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The truth about sewage sludge

August 22, 2008

The Rest of The Story

Big time ranchers, sludge generators, and sludge haulers like to tell their story of how safe sewage sludge is, and how good it is for the environment. What they neglect to tell is how little they care for the citizens living around fields where sludge is spread.

I moved to Grand Bay, AL in 1996, a few hundred yards from a pasture fertilized with sewage sludge. I started complaining to authorities, ADEM and EPA about the horrendous stench coming from these fields almost immediately. Much to my chagrin, everytime I complained, nothing was done. An ADEM representative came out and said there was an odor, but odors are not governed by ADEM. The EPA, who do little to enforce sludge regulation 503, also did nothing to alleviate the situation.

To combat what many of us felt was an infringement on our constitutional rights to the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the residents of our area signed petitions requesting the stoppage of this obnoxious sustance being spread near our homes. Again we were denied our constitutional rights.

The people behind the spreading of sludge claim there is no proof of sludge causing any kind of physical damage. Of course not, that is like trying to prove where you contracted the measles or caught a flu bug. I can assure you from personnal experience that the effects of sludge include burning eyes, sore throat, and burning lungs. There are 100's of people complaining about the same irritations, surely this is some indication of it being fact. We had meetings where people would indicate what problems they were having.

One man who recently had moved into a new housing project said his neighbors and him had septic tank providers come out to repair their septic tanks they felt were creating the stench. They found out the stench was not from their septic tanks, but from a field behind their area where sludge was being spread. One lady complained that she could not hang clothes in her yard because they would absorb the stench. Many others, including myself, were agravated because the stench prevented us from having backyard activities like barbeques and family get togethers. Another neighbor of the fields had to put a filter system on his well to get the water fit to use.

Anytime we complained to ADEM or EPA the most they would do would be to send someone out and he would ride around with the sludge spreader and find no problem. Never once did any of these representitives interview neighbors as to the problems they were having. Even if violations to 503 were proven to the EPA, little or nothing was done to punish the violations. I furnished sworn evidence, including video tapes, to Mike Hom, EPA district 4, of violations, but little was ever done because of the vagueness of 503. (So I was told.) It seems everything possible is done by the EPA to protect the institution of using sewage for fertilizer with no thought as to the rights of privacy of the individuals living near the fields.

I have seen as many as 5 sewage hauling trucks in a field at one time. They started hauling at daylight and continued till after dark. This went on everyday of the week . Have you ever tried to enjoy the 4th of July with friends when the stench is so bad you can't go outside your home, and your friends ask "what is that horrible ordor"? Most lawyers won't touch a case involving sewage sludge because of the big money behind the operation. They know it would be tied up in court for years. The little guy living around these areas does not have a chance to change anything. It is like an ant challenging an elephant to a fight.

So you see, the only chance we, the little people, have is something like this committee to straighten out this violation of our constitutional rights to privacy and the pursuit of happiness. I will have to state that the rancher near me has drastically decreased his use of sludge, and it is not near as bad as it once was. Maybe this is because a school was built across the street from his pasture. Thank you for the opportunity of expressing my views on this subject.

Gary O. Schaefer 8435 Jim McNeil Lp Rd W Grand Bay, AL 36541