The sewage sludge pelletization, “compost,” and haul-and-dump industry (haul it out of the wastewater treatment plan and dump it where ever the opposition is likely to be least) is an eleven billion dollar a year industry, with nearly 50% of wastewater treatment operations and management budgets going to the management of sludge.
Municipalities, sewage treatment plants, and sewage authorities contract private corporations to haul sludge away from wastewater treatment plants and dispose of it on farmland. But the sludge industry doesn’ t just haul and dump sludge, they aggressively defend their “right” to dump this hazardous material in communities across America, even if those communities, like Kern County in California, ask them to leave.
Synagro is the largest corporation in the sludge business. The Houston-based company was publicly traded until the giant private equity firm, the Carlyle Group, bought it in 2007. Synagro has many subsidiaries. It operates in 33 states and has billions in municipal contracts. And a great deal to lose should the land application of sewage sludge be prohibited. It is big business and risk free, since all liability is transferred to whomever owns the property where the toxic material is dumped.
EPA says U.S. wastewater treatment plants generate approximately 8 million dry tons of sewage sludge. But Synagro states in its 2006 annual report that “Industry sources, including EPA studies and manuals and internal information have led us to estimate that a total volume of 135 million dry tons of organic residuals [sludge] are processed each year.”
Other sludge haulers include N-Viro International Corp., Nutri-Blend, and New England Organics.