Virginia Department of Health
Bedford County sludge disposal on farmland
Health officials are not supposed to lie to the public or to reporters. But they lied to John Barnett and the
people of Bedford County when they said it was safe..
The Class B designation means that it has been treated to the point where 95 percent of human pathogens have been
killed. Tests are performed to confirm this.
There are no tests to confirm that human pathogens have been killed -- in fact --:
"Haley said that the maximum fecal coliform level allowable in Class B biosolids is is 2 million bacteria per dry gram."
Lets do the math --two million E. coli bacteria x 1,000 grams = two billion E. coli per kilogram ( 2.2 lbs.) of
sludge/biosolids. How does that confirm that any human pathogens have been killed?
According to Scott Haley, a VDH biosolids specialist, they use fecal coliform as an indicator of proper treatment. These
are bacteria that exist in everybody's intestines and help us digest food. If these bacteria are below a certain limit, it
means that other types of bacteria have also been eliminated.
Why would Scott Haley lie. As a VDH bioosolids specialist he should know a little about disease organisms
and the test in question. All coliform bacteria Families are now disease causing. Most are drug resistant
and cause necrotizing "flesh eating" diseases. As EPA states the test [for E.coli] indicate the possible
presence of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria, viruses, and protozoans, not the elimination of other
types of bacteria.
This test is used because it is easy to perform and, according to Hicks, is very reliable
Actually there is nothing reliable about the test. In 1954 it was shown that human pathogens survived much
longer than the test coliforms. It doesn't included viruses. Not only that but the test in question is based on
non-detection of disease causing organisms -- not elimination of disease organisms. There is no
consideration for the 1,400 non-detectable (viable but nonculturable) human pathogens in sludge
The county can have the same fecal coliform and trace element tests performed that VDH does and be reimbursed for
Why wouldn't the county test for infectious bacteria, viruses, fungi and other organisms causing pneumonia,l
foodborne illnesses as well as other respiratory and heart health problem. They all require bosafety level 2 procedures
for handling in the laboratory.
Why would the county want to preform the same test VDH does. EPA states that exposure to any pollutants (not just
nine) in sludge/biosolids will cause death, disease, cancer, etc.
VDH says biosolids not dangerous
By John Barnhart
Wednesday, December 27, 2006 9:53 AM EST
According to Virginia Department of Health (VDH) officials, biosolids don't
pose a health or environmental risk.
Biosolids is another name for stabilized sewage sludge. A number of
companies haul the sludge from sewage treatment plants and spread it on farm
fields. Land application of biosolids in Bedford County is done by Synagro,
a Texas based company.
Bob Hicks is the director of VDH's Office of Environment of Health Services.
Hicks said that all sewage treatment plants are required to test sludge
destined for land application. Contractors that do land application often do
testing, but the treatment plants are the primary testers. They are required
to do this and submit the results in a monthly report to VDH.
VDH, itself, also conducts random tests of what the folks doing land
application are spreading. Hicks said that, this year, they performed a
concentrated testing effort on major appliers. Synagro is a major applier.
This test was performed as the contractors brought loads to fields.
What is being spread in Bedford County is Class B biosolids. The Class B
designation means that it has been treated to the point where 95 percent of
human pathogens have been killed. Tests are performed to confirm this.
According to Scott Haley, a VDH biosolids specialist, they use fecal
coliform as an indicator of proper treatment. These are bacteria that exist
in everybody's intestines and help us digest food. If these bacteria are
below a certain limit, it means that other types of bacteria have also been
eliminated. Haley said that the maximum fecal coliform level allowable in
Class B biosolids is is 2 million bacteria per dry gram.
"Typically we see levels that are much lower," Haley said.
This test is used because it is easy to perform and, according to Hicks, is
very reliable. Hicks said that this is the same test that water treatment
plants use on potable water.
Haley said that tests are also performed for trace elements. These are
arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium and
zinc. Some of these, such as copper, selenium and zinc are, in the proper
concentration, vital nutrients. At excessive levels, they are toxic.
"We base our quality on federal [EPA] standards," said Haley.
Hicks said that Bedford County can adopt an ordinance that provides for
testing of what is being spread on Bedford County fields. The county can
have the same fecal coliform and trace element tests performed that VDH does
and be reimbursed for the cost. To pay for this, VDH assesses a $2.50 per
ton fee on biosolids. Tests can also be done on wells and ground water.
According to Hicks, VDH encourages these tests and provides instructions for
"We don't have any evidence of people living nearby having health problems
due to the land application of biosolids," Hicks said.
People in Bedford County who believe they have gotten sick because of
biosolids being spread nearby may contact Dr. Katherine Nichols at (434)
947-6777, according to Kelly Lobanov, VDH's communications director. Lobanov
said that Dr. Nichols can confer with their physician, with their
The actual application of biosolids is based on field and crop needs,
according to Haley. Prior to spreading biosolids on a field, the soil should
be tested. One concern is that a field does not have too much nitrogen
applied to it. If the soil already has plenty of nitrogen, extra nitrates
will end up in ground water.
Haley said that the company applying biosolids is required to test a field,
prior to application. The amount applied will then be based on the soil and
crop. Synagro must make reports of this to VDH and VDH verifies the crops
and that the application rate is correct.
Hicks said that it's important to keep biosolids out of streams. The VDH
bans biosolids application on steep slopes and requires buffers to prevent
this. They also ban biosolids application in areas with a high water table,
although that isn't an issue in Bedford County.
Before a permit to spread biosolids is issued, according to Hicks, each site
is reviewed in the field by a VDH staff member.