Letter to the Editor: No Sewers on Our Soil


Earlier this year, a proposal was filed to use "class A biosolids" as fertilizer on a large area of farmland right here in Lewis County, on the outskirts of where I live in Toledo. While this is currently completely legal, it's an environmental disaster waiting to happen, because "class A biosolids," despite how benign it sounds, is actually concentrated sewage from municipalities all across the state. The absolute last place this belongs is on our farmland and in the soils and water tables of our communities, but if we do nothing, that's exactly what's going to happen.

Think about the disgusting things people wash down the sink, dump down their garbage disposals and flush down their toilets. Think about the worst of it: broken mercury thermometers, battery acid, motor oil, prescription and non-prescription drugs, etc. Then think about taking that waste, concentrating it by removing the water from it, and mixing it in with natural products for use as fertilizer. What do you think is going to happen to our soil, as well as all the downstream waters, as a result?

We already know the answer, because environmental studies have been done showing what happens. Allowing "class A biosolids" — also known as concentrated sewer waste — on our soil results in exactly the kind of long-term damage that won't affect those of us living here for decades, but will slowly poison our descendants and anything we farm on the land: plants, fungi and animals alike. Multiple states, including Michigan and Nebraska, have already banned using biosolids as fertilizer, as has most of Europe. This is an area where Washington state cannot afford to fall behind.

But there's a relatively simple solution: Rather than looking to repurpose this toxic waste by putting it onto our land and into our waters, we can simply invest in incinerators. A recent study recommended that as few as five incinerators, which barely cost $100 million each, could handle the entire mass of biosolids produced by Washington state. This is the industry standard in Europe, and is a relatively tiny investment that could prevent decades or even centuries of unnecessary suffering.

Don't be fooled by "class A biosolids" proponents looking to make a quick buck off of the health and safety of everyone who lives in our state, as well as everyone who lives downstream of us. It's nothing more than putting the sewers of Washington's cities onto our soil: the type of wanton pollution we should all say "no" to before it's too late.


Ethan Siegel