Letters to the Editor

Calling for caution

Thank you to the CDT for keeping the community on top of the biosolids controversy (4/20). I’m retired now, but when I worked for the DEP’s Bureau of Solid Waste Management as a soil scientist, I evaluated sites proposed for biosolids (then known as sludge, before clever PR types rebranded the human waste byproducts).

When I worked for state government, I was never comfortable when agricultural land was permitted to be used for renovating sludge that passed EPA guidelines.

Like almost all biosolids, Bellefonte’s materials include industrial discharges from large and small businesses in Bellefonte and nearby townships. No waste treatment plant can effectively remove heavy metals and other potentially dangerous chemicals from its biosolids. As one example, plants will selectively uptake heavy metals like cadmium over essential nutrients like calcium, and if animals headed for human consumption eat such vegetation, it enters our food chain. Our bones could potentially incorporate some cadmium as the body is fooled into thinking it’s calcium, and skeletal structure can thus be compromised (among other potential physical problems). Heavy metals also come from old pipes (lead pipes, solder and brass fixtures) and other sources.

I’m not trying to be an alarmist, and I’m all for safe recycling of human waste, but I think we should be more judicious in the use of biosolids on farmlands, aside from concerns about higher susceptibility of water contamination to Big Spring and Zone 2.

Douglas M. Mason, Port Matilda