Sewage Sludge in the News

December 21, 2011

  • Gallatin, Tennessee Issues $10 Million in Bonds to be Funded by Revenues from Selling Treated Sewage Sludge as Fertilizer: “The city currently has to pay to have its sewage sludge hauled off, but with the new plant, the sludge will be treated and processed into nutrient-rich organic material called biosolids that are promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency for use as fertilizer” (Tennessean, 12/20). Warning, Tennesseans! Sewage sludge is toxic. Food should not be grown in “biosolids.” As the new Sludge Blog points out in its most recent post (12/20) about Washington, DC’s sludge being spread on Virginia farms, “It is absurd to believe that the material removed from the wastewater at sewage plants simply needs a bit of zapping and then it’ll be fine. The process in the works at Blue Plains, a $400 million upgrade from Class B to Class A biosolids, will make sludge supposedly ‘safe enough to put in your mouth — though it’s not encouraged’ because the new Class A biosolids won’t contain pathogens that can sicken humans and animals. The pathogens are definitely a problem. But so are heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, radioactive waste, flame-retardants; the list of modern American inventions that end up in the drains goes on and on” (emphasis added).
  • Sludge Spill in Three Rivers, Michigan: A hose break yesterday within the fenced area of the Clean Water Plant (wastewater treatment plant) in Three Rivers, Michigan, resulted in a spill of 300 gallons of treated human and industrial sewage sludge over about 50 square feet, caused by failed/faulty equipment. According to the plant director, “The discharge did not enter any storm water structures, was immediately cleaned up with a vacuum truck, and disinfected with sodium-hypochlorite granules” (River Country Journal, 12/20).
  • Media Mislead About Natchez, Mississippi’s Sewage Sludge: The city of Natchez has a pile of treated sludge it wants to sell. According to the Sun Herald and the Natchez Democrat (12/20), the state Department of Environmental Quality “has already tested a smaller sample of the bio-solid made at the plant, and the plant received a Class-A certification, which means the bio-solid can be used as organic fertilizer” and quoted the Natchez City Engineer as saying, “We’re just really excited about this project. . . . We’re saving a lot of money and turning a liability — the toxic sludge — into a beneficial use.” Calling the treated sludge “organic fertilizer” misleads the reader into thinking that it can be spread on certified organic farms. It cannot — the National Organic Standards prohibit it. Calling the spreading of this sludge, which still contains heavy metals, pharmaceutical residues and flame retardants, among other things, on farmland “beneficial use” makes a mockery of the English language.
  • Daily Kos Diary Spins the Sludge?: Daily Kos diarist “NNadir” posted this week (12/19) about a sewage sludge industry article in Energy and Fuels entitled “Behavior of Phosphorus and Other Inorganics during the Gasification of Sewage Sludge.” NNadir discusses whether or not sewage sludge gasification could produce significant energy, concluding, “There is not enough human shit, cow shit, pig shit, horseshit or chicken shit on the entire planet to save the American car CULTure lifestyle. Period.” He does not discuss the other inevitable product of sludge gasification, that is, the reduced-in-quantity and -pathogens, but still toxic, sludge. He does, however, mention that he is “reading a fabulous and wonderful book called The Big Necessity by an insightful, fine young woman named Rose George, which is all about sewage practices around the world.” Laura Orlando reviewed The Big Necessity for In These Times in 2008 and criticized George for the same omission. The review concludes: “George, by failing to address such issues, underscores the need for a deeper, more a critical analysis of the causes and remedies. . . . The needed critique will take into account on-site technologies vs. central collection, source-separation vs. mixing-then-fixing technologies. Hopefully, the choice of developing sanitation systems that are culturally appropriate, ecologically responsible and functionally sustainable will then sound downright conventional.”
  • Ignoring Successful Protest Against Similar Project, Racine, Wisconsin Puts New Sludge Project Up for Bid: According to the Daily Reporter (12/19), “The Racine Wastewater Utility has a project due Jan. 27 for the hauling, storage and land spreading/disposal of about 12,000 tons of wastewater Class B biosolids on an annual basis. . . . It will be interesting to see if this project actually goes through after all of the problems the Neenah-Menahsa Sewerage Commission had with the proposed biosolids storage building/biosolid spreading on agricultural lands in Greenville, which was cancelled soon after a Rapid Health Impact Assessment [(HIA)] report was released in late October.” It concludes, “If you live near the area of this proposed project, it may do you well to take a good look at the Greenville HIA and it may be an idea to request the same of Racine County if such a report for the proposed facility and area involved doesn’t already exist.”
  • Wellington, Florida Aims to Sell Pelleted Sludge: Following on the heels of a report that three Florida wastewater treatment facilities have been penalized by the EPA for Clean Water Act violations, Wellington, Florida has announced its plans to expand its plant to the tune of $22 million in order to “yield savings of about $201,500 a year” by producing “Class AA biosolids” and “sell[ing] its pellets to the South Dade Soil and Water Conservation District for about $52,000 a year” (WPTV, 12/18). The sludge would be filtered, treated with chlorine and then with microbes (the article doesn’t explain how the microbes would survive the chlorine), dewatered and then further dried into pellets. According to CBS (12/20), the fertilizer would be available for sale to the Conservation District starting in February. Neither article mentions what the Conservation District would fertilize with the pellets produced.
  • Injecting Los Angeles’ Sewage into Spaces Between Rocks: As an alternative to the locally controversial Kern County facility that is the subject of a local ordinance and a legal fight, Los Angeles engineers have proposed the “Terminal Island Renewable Energy Project,” an environmentally friendly sounding name for a project to “shov[e] the biosolids it produces into underground reservoirs, spaces between rocks, once occupied by oil and gas. . . . Putting the biosolids down there,” they claim, “LA can let the earth do the work for them. The higher temperature of the earth breaks them down; using the byproduct methane gas, LA can produce energy for 3000 homes” (KPCC, 12/16). So far, the plan has produced no actual energy. The article also doesn’t explain if the ground temperature of these sites is the average and constant approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit of the ground below ten feet or if the temperature at the site is higher because of tectonic activity. (Thanks to Maureen Reilly of SludgeWatch for this tip.)
  • Allentown, Pennsylvania Accepts Bids for Project to Generate Electricity from Sludge: New Jersey-based Delta Thermo has proposed a $30 million project to turn Allentown’s trash and sewage “into a coal-like substance and burn it at temperatures up to 2,192 degrees to create electricity. The goal is to generate enough power to run the wastewater treatment plant and to sell leftover electricity to the power grid” (The Morning Call, 12/14). “One of the most pressing concerns had to do with another Pennsylvania municipality that went belly up after its own waste-to-energy pursuit. Harrisburg’s decision to guarantee bonds on a waste incinerator plant is often cited as the main reason that city considered filing for bankruptcy.” The article doesn’t mention where the plant will get the energy to turn the sludge into that “coal-like substance” nor to then burn it at 2,192 degrees.
  • Environmental Media Association Releases More Publicity Shots of Celebrities Gardening with LA School Children, This Time Without the Obvious Bags of Sludge Products

Filed under: In the News,Sewage Sludge

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