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Sludge, EPA and the 503 Rule

September 9, 2008

I am a journalist who has reported on sludge issues in two different communities in Georgia. My research in recent years backs up what I learned from studies that had been done in other states, especially in California. The bottom line for me is that while EPA holds the 503 Rule as nearly sacred, no one can objectively dispute the fact that live virses and bacteria have been found in land applied sludge. And while land application helps wastewater treatment plants rid themselves of a product that is laden with heavy-metals, pathogens and other contaminants, it is the public that will bear the burden of exposure and illness.

While discussing the Messerly plant several years ago with a Vice President of Synagro Amsco, he told me that the time frame to process the sludge, entry to exit, was 15-25 days. Yet under the 503 rule the Augusta facility tests only every 30 days. Messeserly complied. Consequently, there was no way to determine what went into the system and what came out based on the test results. I find this extremely alarming, especially considering the number of toxic chemicals introduced into the system by manufacturers in the Augusta, Georgia area.

Here in Peachtree City, Georgia, the city council recently approved the land application of the "top layer" of water (prior to being discharged into the creek) on the city soccer and baseball fields. Only myself and a retired U.S. Fish & Wildlife biologist sounded the alarm. Thing is, Georgia Environmental Protection Division sanctions such actions.

Should we forget that state environmental departments take their marching orders from EPA. I believe some across our nation have paid a price for being exposed to sludge. I have no doubt that many others will also pay unless public exposure to this dangerous substance can be reigned in.

Ben Nelms, Peachtree City