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stevehink
Contributor

human sludge as fertilizer

My neighbor is having human sludge, what ever that is, spread on his fields. This will be the third year of spreading. His crops are the worst in the valley. In fact, 30 feet from his property is an other farmer's crops which have not had human sludge applied. The difference in appearance is like night and day. I don't know the yields.

 

Everything is supposely legal. The sludge comes from a city 50 miles away. It seems to me if this sludge was OK to use, farmers in between would be clamoring for it. I assume everything that can be dumped down the drain will be. That means everything under the sun, technically not correct, but alot of bad stuff will end up in the fields.

 

I am looking for thoughts on this topic. Thanks.

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15 Replies
Jim Meade / Iowa City
Senior Advisor

Re: human sludge as fertilizer

I have a neighbor down the road who uses it annually.  There are a lot of posts about it on the internet, some of them fear-driven, it seems to me.

But, I'd be worried about any heavy metals making it past the screening processes.  You can't get that out of the soil.

Sludge woould be only one part of a fertilzier program, so it's hard to know if it beeds ti be augmented with other elements. 

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: human sludge as fertilizer

I did fairly extensive research into the use of biosolids, both on farmland and reclaimed mined land, several years ago. Wnat are your specific concerns?

I can tell you that their use is governed just like any use of manure for nutrients on cropland. Application will not exceed the " agronomic rate" ...that is, what the growing crop should take up and utllize in a given growing cycle.

Most times, in these situations, you are dealing with Class B biosolids...which mean they are analyzed for heavy metals and
pathogens. Class B is defined as having 90% killed pathogens. Class A is supposed to be 100% killed pathogens.

Usually, biosolids are termed to be " lime stabilized, " which mean as that lime is applied along with them, to optimize their uptake by the crop. pH is, of course, the main determining factor in nutrient uptake by plants....actually, by all living things.

I can tell you that - unless new decisions have rendered past rulings in court to the contrary - legally, use of biosolids is protected
under the interstate commerce clause of the US Constitution. As an adjoiningroperty owner, you can insist upon appropriate
setbacks from your occupied property, water wells, etc. For example, I think the property line setback in Virgnia, where i have dealt
with biosolids regulatorily, is 200 feet. That is pretty typical of most biologically derived nutrient sources.

Yes, municipal waste streams have everything dumped down the drain in them, but you can request the public records related to applications, and see the exact analyses for measured toxins and pathogens. You can see the entire permit for the application.

Before you say too much about how this farmer's crops appear to you, you might consider that the may be using a lower input
approach to agriculture. As you say, you do not know their yields...and the really important number isn't just yield, but return per acre...net. Zero for lime and fertilizer puts this guy way ahead in that equation....as anyone here can tell you. It is the bottom line, not
just income per acre, that determines the validity of his decisions. Regardless, it is his business, not really yours, how his crops look, and what he earns per acre.

I have given you the most basic elements of biosolids information. No need to get more detailed, until you take this much and
expand upon that with your own research, then come back with more educated observations.

Basically, if this guy controls the land, the law allows him to utilize biosolids in a legally compliant manner...it is a property right he
enjoys. If you want to control whatever happens on a piece of land, you have to either own it or rent it and get the owner to
cooperate, Just being next-door is immaterial....
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belarus
Senior Contributor

Re: human sludge as fertilizer

Most fertilizer has components that would have to go to a hazardous waste landfill if it wasn't being sold as fertilzer.  One of the easiest ways to make a fortune is someone that figures out a product that costs a lot to get rid of and turn it into a product that gets sold.  60 minutes did a story on the fertilizer industry a while back on this very issue so I'd be careful on this issue.  Personally, I wouldn't want it on mine or my neighbors land.

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: human sludge as fertilizer

Well, you can choose for yourself, but not for your neighbor....
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belarus
Senior Contributor

Re: human sludge as fertilizer

I don't think you've followed very many of my posts.  I'm not of a fan of industrialised food and crazy practices but I don't think its the role of the government to stop that.  That is what the marketplace and consumers are for.  If people want cheaper food produced with synthetic fertilizer, human sludge, pesticides, gmo's, antibiotics, etc then more power to them.  If they don't, then they have to realise its very expensive to choose otherwise.    Our government is already out of control.  They couldn't come up with sane and reasonable rules and regulations on food, feed, and fuel.

  Our government would be reigned back in with two things.  First is congressman should live in their district and not DC.  The technology is here to make that feasable.  It would make their constituents instead of lobbyist more accessable to them.  Then, citizens and not employors should have to pay their payroll tax.  I shouldn't have to send it in semi weekly.  They should have to chase these people down for their checks.  It would take two months before our country was straightened out.  The first few paychecks the people would be thrilled how big their checks are.  The bill at the end of the first month would catch them off guard.  By the second month we would have riots in the street..   Let the bullets fly.  Its time to straighten this mess out.  lol

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: human sludge as fertilizer

Oh, GOD! Not the bullets flying again.

If employers didn't do the withholdings, they would never get done...and since we have to contribute to FICA and Medicare, what's the difference? I don't like having to do it, either, but the onynthing that would improve the supituation would be a true flat tax...now THAT I could get next to....

I honestly feel that humane ought to be by law utlilized within 25 miles of it's point of generation, and garbage should be disposed that close to home, too. The courts have granted both interstate commerce protections, though, so it is what it is....
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belarus
Senior Contributor

Re: human sludge as fertilizer

Yes, Kay, I wish I was wrong but I think the bullets will fly some day.  Not me but it will happen.  Americans eventually won't take it anymore.   I think the corporate takeover of America and the segregation of income and wealth will be the biggest driving factors.

I think the government is pathetic.  Why should I have to collect and send them money from employees semi weekly with no compensation?  So the government employees can be extremely productive at coming up with ways to harass me? 

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: human sludge as fertilizer

You know, I have to say this. First, it is the meat insPection people from USDA. Now, it's the IRS.

You keep having problems with the government. Sort of reminds me of the guy my husband worked within the railroad, who at about age 30 was having trouble with his third wife.
One of the old guys on the crew said, " **bleep**, boss, you have to say to yourself 'It just might be me....'".

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belarus
Senior Contributor

Re: human sludge as fertilizer

I'm fully compliant with the IRS and the USDA but that doesn't mean that their regulations are interpretted or implemented sane and reasonably at my facility.   Our government is pretty inept.   I'm one of those kind of people that think our country is out of control and the government is the cause of the overwhelming majority of the chaos.  Perhaps, just perhaps, its not me cause most of the people know know could never get the USDA to inspect a processing plant on their farm.  (We are one of less than half a dozen in the whole country).  And most of the people you know never have enough employees to make it to semi weekly deposit requirements for withholding.

 

Spoiler
 

 

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