dewatered and meet the highest quality. The heavy metal concentrations must be lower than the regulated exceptional quality limits found in Table 3 of 327 IAC 6.1-4-9. Biosolids must be treated in a process to significantly reduce pathogen levels and reduce attraction by vectors (such as mice, birds, and flies). These requirements are summarized in the IDEM Types of Biosolids Land Application Permits and Vector Controls [PDF] guidance document.

Biosolids Classification

Biosolids are classified two ways, based on quality:

  • Class A biosolids are essentially free of pathogens (disease-causing organisms) prior to land application. They may be marketed and distributed to the public for use on lawns and gardens.
  • Class B biosolids contain low levels of pathogens that rapidly die off when applied to soils. They become pathogen free within a short period following land application. Class B biosolids are safe for agricultural use but are not approved for home use.

Laws and Rules

Indiana’s land application rules (327 IAC 6.1) incorporate the federal standards for the use or disposal of sewage sludge (biosolids) (40 CFR Part 503). The state rules are governed by Indiana’s water pollution control laws for land application and related activities (IC 13-18-3) . The rules cover:

  • Land application of biosolids, industrial waste products, and pollutant-bearing water
  • Limits for contaminants such as metals
  • Pathogen and vector attraction reduction
  • Site and crop harvesting restrictions
  • Record keeping and reporting

Definitions for related terms can be found in 327 IAC 6.1-2.

Regulated Land Application Activities

IDEM regulates:

  • The land application of biosolids, industrial waste products, and pollutant-bearing water in Indiana and the land on which these materials are applied.
  • Marketing and distribution of biosolids and industrial waste products for agricultural use (farms, landscaping, and residential use) as a soil amendment and/or fertilizer.
  • Storage structures constructed and operated for the sole purpose of storing biosolids, industrial waste products, or pollutant-bearing water intended for land application.

Permit and Regulatory Requirements

Persons who want to conduct one or more of these activities must obtain the applicable permit(s) from IDEM or provide notification to IDEM, if applicable, before beginning operations:

  • Land apply biosolids, industrial waste products, and/or pollutant bearing water
  • Market and distribute dewatered, high-quality biosolids and/or industrial waste products
  • Construct storage structures for biosolids or industrial waste products at land application sites

Instructions are provided on the Land Application Permits and Notification page.


  • U.S. EPA Biosolids: provides technical resources, a biosolids library, and biosolids research information

For Assistance

For assistance or more information about land application permitting or regulatory requirements, please contact the Land Application Program staff in the Office of Land Quality.