Fertilizer Made From Sewage Sludge May Be Causing Illness

Treated municipal sewage sludge may be causing illness in people up to a mile from where it is applied on land as a soil amendment..

  • sludge words
    Municipal sewage sludge applied to farmland as a soil amendment has caused illness to rural residents.
    Photo by Fotolia/InTheSkies

  • sludge words

This article is printed with permission from the Unvierstiry of North Carolina, Department of Epidemiology.

These are the findings from researchers at the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The study, titled “Land Application of Treated Sewage Sludge: Community Health and Environmental Justice,” appears in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It involved residents from Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina who live near fields where sludge is applied as a soil amendment. More than half of the people interviewed reported acute symptoms such as burning eyes, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea after sludge had been sprayed or spread. Neighbors of fields where industrial swine operations spray waste have reported similar symptoms.

“Study participants told us that the onset of the symptoms occurred while the sludge was being applied or soon after,” says Amy Lowman, MPH, research associate in epidemiology, and the study’s first author. “These were not one-time incidents, either. Respondents reported these illnesses occurring several times, and always after treated sludge was applied to the nearby farmland.”

Other symptoms reported by more than one respondent in the wake of sludge applications included difficulty breathing, sinus congestion or drainage, and skin infection and sores.

Respondents also reported sludge run-off into local waterways and cattle grazing on fields soon after sludge applications.

1/26/2016 10:35:34 AM

Two weeks ago we went to hike in our local Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) Wildlife Management Area (WMA). On private property up hill from the DGIF land a sign was posted that "Biosolid Land Application" was in process. I can only describe the smell as a combination of many dead animals carcasses and an overflowing sewer. It was bad! I contacted the DGIF as a major stream and several smaller streams flow into the area. They sent out an agent who walked the area, and found two places of extreme concern from run-off from the upland farm. We checked with several residents and they had not been informed of the biosolid land application, and the DGIF had not been notified. This practice is of great concern to us, especially with it's location directly adjacent to the WMA.



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