League demands protection for NC drinking water from sewage sludge
Today at a press conference in Raleigh, the Blue Ridge
Environmental Defense League called for a moratorium on the
spreading of sewage sludge in critical watersheds. The League
released two reports which detail sewage sludge spreading in
critical areas that supply drinking water to downstream
communities. These sites are located in Orange, Alamance, Gaston,
Caldwell, Catawba, and Wake counties. The League maintains that
these sludge sites pose an imminent hazard to public health and
The press conference was sponsored by Senator Ellie Kinnaird.
Senator Kinnaird said, This is a practice that the public
is not aware of, and certainly not aware that the law that
prohibits the permitting of sludge spreading in a critical
watershed is not being followed. This is a loophole that needs to
be closed to protect public health.
Most of these sludge fields are on farmlands in Orange, Alamance,
Gaston, Caldwell, and Catawba counties that receive free
municipal sewage sludge from area wastewater treatment plants.
Two of the sites located in Wake and Caldwell counties receive
sludge primarily from commercial manufacturing operations.
Mallinckrodt, Inc., manufactures pharmaceutical drugs and spreads
sludge from its operations on its 29 fields, 9 of which are
located in a critical watershed and 700 ft. from a water intake
on the Neuse River.
Huffman Finishing Co. manufactures hosiery and spreads sludge
from its operations on 2 permitted fields also located within a
critical watershed. A loophole in the 1992 Watershed Water Supply
Protection Act has allowed sewage sludge to continue to be spread
in these critical drinking water supply areas.
Sue Dayton, coordinator for the Leagues NC Healthy
Communities project, explained, Whether sludge comes from a
commercial facility or a municipal wastewater treatment plant, it
contains hazardous contaminants that can pose a risk to public
health and the environment. We need to keep contaminants from
this toxic brew out of our public drinking water supplies.
The League and Senator Kinnaird recommended that the NC Division
of Water Quality take immediate action on the following measures:
Enactment of moratorium by the Director
of NC Division of Water Quality on sewage sludge
spreading on all fields located in critical watersheds
permitted prior to 1992 on the grounds that spreading
sludge in critical watersheds poses an imminent hazard to
public health and the environment.
Immediate removal of all sludge fields
from permits issued after 1992 to satisfy the legal and
protective requirements of the 1992 Water Supply
Watershed Protection Act.
A comprehensive review by DWQ using
digital information to identify locations of existing
sludge fields to ensure they are not located in a
Requirement that new permittees submit a
digital file to DWQ with the permit application showing
the locations of newly proposed sludge fields.
Requirement that existing permittees
submit a digital file to DWQ showing the locations of
existing sludge fields.
Increase in the distance of 100 ft. to
1,000 ft. from sludge fields to private and public
drinking supply sources, and surface waters which include
streams - intermittent and perennial, perennial water
bodies, wetlands, ephemeral streams, waterways and
Sewage sludge is made up of solids and semi-solids filtered
from waste water effluent before discharging into rivers. Only a
handful of chemicals are regulated by the state and federal
government. Wastewater treatment plants are required to test for
only 9 metals, total coliform and nutrients. Sludge is given to
farmers to use as a free fertilizer.
Numerous studies have shown that contaminants concentrate in
sewage sludge and include pathogens, PCBs, pesticides,
prescription and non-prescription pharmaceuticals, hormones,
steroids, endocrine disrupting chemicals, polymers, flame
retardants (PBDEs), dioxins, nonylphenols, phthalates, heavy
metals, radioactive substances, industrial solvents, and landfill
leachate. Many of these chemicals destroy the reproductive
systems of fish and other aquatic life. The long-term impacts of
sewage sludge on public health and the environment are not fully
known, but scientists are extremely concerned.
For more information contact Sue Dayton, NC Healthy Communities
at: 336-525-2003 or email@example.com.
Spreading in Critical Watersheds in North Carolina
sludge should be banned from critical watersheds
Map of Permitted Sludge Fields in Critical Watersheds of North Carolina Sludge fields permitted before 1992
Map of Permitted Sludge Fields in Critical Watersheds of North Carolina Sludge fields permitted after 1992