April 22 • 02:41 AM

Biosolids ordinance is shot down by state

'Scientific evidence lacking' in Goodland's attempt to regulate

June 30, 2010
GOODLAND TWP. — State officials have denied the township's attempt at regulating the application of sewage sludge and biosolids.

Last Tuesday, state officials notified the township of their decision, saying Goodland did not provide sufficient proof to back their claims.

"The township has not produced any scientific evidence to justify a finding that the land application of sewage sludge within the township under existing state regulations will result in unreasonable adverse effect on the environment or public health within a local unit," wrote Peter Ostlund of the state's Water Bureau.

Goodland officials have yet to decide what, if any, further actions they might take.

Supervisor Ron Cischke said he was disappointed to hear the news. He said officials were hopeful that the state would grant Goodland at least some of the new regulations they were seeking.

"I've given it to our attorney," Cischke said of the opinion, "and we'll probably talk about it next month."

Farmer Mark Siegler, who was outspoken against the ordinance, said "the facts tell it all."

"We're concerned too...we have kids. If there is a problem we wouldn't be using biosolids." he said.

Mark's dad, Jeff, has been using biosolids on his fields in Imlay and Goodland townships for more than 20 years. Citizens complained when sludge was surface applied to one of Siegler's alfalfa fields last fall.

Goodland, in their sewage sludge ordinance, argued that they were unique from other regions and in need of more stringent regulations because of their soil consistency, saturation levels, land slopes and the proximity of sludge applications to root crops and other produce.

The ordinance specifically called for new setback and slope requirements for land applications of biosolids, but the state claimed Goodland didn't give evidence as to how and why they chose those new numbers.

"Other than observations of flooding in the township from time to time, no scientific evidence was provided to support the allegation of a high potential for biosolids to contaminate root crops and produce," Ostlund, of the DNRE, wrote.

As it read, the ordinance would have also applied to home and land owners who can buy bagged biosolids or derivatives, such as compost, to use on their gardens and lawns, the state noted.

"Although not considered in our decision making, it is not clear how the township plans to regulate other sources of fertilizer, such as commercial fertilizer or manure," Ostlund wrote.

"We would expect the township to have similar concerns for these materials."

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.
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