Biosolids reclaimed from municipal wastewater have been applied since 1993 on nonirrigated farmland and rangeland east of Deer Trail, Colo., by Metro Wastewater Reclamation District of Denver. The U.S. Geological Survey has monitored ground water at this site since 1993, and began monitoring the biosolids, soils, and stream sediments in 1999. To investigate the possible effects of airborne dust blowing from the application fields, passive dust samplers were deployed in 2006 and 2007. These samplers measured the quantity and composition of dust being deposited downwind of a farmed field where biosolids had been applied, compared to a farmed field upwind of the application area.
The dust-deposition rates and dust compositions measured at the two study sites are consistent with rates and compositions measured elsewhere in Utah, Nevada, and California using the same methods and equipment. Higher deposition rates were measured at the biosolids site compared to the control site during 2006. Higher deposition rates at both sites appear to be associated with episodes of cultivation and harvest during dry periods. No consistent differences in elements likely to be associated with biosolids disposal were detected between the sites. However, the contents of copper, lead, and zinc in the dust samples are generally much higher than average values of these elements in crustal rocks and sediments. Such values for dust samples are consistent with measurements on modern dust samples from southern Nevada and California and probably reflect inputs from regional urban and manufacturing activities.