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Neighbors complain of foul smells from human sludge

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SHERRY LONG
The Ellis County Press

FERRIS - Neighbors of Southcreek Ranch along Malloy Bridge Road, just east of Interstate 45, are concerned about a possible health hazard and odor emitting from the treated human waste sewage or biosolids resident Ray Wallace has been spreading on his ranch.

Trinity River Authority of Texas Public Information Office Debbie Bronson describes biosolids as everything coming out of your kitchen sink and your toilet after they have been through a treatment phase and tested.

Truckloads of biosolids generated from Trinity River Authority's Central Regional Water Reclamation plant have been hauled into the area and stockpiled about a half mile east of Parkinson Road causing the odor problems.

'Trucks come at night and on weekends to dump it,' said Barbara Bradshaw, a local resident said.

Area residents have observed two large piles, one on Malloy Bridge Road and the other on Wolf Springs being dumped on Wallace's property.

The piles are supposed to be bulldozed daily with the sludge being placed into spreaders to disperse the waste onto Wallace's pasture.

By dispersing class A biosolids on his property, Wallace can legally allow the waste to stand for 240 days because it is illegal to apply the sludge to extremely wet land.

Neighbors worry if the area is hit by a major thunderstorm the sludge will run off into the Trinity River possibly polluting local water supply and water wells.

They also say they are concerned about the effect the biosolids will have on cattle grazing on the land.

Built under the supervision of TRA Biosolids Engineer John Greer, Wallace's property has two wet class A weather pads underlined with geotex material to prevent the area from becoming saturated by runoff said Bronson.

She said biosolids are tested and treated for various pathogens before being applied anywhere.

Biosolids are divided into two classes: A and B.

Class A biosolids are the highest quality solid, not requiring permits.

According to the EPA's website biosolids in this class have 'pathogens in these biosolids to be reduced to below detectable levels.'

'Pathogens must be significantly reduced but not below detectable levels for Class B biosolids,' according to an EPA website.

The TRA contends biosolids actually help the soil by retaining water while reducing erosion and runoff.

In February 1993 Environmental Protection Agency introduced 'Standards for the use or disposal or sewage sludge' or biosolids.

Sludge can be disposed of in three various ways according to the report.

It may be spread or sprayed across the surface of land, thrown in a landfill or

incinerated.

Regional Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Frank Espiano said the treated human waste can 'not allowed to be applied to a crop with direct human consumption, ' such as a fruit or vegetable.

Bronson contends that treated sewage is totally safe.

She said biosolids are a natural fertilizer, and it is safer than using a chemical.

'Our waste is richer than any other animal,' she said

In a 1999 report Bronson said, 'Cows/calves prefer crops grown with biosolids by 50% to other crops. The crops not only look and taste better to the cows, the high plant crude protein and mineral content for feed crops grown with biosolids result in a 30% increase in calf weaning weights. Cows grazing on biosolid-fed crops do not need supplemental protein during the winter months and do not use mineral blocks or salt licks as much.'

Neighbors are also disgusted with the odor admitting from the piles of biosolids mounded on Wallace's property.

'It's nearly impossible to breathe when they first spread this stuff,' Bradshaw said.

Brunson admits biosolids have a distinct strong odor, but she said it the stench dies down quickly.

Bradshaw says Wallace tried to purchase her land, but she refused to sell.

'He's trying to run-off the few small land owners remaining in the area because there may be plans to run Loop 9 through this location.'

Wallace did not respond to numerous messages.

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