Polk County

May 6th, 2011

Sludge (biosolids) feeds you

by Tom Palmer

Expect to hear more later this month about the controversial process of dumping processed wastes from sewer plants and septic tanks in rural areas all over Polk County.

County commissioners are tentatively scheduled to hear a presentation from a scientist and a state regulator at their May 24 meeting. This is an information session. No action is planned.

This debate has been going on for some time, but reappeared locally after a Lake Wales man appealed to commissioners for action based on what was happening in rural areas near his home.

The issue was once minor.

 When I first started covering government nearly 40 years ago, sewer plant operators took me on plant tours and pointed to their sludge drying beds, explaining that was what was the stuff extracted from the wastewater that was piped to the sewer plants for treatment. They said trucks hauled it a way from time to time. End of story.

But one of the inevitable effects of population growth in Florida is the increase in waste volume and the increased need for waste disposal.

The term you’ll likely hear in the upcoming  presentations will be “biosolids.”

It’s the same sludge. It has just been rebranded..

According to the 1995 book “Toxic Sludge Is Good For You: Lies, Damn LIes and the Public Relations Industry” the renaming was a deliberate act by a trask force appointed by  the Water Environmental Association (nee Federation of  Sewage Works Association) in 1991 to gain public acceptance for disposing of the waste on land.

The predominant use of sewer sludge in this part of the world is as a cheap form of fertilizer for pastures. For years sewage created the conditions to turn water algae green, so it’s probably good for grass, too.

That’s because it contains nutrients, primarily phosphorous and nitrogen.

The problem is that in modern times it’s hard  to know what kinds of trace chemicals treated sewage (or septic tank waste, for that matter) contain because it’s hard to tell what people are going to flush down the toilet.

Household chemicals and pharmaceuticals contain a witch’s brew of compounds whose cumulative, synergistic effects are not completely understood.

The environmental and health issues seem inevitable, though the facts can be elusive.

For something to hurt you or make you sick, it has to exist in a high enough concentration and there has to be a pathway for it to get into your food or water supply or be transmitted  by air.

That is the heart of the dispute.

Sludge defenders contend there’s no problem if the material is produced and disposed of according to state health and environmental rules..

Opponents question its safety even if the rules are followed, which they doubt occurs because of what they see done in practice.

Polk County has rules of necessity after it became common to see tanker trucks with no identifying markings rolling down roads in the Green Swamp at 3 a.m. from who knows where.

Polk County is still a place where the waste trucks from other counties head because there are no longer enough places to dispose of it in coastal counties, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

The other issue is economics.

You’ve no doubt read about the Florida politicians protesting the idea that the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency has the gall (actually, EPA wouldn’t be doing it if they hadn’t been sued by the Sierra Club to make them do it) to impose specific pollution standards on Florida’s lakes, rivers and estuaries.

It will be expense, they moan. They’re right. It will cost a lot of money, money they might have saved if they had acted sooner before things got to this point.

There is an alternative to dumping sewer and septic tank wastes in pastures, but it is more expensive, too, which is what derailed last year’s proposed regulations to do away with the practice in a few years.

The problem is that the inevitable cleanup will be more expensive. 

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Crisis looming over dumping

By STEVE STEINER
Staff Writer
 
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Robert Dummett did not mince words when he appeared before Polk County Commissioners at the March 8 public session. Unless something was done, and soon, Polk County would have a crisis on its hands.
Dummett, of Alturas/Babson Park Road Cutoff Road, Alturas, was given 15 minutes to educate the BOCC on what he said was a growing problem, not just locally but throughout Polk County, regarding the dumping of biosolids (also known as sewer sludge); in particular, Class B biosolids, which Dummett said are the most toxic and most highly regulated. (Class A, he said, is moderately toxic and lightly regulated, while Class AA is the least toxic and not regulated).

In his opening remark, Dummett said he originally came before the BOCC as an individual, but in the time since requesting to speak, he has been joined by neighbors and adjoining communities, including west Lake Wales, Mulberry and Alturas.

