Sludge Ado About Nothing

Cary, NC – Stephen Brown, Town of Cary Public Works and Utility Director, wants to set the record straight about sludge. Anytime we get the opportunity to publish a headline containing the word “Sludge,” we’re in.

Ooops, Wrong Town!

A recent guest column in a local paper decries the dangers of Cary’s alleged processes of dealing with sewage, and the also subsequent labeling of the “solids” (must I explain what that is?) as “fertilizer”.

Mr. Brown says, “Betty Cross’s March 16 guest column ‘Is Sewage Sludge Safe on Crops?’ inaccurately portrays Cary’s wastewater treatment program.”

“The ‘new dewatering device’ discussed in the February 2 article ‘Waste Not, Want Not’ is actually located in Fuquay Varina, not Cary.

Cary’s sludge treatment process differs from Fuquay Varina’s. Cary uses a high-temperature thermal dryer (not incineration) that also destroys pathogens and inorganic compounds.”

Ms. Cross is co-chair of the Sewage Sludge Action Network in Hillsborough, NC. Protecting a healthy environment is a noble cause and benefits everyone. That’s why Cary is doing its part.

Cary’s Class A Fertilizer Pellets

Turns out that Cary hasn’t allowed the use of the resulting liquid sludge on farmland for 6 years. Cary’s drying/pelletizing process has been tested by the EPA and has received a “Class A – Exceptional” rating by the Environmental Protection Agency. The pellets, he claims, are safe for crop fertilizer and are monitored for metals and toxicity.

“Since Cary’s biosolids dryer was placed in service in 2005 we have been producing high quality pellets with rich fertilizer value that have proven to be a valuable market commodity,” Mr. Brown says.

“Cary’s wastewater management programs are just one example of our commitment to providing a high quality of life in the region by protecting public health and the environment.”

There ya have it. The straight poop.


Photo by Hal Goodtree, courtesy of Johnson County Nursery Marketing Association.


2 replies
  1. Matt Young
    Matt Young says:

    Thanks Caroline, since I was quoting the Town, I sent your comments on to Stephen Brown, Town of Cary Public Works and Utility Director.

    Matt, The Managing Ed.

  2. Caroline Snyder
    Caroline Snyder says:

    Matt Young’s comments about the safety of biosolids/sludge pellets are inaccurate. The drying and pelletizing process does NOT destroy all pathogens, nor does it destroy the many toxic organic and inorganic industrial chemical compounds contained in urban sludges. So-called EQ Class A sludge can legally contain 41 mg/kg of arsenic, 39 mg/kg of cadmium, 1,500 mg/kg of copper, 300 mg/kg of lead, 17 mg/kg of mercury 420 mg/kg of nickel and 2,800 mg/kg of zinc plus thousands of unregulated synthetic chemical compounds. Although indicator pathogens are reduced, other, more robust pathogens can survive the process and regrow, especially in cool and moist climates.
    Since Class A sludge often does not contain much nitrogen, it tends to be applied in high amounts, which means higher pollution per acre.

    The Federal Clean Water Act defines biosolids as a pollutant. Even dilutes in biosolids compost, the material is still a pollutant. Communities that want to preserve the health of their soil for future generations, might want to think twice before using biosolids pellets to grow crops. A much safer and more sustainable use for these pellets is to use them as a renewable source of non-fossil fuel energy.
    Visit for the real scoop.

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