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Dark Soil: Ending the Land Application of Biosolids In America

By Jason Fowler on 11/30/2011

I came home the other night to the thick stench of biosolids (treated sewage sludge) on the wind. The trucks had been driving past our cabin for days- and sometimes into the night. I went to collect eggs and close the chickens in as I do every night. I walked in the crisp but putrid night air with a handkerchief around my face. The smell was assaulting but what was even more disturbing was the realization that the real assault is against my family, my neighbors, the land and the future health of our community.

While you may have never heard of biosolids the battle to stop it’s application on agricultural and public lands has been raging for many years. Biosolids, according to the EPA, is said to be: “…nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of sewage sludge (the name for the solid, semisolid or liquid untreated residue generated during the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment facility). When treated and processed, sewage sludge becomes biosolids which can be safely recycled and applied as fertilizer to sustainably improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth.” In the same breathe they admit: “Thirty years ago, thousands of American cities dumped their raw sewage directly into our nation’s rivers, lakes, and bays. Today, because of improved wastewater treatment, our waterways have been cleaned up and made safer for recreation and seafood harvest. And, because of the strict Federal and state standards, the treated residuals from wastewater treatment (biosolids) can be safely recycled. Local governments make the decision whether to recycle the biosolids as a fertilizer, incinerate it or bury it in a landfill.” If biosolids are so valuable why would it be incinerated or buried in a landfill as a waste product?

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