“Polk County has become the dumping ground for the rest of the state for Class B biosolids,” Dummett said. The known sources include Hillsborough County, McDill Air Force Base and Highlands County (Avon Park), he said that he is aware of and had personal experience with.

Class B biosolids are transported in 18-wheel double tractor trailer trucks containing 6,000-8,000 gallons per tank. The process is open land dumping, in which the tanker drives onto the land and simply opens the valves. Dummett showed in a PowerPoint presentation that accompanied his address. One photo was a truck dumping the sludge directly on the ground just 75 feet from his property line, and pools. It is not absorbed by the ground.

It is not what people think it typically is, which comes from households.

“When this stuff comes out of the trucks, folks, it smells exactly what it looks like,” he said. It should not be taking place, he said. According to DEP regulations, the biosolids are supposed to be “applied to improved pasture lands only.” That is not happening, he said.

“What you’re seeing here is not improved pasture land,” he said. “This is all scrub land.”

His lawyer obtained documents from the DEP that showed the sludge being dumped is Class B biosolid.

Dummett continued, saying that what supposedly was supposed to begin as an agricultural practice has now become an industrial operation, with more than 150,000 gallons dumped daily per permitted zones, of which there are 12 on Carter’s 7Cs Ranch, which borders his property. The contamination of the land affects what he termed “vectors.” In other words, “anything that walks, crawls, swims or flies capable of carrying bacteria and viruses producing diseases, and included mammals, birds, insects and fish that cross property lines.” Properly treated sewer sludge is not supposed to attract vectors, he said, and then he showed several photos in which turkey buzzards are grazing immediately following a dumping, because it contains raw fat. He also showed feral hogs, wild turkeys and even cattle. The DEP, he said, insisted there was not a problem, but when confronted with evidence to the contrary, went to the municipality at fault and “solved the problem.” It took about two weeks.

Dummett continued presenting one fact after another, from birds wading on the land and then coming onto his property, and flies. A photo he showed was one of his cattle, its head covered with flies.

I never had a fly problem until they started sludge dumping near my property,” he said. “Now I cannot keep the flies off my animals, no matter if I spray them, dust them, we have them.” In addition to that, the cattle being raised on the neighboring ranch are allowed to graze on the sludge property.

So it continued, with further examples. A report in 2004 stated the neighbors should be afforded the same protection as those who work on the field where the sludge is dumped. None of that has occurred. At his conclusion, he said there are ways to eliminate the Class B solids, something communities across the U.S., have done, which he gave examples, but that was not only what he and others sought. There is a looming crisis and he asked the BOCC for an “out and out ban  on Class B biosolids,” Dummett concluded.

It was a somber response from BOCC Chairman Edwin V. Smith.

“We will certainly take your comments to heart and consider it and have some work done on it,” said Smith.

Dummett would not be the only person to speak on the topic. Two Mulberry residents, Nathan Lewis and Clayton Bowen, both who live in the Willow Oaks area, spoke of similar dumping taking place in the community that is being permitted by an absentee landowner.

After Lewis finished speaking, Commissioner Bob English weighed in. He said he wanted to look into putting a halt to dumping in Polk County drew a loud round of applause.

After Bowen begged BOCC members to personally visit these sites, Commissioner Melony Bell said she agreed with English, that the issue needed to be immediately studied and find out what needed to be done to police the current practice.

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Polk Officials Urged to Clamp Down on Sewage Sludge-Dumping

 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

 
BARTOW | Some types of sewer sludge-dumping should be banned in Polk County or at least regulated more heavily, county commissioners were told Tuesday.

 

Robert Dummett made the plea to commissioners based on what has been happening in rural areas near his property and those of others in the western Lake Wales-Alturas area.

He proposed bans similar to those enacted in DeSoto and Levy counties and in Archer, a city near Gainesville.

Commissioners said they would consider tougher regulations, especially concerning wastes brought in from outside Polk County.

Sewer sludge is the semisolid waste that’s produced by sewer treatment plants. Highly treated sludge is marketed as fertilizer under brand names such as Milorganite.

