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Biosolids plan gets blessing of state

Recyc Systems Inc. to use municipal sewage sludge

By Preston Knight-pknight@nvdaily.com

The State Water Control Board has approved Recyc Systems Inc.'s permit to spread biosolids on two farms around Mt. Jackson.

The company will apply the substance, which is treated municipal sewage sludge used as fertilizer, on 638.3 acres of farmland. The proposal, first publicized as encompassing 1,755 acres around Mt. Jackson and Maurertown in March 2009, has sparked public outcry about potential public health effects and pollution into the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Bill Hayden said the permit was approved Tuesday morning in Richmond by a 6-1 vote. Water compliance manager Gary Flory said there was one special condition attached to the vote, requiring that if within 38 months of sludge application the land ownership changes, the former owner has an obligation to make the new one aware of certain state restrictions that exist.

Wilson Eastep and Jonathon Day are the landowners of the two Mt. Jackson-area farms. Eastep was unavailable for comment, and a phone number for Day was not immediately available.

In addressing people's concerns, Day, though, has said that he would not abuse his land and harm his family in the process of working with Recyc.

And the company, on its website and through Vice President and Technical Manager Susan Trumbo at a local hearing in July, has assured that the environment will be protected.

"Since 1983, Recyc Systems has proudly served as a bridge between cities and farms throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, providing a win-win solution through earth-friendly, beneficial reuse," the site states.

To a few dozen local residents, who wrote DEQ this summer and spoke out against the permit during the July hearing, and the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors, which passed a resolution last month in opposition to it, the situation sounds more like a loss.

Recyc's permit represents the first time sludge will be brought into the county.
Dennis Atwood, chairman of the county water resources advisory committee, said six people, including County Administrator Doug Walker and Shenandoah Riverkeeper Jeff Kelble, joined him to speak to the water board Tuesday to express disapproval of the permit. He said the board and DEQ have not addressed several key points during the entire process, including protection of the environment and public health and ramifications the addition of phosphorous would have on the bay's total maximum daily loads for pollutants.

The board's vote for the permit was consistent with its previous actions on similar matters, Atwood added.

"It's not an unexpected outcome," he said, "but we continue to be concerned."
On Wednesday, board member Robert Wayland, who approved the permit, said there are always site-specific concerns with sludge permits.

In the Recyc case, one concern Atwood and others raised dealt with the Mt. Jackson farm area's karst geology and flooding.

Wayland, a White Stone resident who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency for nearly 30 years, said he did not hear any reason to deny Recyc's permit.

"I don't believe, as a general matter, that sludge or biosolids application to agricultural fields is a significant risk to the public, either the landowners or neighbors," he said.

Atwood said the lone dissenting vote came from Roberta Kellum, of Franktown. She could not be reached for comment.

1 Comment

Considering the large amounts of drinking water that get pulled out of the Shenandoah River by the various municipalities, you'd think more people would be voicing some opposition to this. I just don't get a warm fuzzy feeling that Virginia gives one hoot about water quality.

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