Nitrogen fertilizers have been used for hundreds of years. Cover crops and legumes to enrich the soil, as well as manure have been used for at least a thousand years. But the residuals from waste water treatment plants, located in industrial urban centers, have only recently been applied to land and have caused serious problems beyond nuisance issues.
Hundreds of sludge-exposed rural neighbors have gotten sick, some with life-threatening illnesses; entire dairy herds have been wiped out after the animals ingested forage grown on sludge. People’s wells have become contaminated from sludge. No wonder, the Federal Clean Water Act defines sewage sludge –aka biosolids– as a pollutant. No wonder, the modern waste stream contains thousands of synthetic chemical compounds, toxic metals, and antibiotic resistant pathogens. Every entity connected to a sewer is permitted, every month, to discharge 33 pounds of hazardous waste into sewage treatment plants. These contaminants are REMOVED from the sewage and end up in biosolids. Although regulated, the National Academy of Sciences has warned that these regulations are out-dated and inadequate to protect human health.
Although using sludge may temporarily increase yields, long-term, agricultural land treated with biosolids will become degraded as persistent pollutants accumulate. Traditional farming practices improve and preserve agricultural land, which is the stated purpose of Legislative declaration 35-3.5-101. Using biosolids does just the opposite. For more information, visit www.sludgefacts.org
[Dr. Snyder is emeritus professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. ]
Caroline Snyder Ph.D.
North Sandwich, New Hampshire