Dummett focused his complaint on Class B sludge, which does not undergo as much treatment before disposal.

Sludge disposal typically involves driving a tanker truck containing between 6,000 and 8,000 gallons of the material into a pasture, opening the valve and driving around in a section of the pasture set aside for disposal until the truck is empty.

He cited a recent case in which sludge from sewer lift stations — way stations along municipal sewer pipelines — from another county was dumped on a pasture in the western Lake Wales area, attracting thousands of vultures

Dummett said he was concerned about the potential to spread disease to neighbors and to pollute streams, noting portions of the Peace Creek Drainage Canal, a tributary of the Peace River, flows through the areas where the dumping is occurring.

He said the type of sludge being dumped contains a number of toxic metals ranging from mercury to cadmium.

Following his presentation, he and a group of residents from western Lake Wales discussed their experiences.

“They (the sludge companies) have gotten away with a lot; we need to stop it,” said Sandie Perez.

She said her grandchildren refer to the operations as “stinky trucks,” a reference to the trail of waste that is allowed to leak from the tanker trucks to the roads.

At times, she said, she and her neighbors can’t even go outside and sit in their yards because of the odor.

Ann Byrd said her husband has seen the trucks dumping at 5 a.m.

“Why should we suffer?” she asked.

Sludge disposal is regulated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, but local governments have the authority to pass local regulations that exceed DEP’s standards.

Polk County officials approved an ordinance in 1995 that bans sludge disposal within the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern and imposes restrictions elsewhere in the county.

Those restrictions include a ban on disposal between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., control on odor and a requirement that trucks used in sludge hauling be clearly marked to identify the company or government involved in sludge disposal.

A related issue is the disposal of septic tank waste, which is regulated by the Florida Department of Health.

Residents in the Willow Oak area recently complained about septic tank waste-disposal odor problems.

Commissioner Melony Bell, who brought the issue to the commission and encouraged Dummett to make a presentation, said she would like to see county officials study the issue.

She said she was especially concerned about disposal near residential areas.

Bell said she has talked with ranchers who say the sludge helps to fertilize pasture grass and she is not sure an outright ban is necessary.

County Attorney Michael Craig said after the meeting that he is researching the law and would report to commissioners after he has completed his research.

Dummett said he plans to continue to press commissioners on the issue.

“This is just the first step,” he said.

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Regulators Clear Way For Larger Cedar Trail Landfill

DEP Secretary rejects residents’ arguments for halting expansion.

 

By Suzie Schottelkotte
The Ledger

 

Friday, November 26, 2010 

BARTOW | State regulators have cleared the way for Republic Services to expand Cedar Trail landfill in Bartow.

In a ruling released Wednesday, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mimi Drew rejected most of the arguments from nearby residents seeking to halt the proposed 75-acre expansion, though she did uphold an earlier ruling that mandates additional on-site testing and forces Republic to allow environmental monitoring by representatives for the residents.

“The judge took steps to make sure that Republic does its job right,” said John Fus, president of the Highland Lakes Estates Homeowners Association. “I’m just disappointed that the city didn’t take care of this for its citizens. It shouldn’t have taken us taking this action to get this accomplished.”

Lawyers for Republic and the city weren’t available for comment Wednesday.

The landfill debate has spanned nearly two decades, beginning with its creation in the early 1990s near the crossroads of Lyle Parkway and E.F. Griffin Road and in the shadow of Highland Lakes Estates. Bartow’s approval of the landfill triggered a voter referendum, seeking to force the city to rescind its initial approval of the site.

Voters approved that referendum, which led to a lawsuit against the city by the landfill’s initial owners.

In an out-of-court settlement, the city imposed limitations on the site that prevented Cedar Trail from accepting household garbage and restricting its waste to only construction and demolition debris. The settlement also controlled the landfill’s hours of operation and the height of the debris stacks.

It also mandated that the landfill’s owners had to notify the city if they planned any major changes on the 392-acre site.

In 2006, Republic Services told city administrators it planned to open an area within the landfill for commercial waste, including garbage from restaurants and shopping centers. The city cried foul and pulled out the settlement agreement, citing the household waste prohibition.

