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Spreading of sewage sludge to land - impacts on human health and the environment: community concerns

This workshop summary report is part of the research project undertaken by the James Hutton Institute on the impacts on human health and environment arising from the spreading of sewage sludge to land (CR/2016/23).

This document is part of a collection


Project overview- what we're measuring, what we're finding.

Researchers from the James Hutton Institute gave a short presentation about the project and the project specification going forward. The remit is to undertake an impartial study into potential negative impacts of sewage sludge on human health, to update existing guidelines on how sewage sludge is used on land and provide evidence –based recommendations for better practices. (See appendix 3 for the full presentation).

Following the presentation participants were invited to take part in a question and answer session with the researchers. There were several questions predominantly centred on those shown in Table 1 and comments that weren't actual questions but are recorded below Table 1

Table 1. Questions and Answers
Questions from participants Answers from researchers
Does the project remit include finding alternatives? No, that is out-with this projects remit
Will the project look at the dangers of prions No, that is out-with this project remit at this stage
Why is sludge spread on land? Because there are limited alternatives, it provides a good form of fertilizer, and the process is in line with SG aspirations for a Circular Economy
How often should it be spread? It depends on type of crop and soil analyses. Typically 20T/ha, 250 kg/ha Nitrogen
Why isn't it banned as in other countries? That is a question for Government
Are farmers / land managers expected to test soil prior to sludge application? Yes, initially before the first application and then at 20-year intervals (depending on metal concentrations in the soil)
What happens to sludge in countries where application to land is banned? It is digested for methane production and then incinerated.

In addition to the questions, participants voiced concerns about the apparent disregard by the industry to follow legislation and guidelines, the issues around health and welfare of humans and livestock and the effect of application to land on the general environment.

Contact

Email: gary.gray@gov.scot

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