Sewer Sludge and Why It’s a Problem

Most people don’t pay much mind to what happens to the wastewater they send down their toilets or sinks. However, there is a possibility that some of what you put down your drains, from human waste to paint products, may end up in the fertilizer used to grow food you purchase at the grocery store.

According to food safety organizations and research, practices that began in the early 1990s resulted in millions of tons of potentially toxic sewer sludge being applied to farmland across America as fertilizer. The use of sewer sludge on farmland in Bethel, OH and across the country has been one method of disposing of all of the unwanted byproducts that result from wastewater treatment at municipal plants. However, despite the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s claims that it is benign and serviceable for fertilizer, there are some potential dangers you should be aware of.

The sewer sludge problem

So, what is sewer sludge in Bethel, OH, and how do we fix the problem? Sewage sludge is a mixture of water with anything that gets dumped into the wastewater system through drains at homes and commercial buildings across the nation. This includes everything from human waste to paints, chemicals, food particles and garbage. This slurry of waste gets sent to wastewater treatment facilities, and may, in some cases, be used in creating fertilizers for crop fields.

That means the sludge that gets spread out across crop fields to encourage growth could include radioactive materials, viruses, bacteria, heavy metals, drug residue or other harmful substances, which could result in illness. There are cases on record of people falling ill after exposure to fertilizer made with sewage sludge, with such illnesses and conditions including headaches, nausea, rashes, respiratory illnesses, cysts, tumors and reproductive problems.

While this should certainly be an issue that raises eyebrows, especially among people who may have been unaware that sewage sludge is actually being used in fertilizer production, there are very few federal regulations in place to ensure the safety of what’s used in those fertilizer products. The EPA itself only monitors nine of the many thousands of harmful substances and pathogens you would find in sewage sludge, and rarely, if ever, goes on site to sewage treatment plants, fertilizer production facilities or farms to make sure the sludge being used is actually safe for use in an agricultural setting.

In fact, the process of using sewage sludge for fertilizer has been criticized in the past by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Research Council, as well as numerous other medical and scientific professionals and activists across the nation.

It would be in the best interest of all Americans for the use of sewage sludge as agricultural fertilizer to be put to an end, and for the government to seek out new, safer methods of disposal of sewage sludge.

If you have been exposed to sewage sludge or have had any issues with sewer sludge in your home in Bethel, OH, including drain backups, we encourage you to contact Gullett Sanitation Services Inc. with any questions about how to proceed.

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