That led to another lawsuit. Republic said the agreement had no prohibition against commercial waste, but the city said there was no difference between that and garbage from restaurants.

That led to another settlement earlier last year, in which Republic agreed to a permanent prohibition on household or commercial food waste, and the city agreed not to oppose the DEP permit.

The agreement also allows the landfill to accept treated wastewater sludge, a byproduct of the sewer treatment process.

Neighbors who can see the landfill from their yards said they wanted more protection and safeguards. When Republic Services applied for the expansion permit, they responded with environmental reports and experts who detailed the problems the landfill expansion would pose to area residents.

Earlier this year, an administrative law judge from the state heard testimony from the residents, led by Bartow lawyer John Frost II and representatives for Highland Lakes Estates, and from Republic.

The judge recommended that the DEP approve Republic’s permit, leaving Drew with the final decision. Her order, which was signed Monday and released Wednesday, cleared the way for the agency to issue that permit.

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Bartow Landfill: Judge’s Order Alarms

 

By TERRY FROST

 

Friday, November 12, 2010 
Serious-and-frightening health hazards can exist, and will add to present dangers already piled next to neighborhoods in Bartow if the landfill-expansion permit now up for final approval by a Tallahassee appointed official is stamped OK.

 

The permit application as finally submitted by Republic Services – the $11 billion national corporate giant that owns many dumps around the country, including Bartow’s – asks for a Class I Permit that would allow dumping sewage and other organic material. As a judge’s order on the matter indicates, the application is fraught with plans that can send nasty odors, bacteria and carcinogens into neighboring air, water, soils, yards and blustery winds.

The 80-page order, issued by administrative judge Robert Meale on Oct. 8, is daunting-but-crucial reading for media aiming to report thoroughly, and for public officials desiring a full understanding of the effects of their decisions.

Here are just a few disturbing specifics in Judge Meale’s order, issued after days of testimony put on by Republic and by the neighbors opposing the dump. The application under consideration in Tallahassee would:

– Add as acceptable in the dump: “sewage sludge, industrial sludge, and water-and air-treatment sludge.”

– Include in the “sludge” it will accept: “solid waste [sewage]; “pollution control residue; septic tank, grease trap and portable toilet waste.”

– Allow the dumping of “septic tank pumpage” even though the original application banned it.

– Formalize the need to spray odor-covering spray if odor-control plans fail. [And therein lies the tacit admission that such failure is a concern].

The judge’s document contains words that sound cautionary – words that Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mimi Drew would presumably consider in ruling on the fate of the dump permit. She has the authority to issue the Class I permit with the application as-is, deny the permit outright or require Republic to make modifications before the permit would allow the dumping of possibly dangerous and bad-smelling substances within Bartow’s city limits. The judge’s wording contains the following concerns:

– The landfill “may apply as much as 3.6 million gallons annually” of the liquid seeping out of the sludge and other problematic wastes dumped there. In other words, the dump will spray what leaks out of the dump back over the dump surface. The “pollution concentration of this leakage is completely unknown,” Meale writes.

– The application asks to allow the presence of methane gas [colorless, odorless and explosive] at the landfill in amounts exceeding the limit specified in the state Administrative Code.

– Although the landfill has a plan to “avoid the explosive concentrations of methane and objectionable odors,” the Republic permit application lacks “a flat prohibition � to offsite release of pollutants by air.” Meale cautions that the leachate spraying is “a good opportunity for the release of certain pollutants by air.”

– The dump will likely accept increased amounts of asbestos [the cancer-causing substance that governments have been required to remove from older buildings because of its danger to employees].

– There are no restrictions on spraying leachate during high-wind conditions. (Republic will spray leachate, or leakage, on the surface of the dump partly because it can help keep down the dust created by breaking down waste and by moving the dirt to cover piles of waste.) Meale cautions that Republic could spray 12,000 gallons per day from “considerable heights as close as 1,000 feet from residential areas.”

