Last summer 2014 the Montana DEQ proposed several applications to land apply sewage sludge and gray water, AKA septage, on landscapes directly outside Ennis, Montana, in the small community of Jeffers.
Sewage sludge includes anything that is flushed, poured, or dumped into our wastewater systems – a vast, potentially hazardous stew of wastes collected from countless sources — from homes to chemical industries to hospitals. Many times the sludge being spread on our crop fields is a dangerous mix of heavy metals, industrial compounds, viruses, bacteria, drug residues and radioactive material. Across the country, hundreds of people have fallen ill after being exposed to sewage sludge fertilizer, suffering from respiratory distress, headaches, nausea, rashes, reproductive complications, cysts and tumors.
How and where sludge and septage is applied is key; the presence of high groundwater tables, local creeks and springs, etc. create a high risk of sludge and septage traveling off the local landscape and contaminating water quality. For this reason Montana has standards concerning whether an application to apply sludge is proper depending on the locale, local water resources, landscape slope, and other important ecological and human health factors.
Local Jeffers citizens were understandably upset by the proposed sludge application near their families and homes, in the scenic Madison valley where the health and vitality of local waterways is key to supporting a vibrant outdoor economy. Upper Missouri Waterkeeper worked with concerned citizens to help develop the science, common-sense, and legal arguments to challenge the sludge proposal.
We are excited to announce that in the face of staunch citizen outcry, scientific evidence, and legal flaws this November, 2014, the sludge applications were withdrawn!
This victory proves that empowered citizen voices, sound science, and insistence on compliance with the law can create meaningful change, and stop ill-conceived projects that threaten community and local waterway health. Keep tuned as we continue working with local Madison Valley citizens to create meaningful plans and improvements in local wastewater policies and infrastructure that will provide critical defense of waterway and community health in the future!
Click below to read our technical comments to DEQ explaining why science and the law prohibit the land application of septage in Jeffers, Montana. Comment.LAseptage.Ennis1-Sept-30-2014.pdf