June 3, 2000
Cattle graze on freshly spread sewage sludge
In Ontario waste haulers daily pump out the raw sewage from portable toilets, boats, rural businesses and home and spread it on farmland. They also take the toxic mixture of industrial waste and human sewage from waste water treatment plants and spray it on meadows, pastures, and crops as a 'soil conditioner'. Farmers who receive this sewage sludge are not supposed to grow root vegetables or ground crops like strawberries in the sludge spread fields until after a waiting period of several months. However the Ministry of Environment has explained that they have no way of enforcing this requirement. People who complained to the York Durham Ministry of Environment office about cattle and horses grazing on freshly spread sludge were told that the Ministry does not enforce these regulations. They are only 'guidelines'.
"Farmers are not told about the waiting periods and are not provided with a copy of the "guidelines" that spell out these recommendations", says Maureen Reilly, researcher with Uxbridge Conservation Association, a rural environmental group looking at rural waste disposal. "There is no notification to neighbours about the spreading of sewage, nor do the neighbours have an avenue to appeal these waste disposal tactics."
Recently a portable toilet company in Hillburough Ontario has outraged the community with a plan to pour the refuse from the toilet rental company on the top on a hill that is surrounded with homes. The portable toilets use formaldehyde, a hazardous chemical that is used for embalming fluid, and nonylphenol ethoxylate, a chemical that is associated with disruption of the endocrine system, to deodorize feces in the toilet. The practice of using farmfields to dispose of sewage sludge and papermill waste sludges has been increasing over the past years. "Some waste haulers have been buying up farms to use as cheap waste disposal sites," says Reilly. "More and more rural municipalities are concerned about ground water quality as a result of sewage sludge and paper sludge. The province isn't doing a good job of ensuring adequate compliance, since there aren't enough staff to patrol these projects."
For more information: Maureen Reilly 416 922-4099