Meale recommends Republic make changes to protect residents from banned waste (including legally prohibited “hazardous waste”) coming into the dump undetected. He recommends that only specifically-trained employees check truckloads for nonpermissible waste as the loads come in to, and are dumped and spread on, landfill property.

He also recommends additional protection of the Central Florida aquifer running under the dump – protection beyond the policies included in the present permit application. He cites the inadequacy of aquifer protection in Republic’s asking to allow “7,000 gallons per day” of liner leakage to be “lost to the surficial aquifer.” He urges that Republic “must identify the leachate’s constituents and their concentrations.”

Obviously, concerns about the safety and quality of life of the neighborhoods near this dump (and the two public schools less than three miles away) are valid and alarming. The dangers of this landfill form a loud and now legally-documented cry for protection from the possibilities noted in the judge’s order.

No financial nor political consideration can justify such documented endangering of Bartow’s neighborhoods and future generations. The city of Bartow plans to make money cleaning Republic’s dump leakage in its water-treatment facilities. Republic repeatedly threatened to cost the city “millions” in legal fees if the city didn’t stop fighting the dump. Neither of these factors can justify putting money above the health of Bartow’s citizens.

[ Both Terry Frost and her husband, John Frost, have opposed any landfill adjoining residential neighborhoods since the original construction and demolition permit issued in the 1990s Terry is a former news reporter and columnist who now teaches AP English at Bartow High School. John has been the pro bono lawyer for their neighbors in opposing the dump. The Frosts live on E.F. Griffin Road, which runs past the landfill site. ]

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Bartow community residents fighting Cedar Trail Landfill permit

By Suzie Schottelkotte The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.
the Ledger (Lakeland, Florida)
 

May 11–BARTOW — The owners of Cedar Trail landfill in Bartow have gone beyond the state regulations to ensure the site poses no risks to those living nearby, lawyers for the landfill told a state administrative judge Monday.

But some of the waste that a proposed expansion will accept has the potential to carry pathogens, attracting nuisance birds, rats, mosquitoes and flies, a representative for the residents said.

“No one can tell you there’s going to be a magical barrier that’s going to stop that,” said John Fus, president of the Highland Lakes Estates Homeowners Association.

Fus and the other 90 residents in the northwest Bartow community are fighting a proposal by Republic Services, which owns Cedar Trail, to expand the landfill. Republic needs the state Department of Environmental Protection approval to open the new debris cell.

Bartow lawyer John Frost II and his wife, Terry, who live about a mile north of the landfill site, also are challenging the DEP permit.

The state agency has indicated its intent to issue a permit allowing the expansion.

A weeklong hearing began Monday in Bartow, during which Republic and the residents will present testimony. The judge will review that evidence and make a recommendation to Michael Sole, director of the DEP, who will make the final decision. Appeals to that ruling would go to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland.

The residents want to stop the expansion, citing health risks that haven’t been fully explored by the DEP.

Republic Services is seeking a Class 1 permit, which would allow household garbage. But a 2009 agreement with the city precludes Republic from accepting household garbage.

Fus argued Monday, as the hearing began, the landfill still could take industrial, commercial and agricultural waste.

“That will contain the same components as garbage,” he said.

Frost said in the hearing Monday that Republic Services has fooled everybody by saying it won’t accept garbage, and said the threat of sinkholes on the site hasn’t been fully addressed.

When he built his house, he said, he had to install pilings under the foundation because of the sinkhole problem.

“And we are a mile away,” he said.

Ron Clark, a Lakeland lawyer representing Republic, said in his opening statement Monday that Republic is taking additional measures to ensure the landfill doesn’t pose a health risk.

The agreement allows the landfill to accept sludge from wastewater treatment plants, he said, and state law mandates that sludge be covered within 24 hours.

Republic has agreed to cover it within one hour, Clark said.

The company also has agreed to heightened odor control measures, including having landfill personnel patrol the site and the surrounding neighborhood to make sure odor isn’t a problem.

The landfill opened in the early 1990s, about 20 years after homeowners began moving to Highland Lakes Estates and Frost moved to E.F. Griffin Road. It has been a construction and demolition landfill for the past decade and has held a Class III permit.

