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Experts to research sludge disposal safety

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Lawyers will review Ferris landfill's TNRCC application and contract with the city
Sheila Hatfield
The Ellis County Press
FERRIS - Waste Management's contract with the City of Ferris and recent application with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to use human waste for fertilizer in Skyline Landfill will be reviewed by attorneys who are called experts in these fields.

The application, submitted to the TNRCC on June 6, asks for authorization to land-apply domestic wastewater treatment plant sludge at agronomic rates on approximately 358.8 acres of the landfill.

'This application violates the city's contract with WM to make sure all garbage is covered in the landfill,' said Ferris City Councilman Victor Burnett.

Burnett said WM should have notified the city council regarding their plans to deposit this sludge and the city is totally unaware of the possible health hazards the sludge deposits might pose for citizens living near the landfill.

Rick Losa, WM division landfill manager for north Texas, said the sludge has always been accepted as part of WM's regular contract.

'What is unusual about this sludge, is we are now receiving more of it,' said Losa.

He said Trinity River Authority cleaned out their drying beds last year and has increased the amount of sludge they deposit in Skyline.

The landfill wants to make use of it in the form of fertilizer to promote growth on their grassy knolls and to help with erosion.

'We can do one of two things with it; put it into the other garbage and bury it every day like we handle any other waste or, because it is wastewater-treated sludge, (use it in a beneficial way),' said Losa.

He said the application for land use they submitted to TNRCC doesn't require publication, because the near-by landowners and county officials are sent notification from the TNRCC.

Burnett said the city should have also been notified, so the council could also decide if there was a potential health hazard for citizens within the 30-day deadline to submit comments against the permit to the TNRCC.

He requested two attorneys to be hired by the city to research the city's contract with WM and the application to the TNRCC.

Robert Hager, an attorney with Nichols, Jackson, Dillard, Hager and Smith, was hired to review WM's contract.

Hager is city attorney for Lancaster and was consulted on previous issues with the landfill. He will determine if the city's contract includes sludge storage and how it should be treated.

Attorney Linda Sorrells, a former TNRCC chief hearing officer, will review the TNRCC application to determine, 'whether or not its compatible with the surrounding area.'

'Their (TNRCC) focus is on the state requirements, my focus is on citizens, exclusively for the interest of Ferris,' said Sorrells.

Each attorney will receive a maximum of five hours pay at $150 per hour each, not to exceed $1,500 for the total research.

Scott Born was the only council person to disagree with hiring the attorneys. He said, 'We can't deny them doing it (the landfill getting the TNRCC permit).'

Councilman Fred Pontley said he didn't see a problem spending the money to make sure there isn't a potential problem for the citizens of Ferris.

Citizen Monique Foster also spoke at the regular council meeting Monday and an earlier special called meeting.

Foster, who has done extensive research on waste disposal, said the sludge is considered Class A waste, which contains higher concentrations of metals and arsenic than Class B.

'If it was a Class B, we wouldn't have to apply,' said Paula Carboni, WM compliance manager for the north Texas division.

Foster expressed concerns that once WM secured TNRCC permission for the land use, they might later accept fresh sludge versus the dried material the landfill said it is now receiving.

'That's what causes odor and a ‘vector attraction (rodents, mosquitoes, maggots, bacteria, etc.)',' said Foster.

She said out of eight WM landfills, Ferris' is the only one applying to use sludge as fertilizer.

'They're wanting to experiment on us again,' said Foster.

The attorneys will report back to the council on their findings and concerned citizens have until Dec. 28 to address comments to the TNRCC.

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