FARMER McELMURRAY SPEAKS OUT AGAINST SLUDGE
Subj: farmer letter-sludge
Date: 9/1/2005 9:25:02 PM Central Daylight Time
Letters to the editor for Thursday, September 1, 2005
Lynchburg News & Advance
Thursday, September 1, 2005
Farmer speaks from experience on sludge issues
I am a fourth-generation dairy and row crop farmer just south of Augusta, Ga. I am writing this
out of concern and response to Richard Ruff’s Aug. 21 letter titled “Sludge is Ideal for Farmers
and Piedmont Soil.” We allowed the City of Augusta to apply their sewage sludge to our
farmland for 11 years. After several years we began to notice problems, but we could not
pinpoint the cause. Two years later, the problems became more serious: a precipitous drop in
milk production, sick cattle and excessive cattle mortalities.
In 1998, we hired experts to help figure out what was going on with our herd. The experts
concluded that the forage which was grown on our sludged fields was contaminated by toxic
metals and other industrial pollutants, which were poisoning our cattle. Federal regulations
required testing of sludge for only eight metals; some states also test for 129 priority
pollutants. But typical sludges from urban centers contain thousands of pollutants, including
undisclosed hazardous wastes and dozens of carcinogens. Therefore, it is impossible to
manage sludge safely. Over the long term, cattle that graze or consume forage grown on
sludged land will suffer from different illnesses because of undisclosed hazardous waste
including heavy metals and mineral imbalances in the forages. The animals will most likely
suffer from immune deficiency syndrome, which will not allow them to fight normal cattle
diseases. All of this could be very expensive and more than offset any perceived financial gain
from sludge application.
I urge Mr. Ruff to obtain an indemnification agreement from the sludge supplier that will protect
him from damages to his land, to groundwater, to his animals and damage claims by third
parties. Any person who thinks they want to receive sewage sludge should hire an attorney to
protect their interests.
Based on my own personal experience, the risk and downside associated with the use of
sewage sludge or biosolids far outweighs any perceived financial benefits.