This article fails to address the difference in how sludge is applied to fields. The contractor used by Alamance/Burlington applies by aerial spray which allows the sludge to be carried off site by the wind. Neighbors report spray on their houses, cars, playground equipment, etc. Not only can the particles disperse off site, but they can be breathed in. Although regulations stipulate that application should not occur on windy days, the state doesn't have inspectors to ensure regulations are followed, leaving the truck drivers to regulate themselves.
The waste water treatment process (which includes the materials collected from septic tanks) separates solids from liquids. Liquids are directed back into the water system and solids are commercially composted and/or applied to land. Everyone, rural and urban residents, contributes to the production of sludge, and we are all paying for it. But we can't avoid it. Some activists believe that waste-to-energy will eliminate the problem but waste-to-energy is really just efficient incineration and, like sludge, will need to be heavily regulated and inspected.
How can we have an intelligent discussion about the "output" of which every person on earth, whether they live in an urban or rural community, contributes without any mention of alternative disposal methods? In the absence of alternative disposal methods, land application is the only viable alternative unless each person wants to dispose of their own.
We need alternatives, but in the meantime, we need to look at how to make land application safer, including bigger setbacks and enforcement of current rules on notifications, timing, weather conditions, and spraying techniques. All aerial spraying should be forbidden. We also need to be collecting health data. All of these recommendations were made 5+ years ago, but no one has stepped up in a leadership capacity to have them implemented and enforced. In the meantime, we're all impacted by this problem, regardless of where we live. I hope your article will spur on city, county and state political leaders to take action.
Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
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