Sludge contains harmful substances that are a risk to human and environmental health when spread on land. Sludge standards that are meant to be protective of human health are outdated and need to be updated with modern science before we consider the continuation of spreading sludge on land.
- Governor of Vermont
Governor Peter Shumlin
- Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
Secretary Deb Markowitz
- Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation
Commissioner David Mears
- Vermont Department of Health
Dr. Harry Chen, Commissioner
- Vermont House of Representatives
Speaker Shap Smith
Despite the U.S. EPA Inspector General’s announcement that the “EPA cannot assure the public that current land application practices [of sludge] are protective of human health and the environment,” land applications of sludge are still prevalent across Vermont communities. A byproduct of wastewater treatment facilities, sludge, also known as biosolids, as well as septage from homes’ septic tanks, contains pathogens, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, and other ingredients that are harmful to human health and the wellbeing of our natural resources.
Our current process for determining the safety of land-applied sludge and septage is outdated, dating back to the early 1990s, before an entire generation of Vermonters was even born. Since that time, our understanding of the harmful components in sludge and septage has improved drastically and the contents of these waste materials have become more complex. When sludge is applied to farm fields and is used for landscaping purposes in public areas and private properties, people can be exposed to the harmful contents of these waste materials.
We, the undersigned, believe that we must discontinue the land application of sludge and septage on the Vermont landscape and within communities unless proven by sound science to be safe for human and environmental health. Reliable peer-reviewed research from trustworthy institutions such as the U.S. EPA, Cornell University, National Academy of Sciences, and several others indicates that sludge and septage are harmful to human health when exposed to the materials. As said by Chittenden County Solid Waste District Manager Tom Moreau, “Some questions on chemicals of emerging concern like pharmaceuticals and hormone disruptors are pertinent and will require substantial effort to separate fact from fiction.” Until the best known science separates “fact from fiction,” the risks to human health from sludge and septage land applications are too much to ignore.
In the interim, while the State considers prohibiting land application of sludge, both Class A and Class B, and septage, we believe it reasonable and responsible to require those who spread sludge and/or septage on public or private land to notify the public of the activities 48 hours in advance of spreading activity. Notification should be made available through a variety of channels including, but not limited to, newspapers, visible signage, and company information for those which utilize sludge or septage products.
Vermonters have a right not to be endangered by the risky activity of those acting on behalf of their own self interests. We trust you agree.
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