Despite pushback from residents, more sludge is coming to King William – Daily Press
KING WILLIAM — Opposition to a significant expansion of the dumping of sewage as fertilizer on fields in rural King William County has not resulted in a public hearing or the derailment of the claim.
Despite more than 80 letters submitted in opposition, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in July granted Synagro Central a permit to dump sludge on an additional 5,352 acres in King William County. Sludge is another term for biosolids and residues from water treatment plants that are used as fertilizer.
The permit amendment to add land to the permit was signed and took effect July 18, according to Neil Zahradka, manager of the DEQ’s Land Application Programs Office.
In a memo in response to public hearing requests, the DEQ pointed out that it first issued a permit for the dumping of biosolids to Synagro on 7,155 acres of land in King William County in 2013. An amendment in 2015 allowed the company to add another 3,414 acres of land to the permit. The latest application adds an additional 5,352 acres across multiple fields.
Some residents and county officials have opposed the dumping of sludge for years. Synagro already has permits to apply sludge to thousands of acres in Virginia, including King William, King and Queen and New Kent counties.
“As regenerative farmers who are careful about what we put on the land and the meats we produce, I am concerned about the transfer of untested pharmaceutical drugs, their metabolites and compounds like PFAS being ingested by our livestock and seeping into our waterways,” said Sarah Williams of Bees Knees Farm in King William County.
A memo from the DEQ said opponents of the request had not met the “statutory threshold for calling a public hearing.”
“Synagro has submitted an application to amend its existing VPA permit,” the memo reads. “DEQ has reviewed the application and determined that it contains all of the information required by applicable law and regulation and that the proposed sites meet the applicable technical requirements. DEQ processed the permit application and prepared a permit that contains all of the criteria required by state and federal regulations to protect human health and the environment. In light of these facts, DEQ has no reason to refuse the modification of the APV permit.
The DEQ said 79 of the comments called for a moratorium on further action until safety measures to address health concerns are addressed. The DEQ said the requested delay violated state law and had no legal basis to delay a decision.
“The draft permit is drafted in accordance with the State Water Control Act, Regulations and the VPA Permit Handbook and therefore, as drafted, cannot be denied. by the DEQ and these requests do not meet the third criterion,” the memo reads. “There was also a request for an environmental impact study. There is no provision in state or federal law or regulation to require an environmental impact statement beyond the review of the application documents that must be submitted with the permit application.
Tyla Matteson, president of the York River Group of the Sierra Club, led opposition to the dumping proposal in King William County.
“Unfortunately, a public hearing was denied and the public was silenced,” she said.
Matteson says sewage sludge is harmful to humans and animals, and its foul odors cause dizziness, headaches and respiratory problems.
“There are a lot of questions and concerns as the sludge contains heavy metals, pathogens, pesticides and PFAS chemicals. PFAS are called “eternal chemicals” because they do not break down easily and can cause cancers and other diseases. Sewage sludge and PFAS have been banned or more strictly regulated in several states. However, Virginia is not testing sludge for PFAS at this time,” Matteson said.
Levels of PFAS found in deer last year in Maine prompted residents to warn residents not to eat venison from deer killed near where the sludge was used decades ago.
The DEQ said in its memo that the Virginia General Assembly appointed a panel of experts to study biosolids issues in 2007. The panel determined “that as long as biosolids are applied in accordance with all state and federal laws and regulations, there is no evidence or any toxic effects on soil organisms, plants grown in treated soils, or humans from inorganic trace elements (including heavy metals) found at current concentrations in biosolids.
The non-profit National Center for Food Safety says sewage sludge is a “hazardous mixture of heavy metals, industrial compounds, viruses, bacteria, drug residues and radioactive materials.”
“Since the early 1990s, millions of tons of potentially toxic sewage sludge have been applied to millions of acres of American farmland as fertilizer for food crops,” the nonprofit states on its website. “The sale of sewage sludge to farmers for use on cropland has been a favored government program for the disposal of unwanted by-products from municipal sewage treatment plants.”
The center continues, “However, sewage sludge is anything but the benign fertilizer that the US Environmental Protection Agency says it is.”
David Macaulay, [email protected]