Testimony is expected to continue in Bartow throughout the week, and a recommendation should be released later this summer.

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State DEP Pulls Support for Cedar Trail Landfill

Facility’s operator wants to dump food waste, other garbage at site.

 

By Bill Rufty
Ledger POLITICAL EDITOR

 

June 14, 2008 .

BARTOW | Less than three days after Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill that includes a ban on food wastes and other garbage in the Cedar Trail Landfill, the state Department of Environmental Protection, which must issue a permit, has withdrawn its support for the project and said it will deny the application.

 

Tuesday, Crist signed Senate Bill 1294, which re-enacts the Florida Government Accountability Act governing the operations of the Department of Environmental Protection.

The legislation included an amendment by Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, that prevents dumping of organic waste in the landfill that is between State Road 60 and E.F. Griffin Road.

The law prohibits food waste garbage from being placed in the 92-acre private landfill in Bartow, which has accepted only construction and demolition debris since the city’s agreement with the original owners 14 years ago.

Republic Services of Florida, a private refuse service that includes as its customers restaurants and other food related businesses, bought the landfill some years ago and now wants to take in commercial waste, including garbage from restaurants and shopping centers.

The company still has a case filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa asking for a declaratory judgment as to whether the 14-year-old agreement with the previous owners only to put clean construction debris in the landfill is still effective.

It also had applied to the DEP asking for a permit for a Class 1 operation, that would allow it to dump garbage in the landfill.

In December, the DEP issued a “Notice of Intent ” to approve the garbage dumping request and immediately had several appeals filed against it.

Bartow lawyer John Frost and his wife Terry joined in protesting with the Highlands Lakes Estates Home Owners Association, the city of Bartow, Polk County, and area developers Highland Cassidy LLC and FRM Investments LLC.

Once the Florida Legislature convened, an administrative law judge hearing the appeals in Tallahassee put the process on hold until the session ended.

But once the bill was signed and the garbage ban became law, further hearings seemed moot.

Friday morning, the DEP issued a reversal entitled, “Notice of Change of Agency Position” adding that it is now a notice to deny Republic’s request for the Class 1 permit.

The declaratory judgment is still before the federal court, but to change the new law itself likely would require a challenge of the constitutionality of the clause.

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Facilities Throughout the Southeast Ordered to Comply with Clean Water Act and Pay Penalties Totaling More Than $92,000

Release date: 06/11/2009

Contact Information: Davina Marraccini, (404) 562-8293, marraccini.davina@epa.gov

(ATLANTA – June 11, 2009) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued Consent Agreements and Final Orders against 10 entities throughout the Southeast since the beginning of the fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2008, for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA). As part of the settlements, the responsible parties in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina agreed to come into compliance and pay a combined total of $92,249 in civil penalties.

“By taking these enforcement actions, we are sending a strong message about the importance of protecting rivers, lakes and streams across the Southeast,” said Stan Meiburg, EPA Region 4 Acting Regional Administrator. “To protect our region’s waters, these regulated entities must comply with the Clean Water Act and promptly take the steps needed to resolve the violations noted in our inspections.”

Six entities were cited for alleged stormwater-related violations of the CWA. Polluted storm water runoff is a leading cause of impairment to the nearly 40 percent of surveyed U.S. water bodies which do not meet water quality standards. Over land or via storm sewer systems, polluted runoff is discharged, often untreated, directly into local water bodies. The settlements and associated penalties include:

Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau, for violations at the Gwinnett Braves Stadium in Lawrenceville, Ga. (civil penalty of $9000)
Port of Pensacola, Fl., for violations at the port itself (civil penalty of $19,000)
Boone County Board of Education, for violations at the Longbranch High School in Union, Ky. (civil penalty of $7,000)
Drees Company, Inc., for violations at its Harmony subdivision in Union, Ky. (civil penalty of $15,000)
Fowler Reese, LLC, for violations at its Hickory Valley subdivision in Independence, Ky. (civil penalty of $3,500)
Orleans Home Builders, for violations at its Weldon Ridge-Arbor development in Cary, N.C. (civil penalty of $4,000)Failure to comply with Section 503, Biosolids Requirements for land disposal of sewage sludge:

