Craig Coker runs Coker Composting & Consulting, a compost industry consulting company. In this role, Coker "provides engineering and environmental support to composting facilities in planning, permitting, design, construction, and operations and in compost marketing and sales." Coker is a proponent of using sewage sludge (renamed biosolids) as compost, and he participated in the development of the U.S. EPA's rule (40 CFR Part 503) that allows the use of sewage sludge as fertilizer for food crops. Coker is on the board of directors of the US Composting Council and the NC State Chapter of the same organization. He is also chairman of the Virginia Recycling Association and a member of the Water Environment Federation (WEF). In the past, he has served on the WEF's Biosolids Management Committee (2003-2007, 1989-1994).
"It's Not Sludge, It's Compost"
In 2008, Coker penned an editorial, in which he advocated the safety of treated, minimally regulated sewage sludge as fertilizer:
- "Biosolids" is a term developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a national trade association, Water Environment Federation, in the 1980s to define a sludge that had been treated by one of the appropriate methods indicated in the federal regulations at 40 CFR Part 503, "Standards for the Use and Disposal of Sewage Sludge," of which composting is one method. These federal standards were adopted to encourage the beneficial use of biosolids, which has led to the increase in direct land application of these materials on farmlands over the past 20 or so years.
- "I was involved in the Residuals Management Committee of WEF at that time and worked with WEF and the EPA to develop that term. I have also been professionally acquainted with the key researcher in the Baltimore study your editorial referenced, Dr. Rufus Chaney, for more than 20 years and can attest that he is one of the most dedicated public service scientists in the federal government."
He finishes by saying, "They [composts] have also been shown to immobilize heavy metals in contaminated soils, which was the point of Chaney's research in Baltimore." In this statement, he was referring to an incident in which USDA and EPA scientists used federal grant money to spread sewage sludge on yards of poor, black families in Baltimore to test whether it might reduce lead exposure in their children. The families in the experiment were not informed of the hazardous ingredients in the sewage sludge. For more information on that incident, see the article on Poor Black Baltimore Families Used as Human Guinea Pigs in Sludge Study.
Coker's career history includes the following:
- 1974-75: Water quality technician, U.S. EPA
- 1975-76: Assistant hydrologist, Dames and Moore
- 1976-80: Project manager, Planning Research Corporation
- 1980-83: Senior Environmental Planner, Montgomery County, Maryland Department of Environmental Protection In this role he "directed projects in biosolids [sewage sludge] composting planning, design, construction and operation (Dickerson Interim Composting Facility and WSSC Composting Facility in Calverton, MD); wastewater treatment plant siting (Rock Run AWT); and solid waste management planning (Dickerson Quarry Balefill)."
- 1983-88: President, Custom Carpentry & Design
- 1988-95: Senior associate, Parsons Engineering Science, Inc. "Managed projects in facilities planning, engineering, construction and operation of wastewater treatment and biosolids management facilities (composting, incineration, drying). Managed industrial air quality permitting, air emissions testing, and water quality analysis activities. Participated in development of 40 CFR Part 503 sludge management regulations." (emphasis added)
- 1995-97: President, Front Royal Environmental Services, Inc.
- 1987-2001: Vice President, Graceful Greenery, Inc.
- 1998-2001: Composting specialist, NC Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources, Div. Of Pollution Prevention & Env. Assistance. "Provided technical assistance to solid and animal waste composting industry (source-separated organics collection/transport, facility planning and siting, compost process control and product marketing)."
- 2001-2003: Vice President, Mountain Organic Materials, LLC
- 2003-2006: Technical Advisor, McGill Environmental Systems of NC, Inc., "Provided composting technical support to two 80,000 ton-per-year (tpy) multi-feedstock enclosed aerated static pile solid waste/biosolids composting facilities. Managed planning, permitting, and design of new 130,000 tpy aerated static pile solid waste composting facility in Waverly, VA. Conducted business development for securing new waste stream feedstocks. Provided technical support to compost sales on compost utilization techniques."
- 2005 - present: Principal, Coker Composting and Consulting.
Coker received his BA in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia in 1975. He went on to George Washington University where he received a MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering in 1980. He wrote his theis on "Effect of Advanced Wastewater Treatment Effluent on Golf Course Irrigation Needs and Turfgrass Response."
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