Environmentally unsustainable

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Presentation outlines dangers of applying bio-solids

BY KIRK STARRATT Kings County Advertiser Novanewsnow.com

Environmentally unsustainable

Allowing the spreading of contaminated sewage sludge on our farmland is publicly unacceptable and an environmentally unsustainable practice. This was the message in a presentation by Nova Scotia Environmental Network (NSEN) member Fred Blois and Dr. Marilyn Cameron, NSEN Bio-solids and Waste Water Caucus chair, to Kings County councillors at the September committee of the whole (COTW) session.

Blois said some people insist applying bio-solids to agricultural land is safe, but he has to question that claim. Treatment plants are not designed to remove all chemicals, hormones, heavy metals and pathogens from wastewater, he asserted. “It’s a great concern to me that comprehensive third party testing is not required,” Blois said.

Multiple contaminants can join together to create something entirely different, creating serious environmental and heath risks, he said. Adding, there is a need to review and expand current provincial regulations because, if a substance is not tested for, it won’t show up.

Blois said contaminants would remain in the soil, ground water and the food chain for decades or centuries and provincial wastewater policy must be sustainable. He went on to say the precautionary principle must be paramount to decision making.

Better treatment needed

Cameron told council ideal sewage treatment systems should create high quality effluent, be modestly priced, aesthetically pleasing and not have negative secondary environmental impacts. “What we have now are systems that create highly toxic effluent, are ugly and odourous, are very costly, use expensive fossil fuels and create air and water quality concerns and have sludge disposal as secondary problems,” she said.

Cameron gave an overview of four sludge treatment options, including wet-landing sewage sludge; producing bio-gas from sewage sludge, as is being done by BioGas Energy of Sheffield Mills, which has a 100 per cent solar powered plant capable of converting food and animal waste into methane gas; fluid bed incineration of sludge and plasma assisted sludge oxidation.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Cameron said the land application of sewage sludge has to stop and that taxpayers would support greener technology to handle waste. The NSEN is asking council to enact a moratorium on the land application of treated sewage sludge in the county and to update the regional sewage treatment plant with appropriate technology.

Already happening?

Following the presentation, Cameron said a letter from Kings County Engineering and Public Works director Richard Lloyd, dated March 25, 2009, states that Loomers Septic Services of Annapolis County transports and stores sludge from sewage treatment plants in Kings County and that all land application of Kings County sludge takes place in Annapolis County. Lloyd was unaware of any bio-solids being applied to land in Kings and was not aware of any transportation of bio-solids from HRM to Kings.

However, Cameron asserted, thousands of tonnes of HRM’s “treated” sludge have already been transported and dispersed on farmland in Kings this year.

Bio-solids product originates from the Halifax Regional Municipality N-Viro facility, she said, which takes sewage sludge from residential, hospital, industrial, street run-off and commercial sources from the HRM’s waste water treatment plant and, when not flowing waste directly into the Halifax Harbour, is transporting it to the N-Viro plant to be “stabilized,” having bacteria destroyed.

Cameron alleged N-Viro’s plan is to distribute 34,000 tonnes of bio-solids on 4,800 hectares of agricultural land each year in our province.

The NSEN contends that there are hundreds of thousands of contaminants in sewage sludges that are neither being eliminated during treatment processes nor being tested for. They claim land application of bio-solids is not recycling, but pollution transfer.

Cameron noted no council members took the opportunity to smell a sample of the bio-solids product she brought along.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Environmental Network, Waste Water Caucus, Kings County Engineering Loomers Septic Services

Geographic location: Kings, Annapolis County

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