News Feature | August 27, 2014

Sludge: Risk Or Resource?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Sludge has become a hot button issue in Virginia, where residents and business owners are protesting its use because they say it carries an odor and potential health risks.

"Synagro Technologies, a Baltimore-based waste management company, faces grass-roots opposition to its application to spread industrial waste as fertilizer over farms in seven Virginia counties," the Baltimore Sun reported

The Baltimore-based company is seeking "a state permit to spread industrial sludge on more than 16,000 acres of farmland," CBS 6 reported.  

The company has used sludge in Virginia for years. 

This year, however, "social media and a longer and open permit issuing process through the Department of Environmental Quality have given opponents a stronger voice," the report said. 

Bill Hayden with the Department of Environmental Quality said, per CBS 6: “It’s something that generates a lot of interest, a lot of concern among the public.”

Public input has slowed down the permitting process, according to the report. 

"A vote once scheduled for June has been pushed back to a tentative September 29 date," the report said. 

Sludge opponents note that it can contain arsenic, lead, and mercury. The company, however, says sludge is beneficial to the environment. 

"Lorrie Loder with Synagro says sludge products help build soil quality and return nutrients to the soil,” the Daily Record reported.

The EPA says that there is strong oversight for sludge. 

"Only biosolids that meet the most stringent standards spelled out in the Federal and state rules can be approved for use as a fertilizer," the agency explained

For more on policy and politics, check out Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center.

Image credit: "Shovel excavator loading the sewage sludge" Sustainable sanitation © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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