Biosolid experts answer Mason resident concerns

Published: Nov. 1, 2017 at 2:09 PM EDT
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Biosolid spreading at the Mason Stamp Sands has local residents still concerned but experts from Michigan Tech are speaking up on the subject.

"It's not surprising that people have questions about biosolids because most people don't think about the whole wastewater treatment process," said Jennifer Becker, Civil and Environmental Engineering professor.

Top questions include impact on water supply and wildlife.

"We can't say there is absolutely no risk because there is nothing I can think of that we do that has no risk," said Becker.

But biosolids are processed to the point where experts says health risks are very low, even in unlikely cases of high contact with the material.

"So, for example, for many of the metals this would be a child actually eating the biosolids. This gives you a feel for the regulations. They are based on a very extreme case," said Eric Seagen, also a Civil and Environmental Engineering professor at MTU.

As for impact on wildlife, biosolids are treated to be less attractive to animals. Becker says the risk for animals that do directly contact biosolids is extremely low.

"There are many, many more of these bacteria in animal manures, but there are no regulations that limit the applications of manure. The wildlife themselves carry them," said Becker.

Biosolids were spread at the Mason Stamp Sands location from 1968 to 2012. The water has been tested over the years, but tests have always come back clean.

“I think it is important for people to recognize that biosolids, to even be called biosolids and land applied, have to meet really strict standards that are designed to protect the health of the public," said Becker.