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


June 21, 2010

Sue Dayton
(336) 525-2003

League demands protection for NC drinking water from sewage sludge

Today at a press conference in Raleigh, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League called for a moratorium on the spreading of sewage sludge in critical watersheds. The League released two reports which detail sewage sludge spreading in critical areas that supply drinking water to downstream communities. These sites are located in Orange, Alamance, Gaston, Caldwell, Catawba, and Wake counties. The League maintains that these sludge sites pose an imminent hazard to public health and the environment.

The press conference was sponsored by Senator Ellie Kinnaird. Senator Kinnaird said, “This is a practice that the public is not aware of, and certainly not aware that the law that prohibits the permitting of sludge spreading in a critical watershed is not being followed. This is a loophole that needs to be closed to protect public health.”

Most of these sludge fields are on farmlands in Orange, Alamance, Gaston, Caldwell, and Catawba counties that receive free municipal sewage sludge from area wastewater treatment plants. Two of the sites located in Wake and Caldwell counties receive sludge primarily from commercial manufacturing operations. Mallinckrodt, Inc., manufactures pharmaceutical drugs and spreads sludge from its operations on its 29 fields, 9 of which are located in a critical watershed and 700 ft. from a water intake on the Neuse River.

Huffman Finishing Co. manufactures hosiery and spreads sludge from its operations on 2 permitted fields also located within a critical watershed. A loophole in the 1992 Watershed Water Supply Protection Act has allowed sewage sludge to continue to be spread in these critical drinking water supply areas.

Sue Dayton, coordinator for the League’s NC Healthy Communities project, explained, “Whether sludge comes from a commercial facility or a municipal wastewater treatment plant, it contains hazardous contaminants that can pose a risk to public health and the environment. We need to keep contaminants from this toxic brew out of our public drinking water supplies.”

The League and Senator Kinnaird recommended that the NC Division of Water Quality take immediate action on the following measures:

Enactment of moratorium by the Director of NC Division of Water Quality on sewage sludge spreading on all fields located in critical watersheds permitted prior to 1992 on the grounds that spreading sludge in critical watersheds poses an imminent hazard to public health and the environment.

Immediate removal of all sludge fields from permits issued after 1992 to satisfy the legal and protective requirements of the 1992 Water Supply Watershed Protection Act.

A comprehensive review by DWQ using digital information to identify locations of existing sludge fields to ensure they are not located in a critical watershed.

Requirement that new permittees submit a digital file to DWQ with the permit application showing the locations of newly proposed sludge fields.

Requirement that existing permittees submit a digital file to DWQ showing the locations of existing sludge fields.

Increase in the distance of 100 ft. to 1,000 ft. from sludge fields to private and public drinking supply sources, and surface waters which include streams - intermittent and perennial, perennial water bodies, wetlands, ephemeral streams, waterways and ditches.

Sewage sludge is made up of solids and semi-solids “filtered” from waste water effluent before discharging into rivers. Only a handful of chemicals are regulated by the state and federal government. Wastewater treatment plants are required to test for only 9 metals, total coliform and nutrients. Sludge is given to farmers to use as a “free fertilizer.”

Numerous studies have shown that contaminants concentrate in sewage sludge and include pathogens, PCBs, pesticides, prescription and non-prescription pharmaceuticals, hormones, steroids, endocrine disrupting chemicals, polymers, flame retardants (PBDEs), dioxins, nonylphenols, phthalates, heavy metals, radioactive substances, industrial solvents, and landfill leachate. Many of these chemicals destroy the reproductive systems of fish and other aquatic life. The long-term impacts of sewage sludge on public health and the environment are not fully known, but scientists are extremely concerned.

For more information contact Sue Dayton, NC Healthy Communities at: 336-525-2003 or



Sludge Spreading in Critical Watersheds in North Carolina

Why sludge should be banned from critical watersheds


Map of Permitted Sludge Fields in Critical Watersheds of North Carolina Sludge fields permitted before 1992

Map of Permitted Sludge Fields in Critical Watersheds of North Carolina Sludge fields permitted after 1992