Angry residents voiced their disapproval to the Salem City Council May 23 and requested a written letter from Mayor Gary Clayton guaranteeing the sludge their children will be exposed to is 100 percent safe. The city has applied for an application to spread sludge over an area of land on Highway 9 in Salem.
The topic of the permit became heated between council members and residents over a request by landowner Danny Perryman who asked the city to spread sludge the city has been stockpiling for the past five years over his land for fertilization.
Resident Annette Henley was the spokesman for the group who posed several questions to the council -- she questioned why adjacent neighbors were not notified by a certified letter regarding the permit; she asked when the city decided to stockpile sludge at the local treatment facility and asked why the facility is not locked continually to keep out children.
She told council members that residents were concerned about the proposed permit allowing bio solids or sludge to be dumped on land adjacent to several landowners.
Henley said sludge is a mud-like substance that remains after treatment of wastes that flow into local sewage treatment plants. She explained there are four major types of human pathogenic organisms found in bio solids -- bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasitic worms.
She informed the council the EPA will not even assure the safety of sludge. She said the National Food Processor's Association said it does not endorse the use of sewage sludge on crop land, and Heinz and Del Monte both said they will not accept produce that is grown with sludge, Henley said.
The EPA has recently banned the dumping of sludge in oceans because it was killing marine life, according to data Henley collected. She asked: if sludge isn't safe for fish, then how could the city justify dumping it 50 feet from the South Fork River or have it accessible to children?
According to data she researched, a child who rode his bike through a sludge-spread field died two days later from an unknown ailment. She said sheep that ate cabbage grown from sludge had developed lesions of the liver and thyroid gland.
She said it appeared the city is looking for an economic short term-fix without looking at the long-term consequences, including the health of all the residents.
In response, Bill Worsham, public works department manager, said he was not required to notify all the landowners across the river.
Worsham said if the city did receive the permit to dump the sludge it would have to be tested by an independent lab for safety before it could be dumped. He said aerial photos of the area have been sent to the state.
Mayor Clayton said the only advantage to spreading the sludge would be a savings on dumping fees, but the application was not made for economical reasons.
Clayton assured residents the city was not trying to get the permit to poison children, nor was the city trying to hide anything. He said there are reports to back up the fact the city sewer system is in compliance with state regulations and those regulations are rigidly monitored.
The mayor questioned residents where their information came from and questioned the validity of the information they presented to the council.
The council tabled the issue until after the ADEQ makes its decision on granting the permit.
Clayton said a hearing will be held on this issue but no date has been specified.