Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Kevin G. Robinson

Committee Members

Chris D. Cox, Bruce E. Tonn


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has highlighted the municipal solid waste stream as an area of critical interest due to the non-sustainable nature of existing landfilling or “dumping” practices. In addition to traditionally defined municipal solid waste – commonly referred to as garbage or rubbish – materials such as biosolids, a by-product of wastewater treatment, and animal manure also comprise the landfilled waste stream. Currently, disposal options for biosolids waste materials are limited due to regulations imposed by the EPA to protect waterways and coastal environments, and one of the few alternatives for biosolids disposal is land application. Unfortunately, biosolids land application is a point of contention between the public and local and state governing bodies due to concerns regarding public health and safety risks. To investigate the current public perceptions related to biosolids land application practices, two populations in the south-eastern United States were surveyed. These communities were rural Amelia County, Virginia – a community that historically has been outspoken against biosolids land application– and metropolitan Knoxville, Tennessee – a community that has voiced few concerns regarding land application of waste materials. The first survey sampled 311 adults on questions involving biosolids; the second survey sampled 303 adults in the same region on similar questions involving animal manure applications. These surveys have found that the sampled public perceived animal manure as a lesser health and safety risk than biosolids, and both communities indicated that they were more adequately informed about the risks associated with animal manure than those associated with biosolids. As expected, Amelia County residents who, in general, were more engaged in biosolids issues within their community, responded with stronger attitudes against biosolids reuse than the less engaged Knox Metro residents. A difference in perceptions was also perceived based on gender differences, with female respondents perceiving significantly greater health and safety risks from biosolids applications than males. Overall, gender and location, rather than level of education, contribute significantly to risk perceptions related to biosolids and animal manure land applications, and community-specific outreach programs will need to be developed to reduce the negative connotation associated with biosolids in the south-eastern United States.

Biosolids Rescale Insert.docx (259 kB)
Biosolids Data - Rescaled

Animal Manure Rescale Insert.docx (246 kB)
Animal Manure Data - Rescaled

Biosolids Binary Insert.docx (266 kB)
Biosolids Data - Binary

Animal Manure Binary Insert.docx (244 kB)
Animal Manure Data - Binary

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