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Time to Do the Right Thing

September 6, 2008


On June 6, 2007 our community here on Quaker Bottom Road in Havre de Grace, Maryland, bordering the beautiful Susquehanna State Park, deer Creek and the Susquehanna river, was bombarded by large tractor-trailers. These vehicles were traveling at a high speed on a country road and we were afraid for the safety of everyone. We were clueless as to what they were hauling. Then we learned the terrible news…it was SEWAGE SLUDGE and ALUM!!!

The first batch of trucks was hauling alum, the material found as sludge at the bottom of lagoons at wastewater treatment plants. We learned from a source within the plant that an entire lagoon was drained and hauled here to a small parcel. We witnessed dumping directly into waterways that lead to Deer Creek and into the Susquehanna River, but we failed to get pictures and there was no way to prosecute even though the Attorney General was involved.

Then we started asking questions. Harford County DPW that manages the Sod Run Waste Water plant gave very round about answers. We asked about the project happening and they explained that alum was about done and sewage sludge was now coming. We were furious. We confronted them about their coming without notice and we were told that there was notice….it was posted as a small notice in the paper around the Holidays! One property at that time was permitted and the other property was coming to a public meeting later. They told us that nobody showed for the first meeting. We shared that the reason was that we did not know. We informed people about the second one and 100 or so people showed demanding the sludge not be spread in our park.

Synagro is the company with the leases and spreading the sludge. They were very arrogant and not responsive to our concerns. It is clear that this was a dumping operation – not a farming operation. We still have a website up that explains some of this at www.savemarylandparks.com .

The dumping started and the stench was sickening! Neighbors were in an uproar. Synagro did not care. Their puppet farmer, Jason Krankowski of Aberdeen, Maryland – a Synagro employee - refused to take calls regarding the excessive stench which farmers are required to address according to MDE. We kept pressure on MDE, DNR and our representatives.

We finally had Synagro pull out through a letter from their puppet farmer. We had news coverage on channel 11 WBAL. We talked to hundreds of people and almost 100% agreed with us. There were a few who did not and a few who had no opinion – if you can believe that! In the end we had bills introduced to the State Legislature though Senator Barry Glassman and Delegate Daniel Riley. They did not pass. It was sad though to witness Synagro representatives misleading people in those procedures. Associates of Senator Glassman concurred with these misrepresentations upon review of the recorded testimony.

DNR has changed policy to not allow corporations to lease Park property and they are to review the parcels open to sewage sludge application. We do not like policy…it is subject to change without our knowing.

As of today, September 6, 2008 DNR has not responded to letters sent to Secretary Griffin requesting an update on the policy and review which his department through Nita Settina, Superintendent, promised would be provided after the hearing for the House of Delegates. We have experienced neglect on the part of DNR and MDE including documents that are for the most part fraudulent, a cover up of what is really happening in our communities, misrepresentation of facts and information about sewage sludge by MDE at public meetings and industry misleading officials to perpetuate a system of generating income at the expense of people and the environment.

I have also witnessed a farmer that pulled his application for land applying sewage sludge in Cecil County, Maryland at a public meeting, which Senator Nancy Jacobs was in attendance, once seeing the public outrage. After the meeting he and his wife told me that Synagro DID NOT explain all the restrictions and hazards associated with sewage sludge. I have spoken to other farmers that are misinformed as well. Many times companies like Synagro confuse the types of sludge being used…Class A which has no restrictions with Class B which is what they are pushing and has restrictions and risks associated with it.

Once I told farmers what they really wanted to spread many said they would not want that stuff on their farm! Though Synagro has stopped land applying sewage sludge in our park they are doing so in other areas. We need to be prudent and stop this practice. Our initial involvement in the issue of land application of sewage sludge was limited to our State Parks and any public land. Our resolve still stands.

However, as a result of our work other groups have asked us to share our story, experiences and opinions. This we have done and from our learning experience over the last 2 years we see no place for Class B sewage sludge being land applied and Class A sewage sludge should be revisited.

Supporters of sludge like to cite the Federal Reg 503. That regulation is grossly outdated and we have created a HUGE amount of new chemicals and drugs since then. This regulation is not enforced from the Federal level anyway. It acts as a guide. In a meeting I attended on the new regulation for Maryland at MDE, I was told that the 503 is not adequate and that Maryland has never had a regulation. This gave MDE no leverage over companies like Synago – AMAZING. Other states have the same problem.

We as Americans should be setting the example for responsible disposition of waste, not running to catch up with other countries. We need to raise the bar! Our legislators need to be firm and strong in standing up against the sludge industry and protecting their constituents and environment.

Jeff Lawson, Havre de Grace MD