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Published June 03, 2010, 04:56 PM

Ohio to ban farms from spreading sludge in winter

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio wants to ban farmers from spreading sewage sludge on their fields during the winter, a move intended to protect nearby streams.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio wants to ban farmers from spreading sewage sludge on their fields during the winter, a move intended to protect nearby streams.

The proposal would prevent incidents in which sludge that was spread on frozen farm fields runs off and poisons streams during sudden thaws or unseasonable rainstorms, ac-cording to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The ban would be in place from Dec. 15 through March 1 each winter.

The EPA first proposed a ban in 2007 but withdrew it because officials at sewage-treatment plants and farmers complained that it was too expensive and unnecessary.

Jacob Howdyshell, the EPA’s sewage-sludge coordinator, said the agency spent the past three years working on a compromise that shortens the nonapplication period, which initially was proposed to run from Nov. 15 through March 15.

The new proposal still would raise costs for public sewer systems that would have to either store sludge during the winter or pay to dump it in landfills, said David Brewer, a sludge manager for Montgomery County’s sewer systems.

“(The EPA) drew a big line in the sand,” Brewer said. “They said, ‘We’re just not going to compromise anymore on winter (sludge) application.”‘

Brewer, who was involved in negotiations on the compromise, estimates Montgomery County, which includes Dayton, would have to spend more than $1 million to construct a sludge-storage building.

About 140,000 tons of sludge is spread on as many as 8,800 fields across Ohio each year, Howdyshell said.

Thousands of gallons of Columbus sewage sludge ran off a Fayette County field in February 2004 and polluted a nearby creek. The city paid a $10,000 fine and agreed to inject sludge into the soil on farms instead of spreading it on the surface.

Dax Blake, Columbus’ sewerage and drainage administrator, said the city might incinerate more sludge during the winter or store it at the plants for use after March 1 when the ban would expire.

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