The Hot Poop on Fertilizer from Sewage

Lloyd Alter, Toronto June 14, 2008

In Ontario, Canada, they get a lot of sewage sludge out of the treatment plants; 120,000 tonnes are spread on 37,000 acres of agricultural land. Some farmers love it because it is free, while other fertilizers are getting very expensive; others refuse to touch the stuff. The Star is running a fascinating series on it, starting with the scary ingredients:

“Feces, urine, vomit, blood. Synthetic hormones, heart pills, antibiotics, illicit drugs, Viagra. Bacteria, viruses, E. coli, parasites. Household cleaners, shampoo, solvents, pesticides and traces of arsenic, mercury, cadmium, lead, dioxins and flame retardants.”

Biosolids in sludge used as fertilizer

The Star notes that the contents and effects of sludge have not really been studied well:

“A complete analytical characterization of sludge’s pathogen, endotoxin and chemical contaminant composition has never been attempted,” says researcher Dr. Rob Hale of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Furthermore, many companies won’t touch the stuff, including Del Monte, Campbell Soup and Gerber. “Not enough is known about biosolids, they say.”

So why is it good enough for the rest of us? Another reason to go organic…

The Star