Collins: Mayor needs to come clean on sludge issueWritten by D. Michael Collins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The debate that took place last month in Toledo City Council as to whether N-Viro or S&L Fertilizer Company should have exclusive contract rights to collect and relocate the sludge from the Waste Water Treatment Plant was not my primary focus. My concern was where this sludge was going to end up after the removal from our Bay View Facility.
Sanitary sewer sludge is processed at the Wastewater Treatment Plant located in Point Place. The actual process consists of separating the solid waste material from the water, which is then cleaned and reintroduced to Maumee Bay. The United States EPA and the City of Toledo are under a consent decree as a result of previous illegal processes involving the plant operation. The consent forbids the city from dumping the raw sewage directly into Maumee Bay.
Water is separated from the solid waste material. The solid waste material becomes a biosolid and, depending on the next step, will be classified as a Class A or Class B biosolid.
A Class A biosolid is processed with heat and pH adjustments. When properly treated there is no detectable level of pathogens present. This Class A biosolid may then be legally used as an agriculture soil application without crop harvesting restrictions.
The Class B biosolid is processed through a “digester” and most of the pathogens and bacteria decompose. This may be applied to land with stringent requirements, such as not where crops are grown for human consumption or where humans will come into contact with it without warning.
The concern I have is the company under contract, which will place 50,000 tons of Class B biosolids on a “man made island” in the Maumee Bay. The actual collection area is called a URCDF which stands for “ultimate recycling contained disposal facility.” The Army Corps of Engineers developed this area, also referred to as “Facility 3,” in the mid-1970s as an alternative to the practice of dumping dredgings into Lake Erie. Placing the dredged material in a controlled environment was to prevent toxins and other forms of contamination from being recycled into Lake Erie.
The City of Toledo records report that from January 2008 to Oct. 5, 2011 there have been 16,859 tons of Class B biosolids placed on Facility 3. The new contract calls for placing an additional 50,000 tons per year for the next three years. The Class B biosolids have phosphorus and potassium as well as other trace elements present. In addition, pathogens identified as e. coli, coliform and other disease mechanisms are also present.
In July 2010, Dr. Robert K. Vincent, in a report from Blue Water Satellite, said satellite images of Facility 3 demonstrated both total phosphorus and e. coli were present on the water surface.
On Oct. 11, Shannon Nabors of the Ohio EPA said, “Because of the silt and clay content in the dredge material and because of the construction standards of Facility 3, pathogen migration through the dredged material and into the Maumee Bay is unlikely.”
The City of Toledo produced two water quality tests, one from 2010 and a second from 2011.
With conflicting information being given, my sole request was to have the soil tested in the facility and along the shore. There has never been a soil study presented to determine if the practice of placing Class B biosolids on Facility 3 is safe and is based on sound scientific principles.
Soil testing can be achieved at a cost of $5,000 through the University of Toledo. If we are to be held accountable as good stewards of our most valuable resource, Lake Erie, decisions made on the best science available are a must, not an option.
Why would the administration refuse to seek confirmation that the practice of placing Class B biosolids on Facility 3 is safe and has no negative environmental issues? Since the contractor operates under a city permit, the City of Toledo becomes liable if the practice should be determined unsafe and major remediation is required.
Since the Bell administration feels this is a safe Class B biosolids process, why not confirm their belief with an independent professional evaluation? Have we not learned anything from our experiences with the Stickney and Dura dumps?
D. Michael Collins is Toledo City Councilman for District 2.