The University of North Carolina (UNC) academic environmental activists are leading the way in giving opponents of hog farming manure and sewage sludge fertilizers a national audience. This week “epidemiology researchers from the Gillings School of Global Public Health” at the university published their findings that such “fertilizers” spread on fields are making people horribly sick.
“Treated municipal sewage sludge—that is, the solids from sewage treatment—may be causing illness in people up to a mile from where the sludge is spread on land,” a news release from the university started out.
The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill is definitely not the agricultural college; that title goes to North Carolina State University.
“More than half of people interviewed reported acute symptoms such as burning eyes, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea after sludge had been sprayed or spread. People who live near fields in which industrial swine operations spray waste have reported similar symptoms,” the study authors announced.
The problem is that there were only 34 participants, and they were “study participants” meaning they probably had an axe to grind in order to take the time for having an avenue to complain. And complaints are common from many who live in rural areas when pig manure is spread. I’m sure sewage sludge might have some odor, too. Conscientious farmers try to keep the odor down, but some people have a cataclysmic fit when they smell the slightest whiff of manure.
There also is a network of environmental activists who are involved in complaining about the use of manure as fertilizer. They spread the word on exactly what conditions people should complain about and the symptoms they should complain about from being near manure or sludge used as fertilizer. I saw it first hand when an environmental group hauled some rural residents to Washington, D.C., to complain to the national media and meet with members of Congress. Complaints and doctor-proven truth are two different things, which it doesn’t appear that the UNC study cared about.
Their study, "Land Application of Treated Sewage Sludge: Community Health and Environmental Justice," was published online March 11 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It involved residents from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia who live near fields where sludge is applied as a soil amendment, according to the researchers.