Jackson County residents petition against the use of biosolids on farms

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JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. - Residents in the town of Flat Rock are speaking out about the use of bio-solids, formerly known as treated sewer sludge, on farms.

"The smell was horrible," said Darlene Higdon. Members of the Flat Rock community are petitioning against the use of biosolids, formerly known as sewer sludge, in Jackson County. "People are very polarized on this. Some people say it's safe. Some people say it's not safe," said Higdon.

She and her neighbors have many concerns. "We happen to believe in this day in age that there are other alternatives that we can be using if used correctly are safer for the environment than treated sewer sludge."

The rancid smell and its contents were so concerning that the residents went to the source. "I wouldn't put it around my tomatoes, and I don't think most people would put it around their tomatoes," said Higdon.

Denali Water Solutions distributes the biosolids. After so many complaints, they decided to pull the use of them out of Flat Rock. After receiving this information, we did a little research.

Biosolids are created at the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant. Biosolids Coordinator Karen Styers said wastewater goes through several processing steps and labs.

They must present the contents of the biosolids to the EPA for regulation. The use of biosolids is protected by the EPA in the standards for the use or disposal of sewage sludge.

Once tests are passed and permits are received, it is then distributed to farms as fertilizer for no cost. While this sounds good for a lot of small local farmers, residents still have their doubts.

"Our plan is just to continue to let everyone know we don't want biosolids in our communities," says Higdon. "We are hoping that once the petitions have all been signed that the council members will actually be able to take that and in self governance say this is something we don't want to see in our communities."

Residents of Flat Rock met with the county commission last week. The commission said it's looking into the issue and what can be done.

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