Great Lakes Environmental Directory Great Lakes Great Lakes environment Great Lakes grants exotic species water pollution water export drilling environment Great Lakes pollution Superior Michigan Huron Erie Ontario ecology Great Lakes issues wetlands Great Lakes wetlands Great Lakes Great Lakes environment Great Lakes watershed water quality exotic species Great Lakes grants water pollution water export oil gas drilling environment environmental Great Lakes pollution Lake Superior Lake Michigan Lake Huron Lake Erie Lake Ontario Great Lakes ecology Great Lakes issues Great Lakes wetlands Great Lakes Resources Great Lakes activist Great Lakes environmental organizations Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat air pollution alien species threatened rare endangered species ecological Great Lakes information Success Stories Great Lakes Directory Home/News Great Lakes Calendar Great Lakes jobs/volunteering Search Great Lakes Organizations Take Action! Contact Us Resources/Links Great Lakes Issues Great Lakes News Article About Us Networking Services

Great Lakes Article:

Minnesota Farmers Use Human Waste Fertilizer
Associated Press

DULUTH, Minn. - Farmers in northeast Minnesota are using a fertilizer rich in phosphorus, nitrogen and organic matter that can boost crop yields by 80 percent. Best of all, it's free.

The problem, for some, is that it's made of treated human waste, which opponents say is environmentally unsafe and unhealthy for animals and other people.

"It's disgusting to think that everything we pour down our drains and flush down our toilets, in our homes and hospitals and paper mills, is ending up on our local farms," said Inese Holte, an area resident and longtime opponent. "What we're doing to our rural neighbors is awful. The farmers will take it because they are hurting and it's free. But we shouldn't be giving it to them at all."

But proponents say it's the ultimate in recycling.

"We're giving nutrients back to the land that we took out of it," said Lauri Walters, environmental program coordinator for the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.

Using human waste as fertilizer is nothing new. Asian cultures have done it for centuries. In Milwaukee, sludge has been treated, dried, bagged and sold to Midwest gardeners for more than 60 years.

In Minnesota, all but one of the state's 250 municipal treatment plants that produce sludge at least some of it to the land. The only exception is Grand Rapids, which landfills all its sludge because it's mostly paper mill waste too fibrous to spread.

Jorja Dufresne, who oversees the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's sludge-regulation program, says about one-third of all sludge created in the state ends up on fields.

Since 1992, when Congress banned the dumping of treated sludge in oceans, land application has skyrocketed past incineration and landfilling, the other two approved options for sludge disposal.

The EPA promotes spreading it as fertilizer, calling it the preferred disposal option. Incineration is less favored because it requires the consumption of fuels that contribute to air pollution. And burying the stuff takes up space in hard-to-permit landfills.

Sludge opponents aren't convinced the substance is safe. They point to a 2002 National Academies of Science report that found EPA regulation of sludge is based on "outdated science."

Tom Richards, who owns land in Blackhoof Township in Carlton County, says the sludge smells bad, especially when it's not turned into the soil immediately. He believes there are too many questions about what's in the sludge to allow continued spreading on fields.

"Nobody likes sewage sludge, just as nobody likes pollution," Richards added. "It's just that some people are unjustly profiting from it at the expense of everyone and everything else, especially our soils and waters."

This information is posted for nonprofit educational purposes, in accordance with U.S. Code Title 17, Chapter 1,Sec. 107 copyright laws.
For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for
purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use," you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Great Lakes environmental information

Return to Great Lakes Directory Home/ Site Map