Polk County Board of Commissioners, in Bartow, Fl. (civil penalty of $12,150)
Aqua Utilities, Inc., in Fruitville, Fl. (civil penalty of $4,999)
A settlement was also reached with Easley Combined Utilities, which agreed to pay a civil penalty of $12,600, for exceeding the Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) requirements of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit at the wastewater treatment plant in Easley, S.C. WET is the total toxic effect of effluent measured directly with a toxicity test. It is a useful parameter for assessing and protecting against aggregate impacts from the discharge of pollutants.

Another settlement was reached with an individual, Bruno Barreiro, Sr., for discharging dredged and/or fill material into a canal connecting to the Atlantic Ocean behind his Key Largo, Fl., property where he is building a house. Wetlands are important, yet diminishing resources that serve as habitats for critical fish and wildlife and also help control floods, recharge groundwater, capture pollutants and cycle nutrients.

Congress enacted the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972 to protect the nation’s rivers, lakes and stream, as well as some of the more fragile and vital wetland habitats. The entities cited violated the CWA by either failing to meet the requirements of their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, and subsequently causing point source discharges, or by filling or dredging wetlands. Pollutants of concern include nutrients, sediment, oil and grease, chemicals and metals. When left uncontrolled, water pollution can deplete needed oxygen and/or otherwise result in the destruction of aquatic habitats, as well as the fish and wildlife that depend on them. Water pollution can also contaminate food, drinking water supplies and recreational waterways, and thereby pose a threat to public health.

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State Extends Order to Move Fertilizer
By Suzie Schottelkotte
The Ledger
 
Thursday, June 05, 2003
FORT MEADE — Florida NViro, a company that converts wastewater sludge into fertilizer, has another 10 months to clear away the fertilizer piles at its Fort Meade plant.

Last summer, the state Department of Environmental Protection forced the company to shut down its Fort Meade operations after nearby property owners complained about odors. N-Viro had to stop processing any sludge by November, then had to remove the processed material from the site by May 31.

That isn’t going to happen.

The company has met each of the earlier deadlines, but won’t meet this one.

“The weather just hasn’t been on our side,” said Harris Bowers, N-Viro’s president. “We’ve had a lot of rain in recent months, and that’s hampered our ability to deliver our product.”

Most of the company’s clients grow crops, including citrus, strawberries, sod and melons, and N-Viro delivers its fertilizer to the fields or groves.

“When it’s as wet as it has been, we can’t get our trucks up into the fields,” he said. “We just haven’t been able to physically deliver the product.”

Piles of fertilizer as tall as twostory buildings encircle N-Viro’s site off U.S. 17 on Fort Meade’s north side. Bowers said he hasn’t had a problem selling the fertilizer and anticipates clearing the property as soon as the rain lets up.

Cheryl Minskey, residuals coordinator with the state DEP office in Tampa, said her office granted the extension after reviewing N-Viro’s situation.

“We conducted a site inspection last month and found that they were in compliance with the terms of the settlement at that time,” she said.

“We talked about their problems getting the product delivered because of the rain, and that is reasonable, so we granted the extension. We recognize that it’s hard to apply this product when the ground is that wet, so we’re willing to work with them.”

Minskey said she and other DEP officials will monitor the NViro site in Fort Meade to ensure that the piles continue to dwindle.

N-Viro opened its Fort Meade operations in 1996 to process sludge — the solid material left after sewage is treated — into fertilizer. It didn’t take long for complaints about the odor to begin.

Managers with N-Viro argued that their plant wasn’t the sole source of the odor. They pointed to a nearby landfill and a plant that processes chicken manure for fertilizer as offenders, but the DEP
wasn’t convinced.

State regulators said N-Viro took steps to alleviate the odor problem, but that wasn’t enough.

Bowers said he’s negotiating on another site for the company’s operations, but he declined to say where that is. N-Viro also operates a facility in Daytona Beach.

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