RUNOFF FROM SLUDGE SITE
City ends spraying of sewage in winter
EPA forced the issue over creek pollution in Fayette
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Columbus officials have promised the state that the city will no longer spray thousands of
gallons of sewage sludge on farm fields in winter.
The pledge comes after sludge from Columbus ran off a Fayette County field during a thaw in
February and polluted Paint Creek. The frozen field could not absorb the 754,800 gallons of
sludge a city contractor sprayed on it, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials said.
The contamination was severe enough that the state warned Washington Court House officials
to stop taking drinking water from Paint Creek for a while to guard against bacterial illnesses.
"Luckily, they have an upground reservoir as a backup to the Paint Creek water supply," said
Chris Bowman, specialist in the EPA’s sewer sludge management program.
>Columbus also agreed to pay a $10,000 fine.
Rick Tilton, spokesman for the city’s Public Utilities Department, said the city is making sure this
doesn’t happen again.
"We had absolutely no intent on causing this kind of problem," Tilton said. "It’s important to us
that we are environmentally responsible."
Sludge, the solid leftovers of the sewage treatment process, is a common fertilizer in Ohio. The
Ohio EPA allows spraying of sludge on more than 8,800 farm fields, covering about 340,000
Tilton said the city incinerates most of its sludge, including 30,689 tons last year. Farms used
3,392 tons as fertilizer.
The sludge was sprayed on the Fayette County field from Jan. 19 to Feb. 2, records show.
Bowman said it ran into a ditch that drained into Paint Creek during a warm spell and a rainstorm.
Columbus worked for two days to stop the sludge from oozing into the creek after the problem
was discovered, according to EPA records.
Under the agreement with the Ohio EPA, Columbus promises not to apply sludge between Dec.
21 and March 1, or at any other time when the ground is frozen or covered with snow.
Columbus can still inject sludge into the ground in winter. Tilton said that’s the way the city
prefers to apply sludge on the 35 fields it uses across central Ohio.
Tilton said the city is looking for more environmentally friendly ways to dispose of sludge.
One option, he said, is to use it as fuel to help generate electricity.
He said the city may send sludge to an alternative-fuel generator at Scioto Downs racetrack.
"It looks like a real good option," Tilton said.