Letter to Rockton Township residents

Editor’s note: The following letter was dated April 1982 and sent to Sand Prairie, Rockton Township residents at that time.

Dear Neighbor and Fellow Sand Prairie, Rockton TWP Area Resident:

We as residents of Sand Prairie, Rockton TWP, would like to clarify our position with regard to the activity of spreading sewage sludge on agricultural lands in our area. There is extensive spreading by three municipalities and private haulers on several farms on Sand Prairie.

Our main concern is potential groundwater contamination due to the geology in our area and the permeability of the soils. The Soil Survey of Winnebago & Boone Counties completed in December of 1981 by the USDA Soil Conservation Service in cooperation with the Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station, the report of the Ground Water Study of Winnebago County (1979), sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the USEPA and the Technical Policy WPC-3 of the Illinois EPA lead us to believe that sewage sludge should never be spread on Sand Prairie.

Illinois law has been ignored in the granting of IEPA permits to Rockton and South Beloit, Ill., and Beloit, Wis., to spread sewage sludge in our area. Illinois Revised Statutes, Chapter 111-1/2 Para. 581 requires the appointment of a technical steering committee of diversified backgrounds. This provision of the law has been ignored by the IEPA for more than six years. The rest of us have to obey the law, and we feel the IEPA should do the same.

The result is that municipal sewage sludge disposal site selection procedures seem to be vague. We were surprised that the Winnebago County Soil Conservation Service was not notified and asked for comments when municipalities began spreading sewage sludge as fertilizer on agricultural lands. Their experience could be of great value in establishing a sludge disposal plan.

Supervision of sludge spreading operations is lax. Residents in our area have observed when spreaders or trucks get stuck, they dump their entire load of sewage sludge in one spot, and drivers have been observed spreading sewage sludge over and over in the same spot. Does anyone really know the true rate and volume actually applied?

In the past month during the spring thaw, the area where sewage sludge has been spread was covered with water ponding and running off for more than 1,000 feet onto neighboring lands.

Sewage sludge from Beloit, Wis., has been spread on land that appears to be closer than 150 feet from neighboring wells.

A testing and monitoring network needs to be established. Laboratory tests of Rockton and South Beloit sewage sludge have not been made available to us. Laboratory analysis of the City of Beloit municipal sewage sludge, which was used to obtain the IEPA permit, indicated cadmium content 180 percent in excess of USEPA standard guidelines and nickel content in one test 580 percent in excess of USEPA standard guidelines and in another test 600 percent in excess of USEPA standard guidelines. No tests were made for toxicants, pathogens, virus or PCBs, although they are frequently found in municipal sewage sludges.

Cation exchange and PH tests should be taken from numerous field locations at or below the depth of sludge application.

Land use and land ownership change with time. Today’s dairy, cattle or grain farm may become tomorrow’s truck and vegetable farm or residential subdivision. Permanent records of the location, quality and volume of sludge spread on specific lands should be maintained as part of the permanent USDA and Soil Conservation Service records.

Health recommendations are that fruit or vegetable crops for human consumption should not be grown on sludge amended soils. The Del Monte Corp. will not purchase crops grown on sludge amended soils. Therefore, it is reasonable that zoning changes should not be approved which would allow residential homes, where private gardens could be grown, on sludge-contaminated soils.

Financial liability should be clearly established. If groundwater is contaminated or disease is spread due to the application of sewage sludge on agricultural lands, who will be financially responsible? According to the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office, at present the only party liable is the owner of the land on which the sludge has been spread, not the public agencies involved or the municipality generating the sewage sludge or the tenant farmer, only the landowner.

The Del Monte Corp. has stated they do not want to run the risk of packing a couple million cases of “something” that has been harvested off ground that has been sewage sludge applied. We don’t want to run the risk of eating “something” or drinking “something” from our water wells as the result of contamination by sewage sludge.

In conclusion, our families, friends and neighbors are not willing to be used as guinea pigs drinking well water that has to be regularly monitored and tested by the County Health Department due to the application of municipal sewage sludge on neighboring farms in Sand Prairie.

Olive M. Fenton, Harry D. Fenton; Patricia Blair; Crystal Stien, Donald Stien; Donald Richards; Vivian Lawver, Al Lawver; Thalia Rinedollar; Diane Ott, Richard Ott; Bonnie C. Insko; Carol Lutzow, Mike Lutzow; Del Insko; Gwen Yungen, Lyle Yungen; Marie Darin, Leo J. Darin.

From the June 21-27, 2006, issue

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