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SLUDGE VICTIMS

May 2001 update - compiled by Helane Shields - prepared for WWW by ESRA

The new treatment process Myers described would remove potentially dangerous pathogens. The utility could even go further, turning the sludge into a solid and removing that putrid smell. Only one other sewage treatment plant in the state - in the northwest Alabama town of Sheffield - treats sewage so thoroughly, he said.

Grand Bay resident Gary Schaefer, the utility's biggest critic, couldn't be happier that the board is considering the change, he said. But unless the utility removes the liquid from the sludge and tums it into a solid that it can bag and sell, it won't eliminate his concerns, he said.

"I just don't want any more spraying in my neighborhood," Schaefer said. "If it's still liquid, it can still cause headaches and nausea."

Schaefer and others in his Grand Bay neighborhood believe they've gotten rashes and headaches from the sludge, which is also known by the term: biosolids. The utility has been trucking the biosolids to Grand Bay for about 14 years, Schaefer said. He believes the pressure he and his neighbors have put on the utility is prompting them to consider more thorough methods of treating the sludge.

Utility board Chairman Mark Nix directed Myers to take the study one step further and find potential customers for the "Class A" sludge, as the more sanitized waste is known. Finding customers could mean cutting back on the cost of trucking the sludge to Grand Bay, which runs about $700,000 a year.

Besides being less environmentally friendly, the utility also has very limited options for how it can dispose of the "Class B" sludge it now produces. When it is applied to a field in Grand Bay, for example, the sod can't be harvested for a vear. If the less-treated sludge is applied to food crops, it cannot be harvested for
4 (? illegible) months, Myers told the board


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