W.O.R.M.S.


What is “vermistabilization”?  “Vermi”means worm, and stabilization refers to the destruction of pathogens present in biosolids through the use of redworms.  They ingest the microbial matter in organic waste and then disinfect it, cleaning up the pathogens present before depositing it by way of vermicastings, which are a form of organic fertilizer, rich with humic substances and plant nutrients. Why are “redworms” the best worm to use?   Redworms or Eisenia Fetida are commonly used for vermicomposting due to many factors including: their voracious appetites, eating up to twice their weight each day; their adaptation to extreme climates; their high birth rates enabling one worm to produce 8 worms or more within a 9-week period; and their ability to excrete the contents of their gut up to 8 times daily. How do the redworms clean up the toxins and pathogens they ingest?  Charles Darwin stated “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as these lowly organized creatures.” See the Mechanism of Worm Action in Vermistabilization for this answer.  How long do redworms live and what happens when they die?  Redworms can live 2-4 years, and when they die, they become part of the organic material they consume.    Why do redworms not die or get sick from eating the pathogens?  The worms have a microscopically thin sac that lines the entire surface of the intestine and protects them from the toxins of microbes they eat.    How are worms able to live in their own waste?   The worms’ castings are encased in a peritrophic membrane that keeps any toxins from coming into contact with the worm.  This membrane also allows plant nutrients to be time released in a soluble form when needed over a long period of time.  When the castings are crushed or greatly disturbed, these membranes are damaged and may lead to the death of the worms.  How do we know that the worms castings are not harmful to humans?  The simple answer to this ongoing concern is through scientific research, the safe use of the vermistabilization technology by other countries for many years, and laboratory soil analysis that has conclusively shown the converted biosolids to be free from any harmful pathogens once they are passed through the redworm.  How do we know that the alternative…land application of pathogenic biosolids…. is not harmful to humans?  Some evidence suggests we don’t.  If it is safe, why aren’t we using this alternative method of disposal in the United States?   The simple answer is the Environmental Protection Agency of the U.S. which has ignored previous research results, delayed future research, and has ample conflicts of interest to benefit from this process never becoming available for use.  Regulations, permit fees, and tens of millions of dollars would disappear from EPA revenues, and questions would arise as to why it has taken so long for them to adopt this simple, well known technology used throughout the rest of the world.  Jobs would be lost and billions of dollars spent on waste disposal would no longer be needed.  The Waste Management Industry as we know it today would not exist.  Change…..especially saving billions of dollars in costs, at the expense of those receiving these dollars as profit.... is especially difficult when it is the taxpayer footing the bill.  What is involved in the process of Vermistabilization?  Vermistabilization is a management process involving the proper number of worms in the proper amount of space, aeration, temperature, moisture, pH, food source, food loading, and harvesting methodology in separating the worms and their castings.  The proper monitoring and testing techniques ensure a consistently safe and stable organic fertilizer meeting all the EPA regulations of a Class A material.  It is not a “biosolid” upon its conversion.  It is referred to as vermicastings, derived from a biosolid through the complex action of passing through the earthworm.  (See “Effectively Managing Vermistabilization”)  What happens if the worms die?  The vermistabilization process is self-sustaining with each worm able to produce an average of 8 worms each week after its first 9 weeks of life.  In the event of a catastrophic occurrence….highly unlikely if the management and monitoring process is adhered to….the wastewater treatment plant is able to return to its previously used treatment methods until such time that the worms are replaced.  While the VS process can be used as the only treatment process for an entire wastewater treatment plant, it is usually used initially as a method to partially replace current treatment methods and is then expanded to accommodate greater quantities of waste as operators become more confident of its cost savings benefits and viability as an alternative method to current landfill or land application disposal.    Why is using Vermistabilization so beneficial to the environment?  The vermicastings produced from this process can be applied to land formerly unfit for growing crops and restore its use as agriculturally productive soil.  The castings create aeration in the soil and serve as a sponge to accommodate large amounts of rainfall or flooding which would otherwise result in soil erosion.  As an organic fertilizer, there is no concern of harmful chemicals leaching into our groundwater and streams.  The humic substances within the castings sequester carbon in the soil resulting in lesser greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.  Crops benefit from the soluble nutrients N, P, K, allowing for healthier, faster, and more abundant yields of vegetables and fruits due to the organic vs. chemical nature of the food source.  Dust storms resulting from droughts are reduced or prevented from the stable vermicastings in the soil which can remain for hundreds of years rather than soil turning to dust and becoming duststorms. Greenhouse gases normally produced from wastewater treatment plant processes and land application are eliminated.  Large uses of energy required by current treatment processes are eliminated.  Odors resulting from large applications of pathogenic biosolids on farmland are eliminated.  Any organic decaying substance can be converted into vermicastings, freeing up ever scarce landfill space and trapping the greenhouse gases emitted from landfills.  Is the Vermistabilization Process Costly?  Most of what is required to do vermistabilization is already present at the wastewater treatment plants.  The worms themselves cost about $15 per pound, and they require approximately 1 sq. ft of space per pound utilized.  A town with a population of 15-20,000 people would require a half acre of space and 10 tons of worms initially to get started.  Compare this with the $4 million cost of equipment needed to heat up the biosolids to create a Class A biosolid; the power to operate the equipment; maintenance costs and the labor cost to operate it and the fact that it still has to be trucked away and possibly landfilled.  Are vermicastings marketable as a fertilizer?  Unlike Class A biosolids, a market exists for vermicastings and they are presently being sold at $4.00 per pound in small quantities or up to $600 a ton to be used for potting soil, landscaping, vineyards, and other applications.  Where can I buy these vermicastings?  They are not available for sale until they are certified safe by a local permitting authority or the E.P.A. Our research is intended to resolve this issue.