Sludge concerns in Alamance County

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ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C.--- Saxpahaw Village residents want to stop sludge or sewage waste, from spraying near their schools and businesses.

Burlington City Council members voted Tuesday night to stop sludge spreading during school hours.

Three elementary schools are within 1,000 feet of the some of the sludge spreading locations; about 500 feet further than the required limit.

Water Resources Director Bob Patterson said the 6.5 million gallons that enter the water treatment plant each day in the city is tested, treated and left with nine metals that fall under the accepted EPA regulations.

"It's known as a beneficial reuse. There are nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus that act as a fertilizer;it's regulated by the EPA and the state department of environment and resources," Patterson said.

"Depending on their waste water flows we have limits that they have to meet they're tested periodically throughout the year," he added.

Farmers must qualify to have their land sprayed with the sludge based on land mass before the process begins at no compensation.

There are about 115 farm fields at 4,000 acres that are sprayed with the sludge one to two times a year, depending on crop rotation and scheduling.

Farmer Suzanne Nelson of Saxspahaw Village Farms said once or twice is one too many and believes banning spraying during school hours is a small step.

"The legacy of them [metals and chemicals] lives on for generations and generations, and so those toxic things in the field don't break down. So our children's children are going to be eating that and breathing that it doesn't go away," Nelson said.

Patterson said they are working with area principals to schedule spraying during spring breaks.

Other alternatives to sludge spraying could include landfill placement in Roxboro or filtering the sludge to a powder substance, however, these options would cost the city thousands of extra dollars.