NEW KENT — The New Kent Board of Supervisors is not in support of spreading industrial sludge in the county.
"If the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says that it is not safe enough to dump this in the Chesapeake Bay, then it's not safe enough to dump on our land," said District 4 Supervisor Ron Stiers.
The New Kent Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday night to join other localities, including King William and King & Queen counties, and the Town of West Point, in sending a letter of opposition to the Department of Environmental Equality and the State Water Control Board, opposing the spreading of industrial sludge throughout the Commonwealth.
Synagro Technologies, the largest processor of sewage sludge in the U.S., is proposing to apply industrial residuals, or sludge, to 16,713 acres of forestland and farmland in seven counties: New Kent, King William, King and Queen, Goochland, Prince George, Surry and Hanover.
The proposed industrial sludge, a by-product of chicken or hog slaughter and paper packaging, would come from Smithfield Packing in Smithfield, Tyson Foods in Glen Allen, and the RockTenn paper mill in West Point.
According to New Kent County Administrator Rodney Hathaway, if the permit were approved, Synagro would spread sludge on a 1,200-acre Lanexa farm that sits on the Pamunkey River.
This concerned the board.
"I think we should send a letter telling DEQ we don't want it in our county until somebody can prove that it's good for the land," District 5 Supervisor W.R. "Ray" Davis, Jr. said
"DEQ hasn't shown us anything. They've showed us studies that were done 20 or 25 years ago somewhere else," he added. "They haven't shown me any positive outcome of applying this stuff."
DEQ's deputy director of the Piedmont Regional Office, Kyle Winter, told the board at its July 30 work session that residents throughout the Commonwealth have expressed concerns about the health effects, materials used, odor, drinking water contamination, a lack of regulations, and the effect sludge may have on wildlife.
These were some of the concerns residents voiced Monday night.
"This is industrial waste, this is not biosolids. The problem is DEQ has no standards for the application of industrial waste. So it's going to apply the standards of biosolids in considering [industrial waste] applications," said Providence Forge resident James Poole.
Poole also said that once the industrial sludge is applied to land, DEQ recommends that landowners wait before walking on the property and harvest crops.
"It says that farmers must wait 18 months before they can harvest crops for livestock and it's even longer for human consumption," Poole said.
Providence Forge resident Russ Beyer echoed Poole's comments and added that the county could face legal and environmental ramifications from applying industrial sludge.
"This is a very easy decision in my opinion," Beyer said. "If you pass it and it goes badly, it's difficult to live with. If you don't pass it, you probably have prevented a bigger workload in trying to fix a mess a little later."
Other New Kent County residents recently petitioned the permit application.
"New Kent County is 100 percent dependent on groundwater, and there is some chance that not all of it will be filtered," said Andrea Ebbs, president of Five Lakes subdivision and one of the originators of the Deny Synagro LLC Permit petition.
As of Tuesday morning, 83 people had signed the petition, more than 3/4 of the petition goal.
According to Ebbs, the petition will be sent to DEQ and the SWCB. A copy of the petition will also be sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, asking that he instruct DEQ and the SWCB to deny the sludge proposal.