A Tree-Hugger Reflection on Sludge


| 3/8/2016 10:05:00 AM


Tags: biosolids, industrial residuals, pollution, law, agriculture, Lidia Epp, Virginia,

Industrial residuals application in King William Co. Virginia
“You all are just a bunch of a tree-hugging, Bambie-eyed, bleeding heart liberal professors! You all sit in those ivy-league colleges of yours, sipping frappuccino and writing gobbly-gook articles about how bad biosolids are, but you don’t know first thing about the hardships of a farmer! Guys from the state office told me this is a natural fertilizer and it’s treated and monitored for any bad stuff! And it’s free!“

A football player sized farmer in a tattered Carhartt jacket and work boots caked with dirt (or biosolids?), his face flushed with frustration, was waving his finger in my face after the DEQ subcommittee wrapped up its public hearing and granted yet another 10 year permit to Synagro Technologies Inc. to spread industrial residuals in my neck of the woods. I got my allotted three minutes to tell the apathetic looking committee members why agricultural application of biosolids is a very bad idea, but it didn’t look like even one of the seven of them cared. They glanced at their smartphones, picked fingernails and drank cold coffee, looking quite ready to vote and call it a day.

I got in my car, parked near the General Assembly building in downtown Richmond, VA and hit the road. I took a day off from work to attend the hearing, whatever was left of the day I figured I will use to take care of some house chores. It’s almost an hour drive back home, we live deep in the countryside of central-eastern Virginia, on a picturesque 6 acre “hobby farm." Tree-hugging… I said to myself. How did he know that? I do sometimes fight the urge to hug my crabapple tree, especially in the late fall when I’m done picking all the fruit to make crabapple butter. The tree is producing tons of small, sweetly tart fruit. Then I slave for days at the stove to process endless jars of the crabapple butter, a staple for breakfast in our kitchen. As far as the hardwood beyond our property - there is definitely less to hug these days.

Last crabapple's harvest 

New Kent County where we live is being aggressively deforested by a motivated army of loggers and developers. Jarring, devastated landscape they leave behind is either developed for one more cookie-cutter subdivision that nobody wants or needs, or it’s turned into a farming field where the “genetically enhanced” corn, soybeans or cotton are grown. The best option for those barren places is to be reseeded with the loblolly pine for a quick growing, harvestable timber. I don’t somehow feel like hugging loblolly pines. Bambi-eyed… Not a chance! A quick check in a rear view mirror- naaah, he definitely is wrong on that one. What was the other thing? Bleeding heart… Yes, my heart bleeds often lately when I see what is happening to our beautiful countryside. The irresponsible, greed-motivated practices of loggers, the cash strapped farmers inviting biosolids distributors to spread toxins on their farmland under the pretense of a “free natural fertilizer”. He is right, my heart bleeds a lot these days.

Liberal. No - I’m most definitely not a liberal, but that’s probably a subject for another discussion.




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