PO Box 44 ~ Saxapahaw, North Carolina 27340 ~ Phone (336) 525-2003 ~ Email:


January 23, 2008

Sue Dayton
BREDL-NC Healthy Communities
(336) 525-2003

First State-Held Public Hearing to Take Place in NC on Land Application of Sewage Sludge

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources Division of Water Quality recently announced it would hold a public hearing concerning the City of Burlington’s renewal of its permit to land apply sewage sludge in five counties in North Carolina. The hearing is the first state-held hearing ever held on the land application of sewage sludge.

The City of Burlington disposes of sewage sludge from its two wastewater treatment plants in five counties in North Carolina: Alamance, Orange, Chatham, Caswell and Randolph. In 2006 City of Burlington’s applier, Synagro, sprayed over 11 million gallons of sludge on farmlands in Alamance County, followed by Chatham (5,382,000 gals); Randolph (5,356,000 gals); Caswell (3,952,000 gals); and Orange (3,250,000 gals).

Local members of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) working on sewage sludge issues requested the hearing. Sue Dayton, BREDL’s coordinator for the NC Healthy Communities program, praised the state’s decision to hold a hearing, adding that the hearing concerning the City of Burlington’s permit was long overdue, in part because the city had been operating on an expired permit for close to four years.

“The current system used by the state makes it impossible for meaningful public involvement, there is no system of checks and balances to ensure that land application regulations and guidelines are being met, and there is a lack of communication between state regulators and county governments concerning land application of sewage sludge. Counties have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of their citizens, and this includes protection of our surface waters and precious farmlands.”

Sludge is the solids and semi-solids from industrial, medical and household sewage wastes that are separated from wastewater before the effluent is processed for release into rivers and streams. Sludge is sprayed on farmlands as an economical and convenient way to get rid of sewage sludge. Wastewater treatment plants supply sludge to farmers to be used as a fertilizer. However, sludge contains thousands of compounds that are not completely destroyed by conventional treatment methods at wastewater treatment plants. These include pathogens, heavy metals, industrial pollutants, pharmaceuticals, and toxic chemicals found in personal care products. Many people who live next to properties being sprayed have experienced adverse health effects from illnesses they attribute to sewage sludge.

A date for the public hearing has not yet been announced. For more information contact Sue Dayton, BREDL, NC Healthy Communities: 336-525-2003