Property owners asked the Little Falls City Council to take the city’s waste elsewhere after a by-product of the wastewater treatment plant was used as manure on a farm near them.
After sewage has gone through the Little Falls wastewater treatment plant, a solid biomass remains. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) allows this substance to be spread on the ground to get rid of it, once it is inspected for contaminants, Public Works Director Greg Kimman said.
Once it’s been inspected and certified as safe, the city takes it to farmers, where the biosolids are spread on fields and tilled before anything is planted on it, Kimman said.
The residents on Hilton Road south of Little Falls, told the Council Monday, the product was a major issue for them.
“The ammonia was very thick; it literally took your breath away,” Elizabeth Meyer said. “You could not breathe, it was that awful.”
Meyer, whose property is adjacent to the field where the product was applied, said they found some of it closer than the 200-foot minimum distance required by law, including some on their lawn. She was concerned about what that would do to the groundwater, where her family’s water comes from.
Kimman said the city crews who had applied the biosolids staked out the 200 foot setback and applied it there. He said with the machines they were using, it couldn’t have been thrown onto the neighbor’s property.
Meyer said her husband, who had been mowing at the time, experienced burning in his lungs for two days.
In addition, some of the product made its way onto the roads, Meyer said. The road was stained and the product got on her vehicle.
Kimman said crews had scraped the road twice, but were unable to get into every crevice of the road. He said part of the reason the product got on the road was because lime was applied by the farmer to maintain phosphorous levels before the material was applied, making the ground sticky.
Barry Maurer said the neighbors felt there should be a different site that doesn’t impact residential areas as much.
In the future, the residents would like the city not to use the farm as a disposal site. Maurer suggested they use farmland that is farther away from residential developments.
Real estate broker and area resident Christine Gammon-Kruschek said if the city continued disposing of the material at that location, it would negatively affect property values.
Bill Osberg said he wanted more information about whether or not all solid materials, such as prescription pills, were filtered out of the material.
The product was inspected prior to it being used and met all guidelines, Kimman said.
The city had met all requirements from the MPCA to apply the material at the site, he said.
Kimman apologized for the nuisance to the residents, but said the property the biosolids were applied to was a farm field and that is the general nature of farming out there.
Even if the city were to choose the site again, it would not be for several years as the farmer doesn’t want the material applied and the land tilled every year, Kimman said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the use of biosolids for farm use is safe provided regulations are being followed. It did say the potency of the smell varies depending on the treatment processes used.
For more information on biosolids, visit: www.epa.gov/biosolids.