John Poppe of West Sound Utility District tells me that his phone has been ringing off the hook over biosolids — processed sewage sludge — that will soon be offered to anyone free of charge.
I announced in Monday’s Kitsap Sun that the utility district had received a Class A certification for its “pasteurized” biosolids. The certification allows the material to be used even on vegetable gardens, because the certified treatment process is designed to destroy all measurable pathogens.
Biosolids have been proven to be a rich soil amendment, but their use remains controversial. I consider the controversy to be in the realm of debates where the question is, “How safe is safe?”
Some people worry about active compounds, such as pharmaceuticals found in sewage. The question is where these compounds go when released into the environment in biosolids. Most research shows that such compounds are generally bound up with soil particles, but research continues into the rate that various chemicals are taken up by various plants. We’re talking about very low levels.
It is an entirely different story if we’re talking about pharmaceuticals and personal care products being released with sewage effluent into rivers and streams or even saltwater, where organisms have direct access to the compounds.
I covered these safety issues last year when West Sound Utility District was considering an application of Class B biosolids to forestland near Port Gamble. Please check out the Kitsap Sun, March 26, 2011.
Whether you choose to use some of West Sound’s biosolids on your lawn or garden is a matter of personal choice. Here are some references that cover various sides of the issue.
University of Washington soil scientist Sally Brown in an interview at Kansas State University (video below)