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The Heard Farms’ Wilbur facility uses lagoon pits such as this one to process waste. This new pit has yet to be filled.

The mood was tense at a public hearing Wednesday night in Roseburg, where people voiced their concerns about processed human waste fertilizing farm fields near their homes.

About 50 people crowded into the Ford Community Room at the Douglas County Library Roseburg branch for the hearing hosted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. The hearing considered Heard Farms’ request to apply liquid waste to four additional farm fields in Douglas County and to store waste in two large military fuel bladders.

The facility — located near Wilbur off Interstate 5 — makes money by taking in septic, grease and other waste from businesses and agencies. The waste is poured into a double-pond lagoon, where it naturally settles and breaks down. Heard Farms then applies it as a fertilizer (known as biosolids in the waste industry) to its own pastures.

Heard Farms has a limited amount of its own land on which to apply its own product.

What has resulted is oversaturation. DEQ found that Heard Farms applied too much waste to its fields, which seeped into and polluted waterways with high levels of ammonia.

Heard Farms is considering alternative methods of reusing waste, Nomura said, and applying its product to additional fields is one of them.

The four additional sites on which Heard Farms will apply its product are large farm fields in rural areas. One of them will serve as a storage site for two large bladders, each holding 100,000 gallons of biosolids.

Nomura said the agency will consider all public comments made at the hearing and submitted in writing to the agency by 5 p.m. April 24. The agency will then consider if Heard Farms’ request violates any existing rules or statutes.

Several commenters expressed concern about the bladders as temporary storage containers. If the bladders were permanent structures, Heard Farms would have to go through a conditional-use permit process through the county and hold additional public hearings.

One person asked if the military surplus bladders had been used to store fuel in the past, or if they were new containers. DEQ engineer Tim McFetridge said the bladders are new and have not been used, although they were originally built for storing fuel. They will be surrounded by a land enclave, so if any seepage occurred, it would be contained.

Heard Farms has a history of stirring up odor-related neighbor complaints at its Wilbur facility. Some commenters asked if the new sites will smell during the biosolid application process.

“Biosolids do have an odor, and it’s dependent on how they’re treated,” DEQ natural resource specialist Paul Kennedy said. “Sometimes it’s a sweet, musty smell. Sometimes it’s ammonia. It could have sulphur.”

Another person asked how DEQ will know if Heard Farms is over-applying waste. Nomura said the agency depends on self-monitoring, so all testing is done by Heard Farms employees.

Some of the odor complaints resulted from Heard Farms applying biosolids to its land, scraping them up, piling them onto a concrete pad and then covering them with a tarp. The practice of drying and storing waste in this manner violated the facility’s permit. It now has pending violation actions with DEQ.

“We do know that (the Heard Farms owner) is considering different alternatives with the Wilbur site, so we are waiting on the revised biosolids waste management plan to tell us what he wants to do with that site” Nomura said.

Kennedy gave a brief description of what biosolids were and where they came from before the hearing started. He spoke to the merits of the use of biosolids as fertilizer.

“As a program, we’ve been applying biosolids for many, many years and it’s safe,” he said. “I’ve been overseeing the program for close to 25 years for the western part of the state of Oregon. It’s a soil amendment. It’s in lieu of commercial fertilizer. It grow great crops.”

April Ehrlich can be reached at 541-957-4202 or via email at aehrlich@nrtoday.com

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City Government Reporter

April Ehrlich covers city government for The News-Review. She can be contacted at 541-957-4202 or aehrlich@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @AprilEhrlich.

(3) comments

CraigMonk

Here are several sad points about the process of dumping municipal sewage sludge, supposedly treated on farms and forest.
The author makes the same mistake, as most do; saying “processed human waste fertilizing.” The fact is, this contaminate is composed of industrial, medical, storm and household waste. Note the author give this away by saying: “makes MONEY by taking in septic, grease and other waste from BUSINESSES AND AGENCIES.”
Here the punch line and sad truth which the sewage industry will not tell a user: EPA’s 40 CFR 261.30(d) and 261.33 (4), every US industry connected to a sewer can discharge any amount of hazardous and acute hazardous waste into sewage treatment plants. There are over 80,000 chemicals in commerce and growing even today.
In addition, when the sewage industry tells you “pre-treatment of these industrial chemical are strictly regulated,” read the EPA’s Office of Inspector General’s Report No.14-P-0363- 09/2014 Just Google the number to see how insane putting any sewage residuals on farms is.
The bladder is the least of your worries and the fact that they found “high levels of ammonia” is just a tell for even more chemicals found if they actually tested for them.
By the way, some of the breakdown chemicals have been found to be even more dangerous cancer causing elements
Consumers need to consider where their food and water comes from. “Seeping: and run off are natural accruing and water will strip whatever chemicals on the surface and take them right into you water reserves. Just why do you this your tap water has so many chemicals in it and tell me why everyone is drinking bottled water?
You just have to feel sorry for Heard Farms because of their ignorance or is it greed?
For me I feel sorry for the consumer tax payers.
Good luck ignoring this problem. Most have ignored it for the last 30 years making the sewage industry $billions.

Gary Chandler

Explain how the deadly prion pathogen is being accounted for and neutralized in wastewater treatment plants. If they can't stop prions in the sterile confines of an operating room, I'm curious how the rocket scientists at the local wastewater treatment plant are pulling off this miracle. The risk assessments for wastewater reclamation and the land application of sewage sludge (biosolids) were prepared before the world of science knew about unstoppable prions in sewage. Therefore, sewage is infectious waste, radioactive waste, and toxic waste all rolled into one. If you can flush it down a toilet or a drain, it's being dumped on your next meal and in your water supply.

The same goes for waste from hospitals, nursing homes, veterinarians, slaughterhouses, game processing plants, factories, and other high-risk sources. Wastewater treatment plants are regulated for the release of just a few chemicals and pathogens. Heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, fire retardants, carcinogens, and deadly prion pathogens are not addressed. You can thank the EPA for that deliberate oversight in its "sludge rule" about 25 years ago. Look at what has happened to cases of Alzheimer's disease and autism since that disastrous policy. Look at the brain disease (chronic wasting disease) that is killing our wildlife. It has been spreading like wildfire, as deadly biosolids have been dumped on farms and ranches and in our forests. They also are being dumped throughout our neighborhoods, golf courses, parks and even school grounds. It's killing people and making many of us sick in many ways.

Biosolids are bioterrorism. The frauds that are poisoning our air, food and water supplies should be prosecuted for treason under the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, not rewarded with multi-million contracts. Poisoning Americans and wildlife with infectious waste is a sad statement about the state of our homeland. http://crossbowcommunications.com/alzheimers-disease-surging-due-to-misinformation-mismanagement/

PickNGrin

The meeting began with a 10-min presentation by Mr Paul Kennedy, DEQ Natural Resource Specialist. It can be viewed on You Tube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb9gui2OZ2o

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