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).

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During plenary some participants re-iterated issues around a perceived lack of support from governing bodies and the belief that there is a requirement for additional, independent regulation of the industry and of soil testing on land where sludge is being applied. Several highlighted the apparent flouting of legislation by contractors and the stress caused to the community by the unpleasant odour and a seemingly endless stream of lorries going to and from a particular treatment plant.

Some were concerned about the effects of application on human health and suggested that their doctors could be contacted for further information, although this would be difficult given confidentiality procedures. One participant spoke of the deaths, low birth rates and birth abnormalities among sheep on a local farm and was concerned that sheep from the affected flock had since been sold and perhaps entered the food chain. "Perhaps local vets or the knacker could provide information about livestock related concerns?"

Several participants couldn't understand why sewage sludge application to land is still deemed acceptable in Scotland when it is no longer acceptable to dispose of it at sea and other countries have banned it. "Why does the government refer to reports from other countries [on other pertinent issues] before making a decision yet seem unwilling to do so in the case of sludge application to land"? Following a show of hands, the majority of participants expressed support for a blanket ban on spreading sludge at least until application could be proven safe and for alternative methods of disposal to be researched or adopted where available.



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