Residents concerned about proposed changes to Alabama's biosolid waste program

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North Alabamians are raising a stink with beneficial use by-products, also known as wastewater and industrial sludge on or near their properties.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) is proposing changes to the state’s biosolid waste program, but some folks in the Tennessee Valley are worried those possible changes won’t be enough to protect their health.

Wastewater by-product is human waste. We’re talking about the stuff leftover at the treatment plant after the water is cleaned to be pumped to your home. When it comes to industrial sludge, it can be anything left over from manufacturing processes. Often times, here in Alabama it is sludge from chicken processing plants.

Some who live in North Alabama are worried the state of Alabama does not regulate what’s in these sludgy mixes.

“The more people that show concern, the better case we have of getting this stopped in our state,” says Julie Lay, Marshall County resident.

In 2018, Alabama made national headlines when it was discovered trains were carrying loads of sewage containing human waste from New York to Alabama. That waste was dumped at a landfill outside the Birmingham area.

“Around here we had infestation of insects, flies, stink bugs, buzzards, it was just filth and you could smell it six miles away,” said David Brasfield, who lives in West Jefferson.

Beyond concerns about waste dumping at landfills, some neighbors worry about the health impacts from waste materials used as fertilizer on some farmland.

“It can impact streams, it can impact crops that are being raised from this land where they are growing crops,” said Lay.

On January 7, ADEM will hold a public meeting to discuss proposed changes to the state’s biosolid waste program. Julie Lay believes these new regulations won’t be enough.

“It’s more of a documentation procedure where they know where this is being applied, how much, and who is applying it,” said Lay.

Lay is encouraging those who have been impacted by the application of sludge to speak up.

“You need to write comments. It can be a simple letter that just says ‘hey this is what happened to me, these are my concerns.’ Write the letter. Send it to ADEM,” said Lay.

In a summary of reasons posted to its website, ADEM wrote the following:

“Revisions to the Division 13 are being proposed to adopt regulations for the beneficial use of by-product materials for the purpose of land application. The proposed regulations will establish procedures to encourage and regulate the land application of eligible non-hazardous by-product materials and will establish a timeline for the notification and registration application process. In addition, the proposed regulations create a registration program for entities that handle greater than 100 dry tons per year of beneficially use material for land application. These regulations provide ADEM with the regulatory framework to resolve issues regarding the handling, transportation, and application of beneficially use materials for land application that can cause human health and environmental issues.”

The public hearing will take place on January 7 at the ADEM Main Hearing Room at 1:30 p.m. in Montgomery.

The public hearing is being held to receive data, views, and arguments from interested persons regarding the proposed rules.  Attendance at the hearing is not necessary to present such data, views, arguments, or comments as the same may be submitted in writing, but must be received by the Hearing Officer prior to 5:00 p.m. on January 7, 2020.

Written submissions and other inquiries should be directed to: ADEM Hearing Officer, Office of General Counsel, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, P.O. Box 301463, Montgomery, AL 36130-1463 (street address: 1400 Coliseum Boulevard, Montgomery, AL 36110-2400) or by e-mail at Hearing.officer@adem.alabama.gov.

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