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Plan to fertilize fields with biosolids causes concern

Despite concerns expressed by neighbours of farmers near Halifax, a local environmental scientist insists treated sewage being spread on farm fields is safe, noting people have to 'get over' issues like the smell, because it is a source of nutrients.


March 31, 2009  By Halifax

March 31, 2009 – A little bit of the city is coming to the country, and that has some people asking questions.

An Annapolis County farmer is preparing to spread biosolid fertilizer from Halifax Regional Municipality on hay and cornfields in the Clarence area.

Neighbours say they have concerns.


"I don’t think it’s ever been spread in the community before," said one woman who asked not to be named.

She wouldn’t name the farmer but said piles of biosolid fertilizer are appearing on the side of the roads, but the fields are still too wet to spread it.

"It can be quite stinky," said the woman. "Some people have complained that they almost get physically ill from it.

"Some people are up in arms about it. I’ll take cattle manure any day."

The woman said even the birds and animals stay away from it. She added that perhaps some people are afraid of it because it’s an unknown material.

The fertilizer is made from treated sewage taken from treatment plants in Halifax and shipped to the Halifax biosolids processing facility in Aerotech Business Park in Halifax, near the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, where it is processed into fertilizer.

The plant mixes kiln dust with treated waste and heats it to obtain stability, which is supposed to destroy harmful bacteria but keep the helpful soil bacteria alive.

But an environmental scientist and the federation that represents farmers in Nova Scotia say people should not be afraid of the fertilizer, which has been tested and approved for use in Nova Scotia.

"From what I’ve been told, they are treated in a manner to which they are not readily erodible . . . so that leaching is not a concern," said Andy Sharpe, and environmental scientist with the Clean Annapolis River Project.

Mr. Sharpe said in an interview that he received a complaint about the material appearing by the roadside in the Clarence area, so he did some investigating.

He called the Environment Department, which confirmed the material is treated biosolid fertilizer being applied in accordance with provincial guidelines.

"There is no doubt an ick factor," said Mr. Sharpe. "Unfortunately, people are going to have to get over it because it’s a nutrient source."

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