Resident questions use of sewage sludge


To the editor:

Interesting letter the week of July 11/2011, from the TNRD.  It would appear that the TNRD is being paid by the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) to accept Vancouver’s sewage sludge.

As in my previous letter of June 27, 2011, I repeat – the facts are as follows:

1. “Sewage sludge” is the legal term. The term ‘Bio-solids” was coined to increase public acceptance.

2. Returning composted human and animal manure to the land has been an accepted agricultural practice for hundreds of years. But present-day sewage sludge is wicked stuff – not only human biological wastes, but an accumulation of everything flushed down toilets or poured into the drains of a modern city. Sewage sludge contains toxins. All sewage sludge. Solvents, industrial wastes, various chemicals, expired prescriptions – you name it. And only the biological pathogens are destroyed through heating and composting.

3. The accumulation of sewage sludge has become a problem of gargantuan proportions in the lower mainland. Ocean dumping – the previous method of getting rid of the stuff –  has now been outlawed.

4. Lower mainland sludge is now commonly being used throughout B.C. to ‘reclaim’ remote sites after logging & mining. Drive the Merritt – Kelowna connector some day and have a look at the hundreds of acres of ‘reclaimed’ Brenda Mines site. The resulting lush growth always impresses folks. No matter our wildlife may be accumulating toxins from eating this lush growth.

5. Almost no research has been done on the long term cumulative effects of toxins when sludge is applied to the land. IF the stuff has been tested for chemical contaminants, (which the stuff being delivered to Barriere has not) ‘acceptable levels’ apply only to that batch, and do not consider the cumulative effect.

These toxins do not dissipate. They don’t break down and they don’t disappear. Like the DDT fiasco of a past generation, these toxins will accumulate in soils and in the food chain.

6. When I phoned the TNRD Environmental Services department last year, the fellow vehemently denied that the “compost” being delivered to Barriere landfill site contained any sewage sludge. This year they have devised a miraculous way of using sludge to make methane disappear, and are boasting about receiving an award for this benevolent practice! (Although they neglected to mention how frequently carbon dioxide is converted BACK to methane, or that both methane and carbon dioxide are ‘greenhouse’ gasses.)

7. The composted sludge that is being delivered to Barriere and elsewhere, according to the lower mainland lab that is doing the tests for the composting company, is NOT being tested for heavy metals or other industrial contaminants. Only the ‘basic compost package’ testing is being done. I phoned the lab and talked to them about it.

Perhaps this is why the TNRD was not initially admitting to the sewage component.

8.  The (U.S.) EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) completed two assessments in 2000 and 2002 of the EPA sewage sludge program. The follow-up report in 2002 documented that “the EPA cannot assure the public that current land application practices are protective of human health and the environment.”

The Capitol Regional District (Victoria) has recently banned land application of sewage sludge. I believe similar regulations exist throughout the province of Newfoundland.

Why is Barriere allowing this?

The TNRD has promised they will not again be applying Vancouver sludge (perhaps they plan to import other sludge?) anywhere within our district. Let’s make sure we hold them to it. We do not currently have nearly enough information on the long term effects of this practice.

The TNRD has worked hard with the help of many dedicated people to make the North Thompson an attractive place to live in so many ways. But they are way off base with this one. We don’t need Vancouver money THAT badly!

Bev Henry