UPDATE: Sludge facility must hire a consultant to determine impact on river, lakeWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
S&L Fertilizer, the company that handles all of the city’s sludge, will have to hire a consultant to determine the impact that the company’s Maumee Bay site might have on the river and Lake Erie.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has mandated “meaningful water and soil sampling data” through computerized models and sampling plans as a result of numerous complaints surrounding the facility.
“It’s a legitimate concern; there are good questions being asked,” said Dina Pierce, spokesperson for the Ohio EPA. “Obviously the western basin is a very sensitive area from an ecological standpoint.”
Most complaints have flooded in from N-VIRO, the company with which the city contracted prior to switching entirely to S&L. Councilman D. Michael Collins, who has hammered the agency with records requests for months regarding S&L, shared similar concerns with N-VIRO, Pierce said.
S&L has operated under the city’s permit for years but new regulations require that the company apply for its own. The permit is still in the draft stages, and the agency is amending pieces of it based on concerns that arrived during the public comment period, Pierce said.
The particular sampling that the EPA will now require of S&L is not protocol for all permits of this type, she said.
“The question keeps getting asked over and over and this is an attempt for us to say, ‘let’s just do it,” she said.
She pointed out that S&L’s facility takes up only a small portion of the entire island on which it sits. Sampling could also help answer the question as to what extent environmental impact is attributed to the company compared to the entire area, which the Lucas County Port Authority operates. The island has been filled with dredging material for decades so it is unlikely that any potential problems would be the sole responsibility of the sludge facility, Pierce said.
“We’ve done inspections out there and we see no evidence that there is any run off getting into the lake from S&L operations,” she said.
S&L Fertilizer has leased property on the island for decades, accepting a portion of the city’s waste, mixing it with other materials and sending some remains to the Hoffman Road Landfill. The result is called “Nu Soil.”
Until recently, N-VIRO handled Toledo’s bio-waste. The company would take about 50 percent of the waste and mix it with high alkaline products, which raises the temperature and kills E. coli, worms and fecal coliform. The company sent its product to farmers across Northwest Ohio for its fertilizer-like qualities, said Robert Bohmer, vice president of N-VIRO.
N-VIRO produces what is considered a Class A biosolids. S&L produces a Class B. This means that 98-99 percent of the pathogens have been removed and it is unlikely to spread disease. The city can use Class B material at landfills, but needs an EPA permit to spread the muck elsewhere. Once approved, farmers can use it in fields, depending on the crop, as long as the area is restricted from human contact for a designated numbers of days.
Cities can also use the product at places like public parks as long as they fence off the area for a year.
The city made the deal with S&L on the condition that the company produce at least $200,000 worth of top soil annually. Collins, Council members Lindsay Webb and Rob Ludeman voted against the contract.
The city had completed its own testing of the surrounding environment and results came up clean. Collins insisted that the city ought to employ an independent consultant to test the soil at the facility, but most council members declined.
Check toledofreepress.com for more information as the story develops.