Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Townships question safety of biosolids


At the Carlton County Association of Township Officers (CCATO) meeting in late October several local township officers had strong questions and comments for Craig Lincoln, a Western Lake Superior Sanitation District (WLSSD) spokesman, after his presentation of biosolids safety and current new guidelines for application on local farmer cropland. "I am firmly convinced that the biosolids produced at our plant in Duluth is safe and is spread on farmer's fields with no impact to the surrounding residents and the water table," he explained.

Biosolids, a product produced from sewage at the Duluth sewage treatment facility, has been applied to several farmland parcels in Carlton County for the last 30 years but not without local concerns. Two townships, Split Rock and Automba, have had a moratorium on its use through action from the township annual meetings and local township boards.

The discussion of the safety of biosolids has started again, prompted by a move by the WLSSD to spread the product on farm fields with a request from the farmer and ignoring local township wishes. "We have gotten permission from the state level to spread the biosolids when requested," Lincoln stated. "The state authority, we believe, supersedes local township authority."

Earlier in the year Blackhoof Township voted to have a moratorium on biosolid application within the township boundaries after input from local citizens at the annual meeting and a vote of the township board. Supervisor Mike Salzar voted no. He is now requesting to spread biosolids this coming year on a field just across the road from another township supervisor, Dale Davis. Blackhoof Township is noted for having sandy soil and many of the wells are shallow for household and farm use. The township has grown substantially the last 20 years with considerable rural residential housing being built.

At the fall meeting, the township officers learned that not only Blackhoof Township had received a letter from the WLSSD but that Barnum Township had also received one after voting for a moratorium. Clayton Kauppila, chairman of the CCATO and chairman of the Blackhoof Township Board, commented, "We were told we as township people had no authority to ban biosolids. We were told we could appeal the WLSSD decision, we asked for a meeting, they came out and told us how good it was for our neighborhood, and then they told us they were doing us a favor and not spreading it until spring. Basically, we have no say on this issue."

Supervisor Tom Duesler from Barnum Township spoke up at the CCATO meeting and asked, "On the farm if we have a leaky sewer mound that handles only our household waste it costs big money to put in a new sewer mound. They insist a leaky mound, for whatever reason, is a health hazard and will contaminate the environment. In this case you haul tons and tons of this processed sewage waste on the adjoining field and you say you have no impact. This doesn't make any sense at all."

Lincoln stated repeatedly that WLSSD had learned a lot about spreading biosolids without impacting the neighborhood. Soil type and the slope of the land, along with concerns about neighboring wetlands, are guidelines when deciding what lands to apply the product. Supervisor Terry Dearborn of Atkinson pointed out, "Two years ago your organization put sludge on land adjoining the Thomas Road. For about two weeks the neighborhood families could not be outside for any length of time."

Automba Township Supervisor Don Pelkey went to the Blackhoof Township-WLSSD meeting and observed, "I went to the meeting in Blackhoof to learn more. WLSSD repeated all their points about how good and safe it was for us all. It appears they will not change their mind. Sounds like there will be a lot more discussion about this issue of township rights in the coming months."


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