With the influx of city dwellers fleeing the urban jungle, and farm acreage being cut into bite sized pieces to accommodate, sewage and wastewater are in the spotlight. Whether a holding tank or a septic field, there’s often a lot more going down then simply number one or number two. Household cleaners, toxic chemicals and now PFAS – known as “forever chemicals” are turning up in our sludge.
OK you say, but the truck sucks it up and takes it away. Ah, but there’s the rub. Where is it taken? The EPA will tell you more than half of all sewage sludge is spread on farmlands. And studies are showing farmers and farm workers are paying the price, not to mention the animals and humans who are eating from those fields or drinking from contaminated wells.
Organic standards do not allow the use of sewage sludge to be used as fertilizer. That’s one remedy. We have become very good at mitigating problems at there end point, but we have a long way to go to stop the very egregious actions that are creating the mess in the first place.
The state is becoming hyper vigilant in demanding every household be responsible to contain waste, while big polluters are given a pass. Simple composting and greywater systems which could offset waste are not permitted or are enforced in such a way that they still end up in the toxic stew scattered over farmlands. We’re not thinking this through.
Stop the production of PFAS, reduce the amount of chemicals being created and used, and allow common sense to return. We’re still living as though we have not heard that the earth is warming at an alarming rate, or that we could play a part in protecting it.
Biosolid Map: The spreading of wastewater sludge (biosolids) on agricultural land, a common practice dating to the 1980s, is concentrated in the eastern U.S. where groundwater depth is relatively shallow, raising concerns about widespread PFAS contamination affecting drinking water. Source: EPA webinar, “PFAS in Biosolids,” Sept. 23, 2020.