Human waste is being dumped in Warren County to be used as free fertilizer and residents are unhappy about it.
Sewage from Chattanooga is being shipped to Warren County to be used as biosolid fertilizer. There are piles of biosolid off Highway 30. Residents have been complaining about the foul smell coming from this biosolid fertilizer that they have been experiencing since Thanksgiving. Commissioner Tommy Savage said he learned about this Tuesday night.
“I heard where it was coming from so I sent the mayor of Chattanooga an email and he responded and said he didn’t know anything about it and he and his team would check it out,” said Savage.
In his email, Savage said, “I’m a farmer myself and know you have to cut corners to make a profit but never at the cost of people’s health. I could understand if it was treated properly and spread. These trucks are simply dumping the sewage. This area has beautiful farms and mountains and natural springs and sinkholes. We’re really worried about groundwater pollution. The smell in this residential area is awful.”
Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly responded and said, “Thank you for taking the time to contact me. I’ll definitely have my team look into this, and I appreciate your bringing it to my attention.”
The city of Chattanooga requested approval from the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation (TDEC) to apply biosolids at a new site in Warren County in a letter from December. Documents from TDEC report that Chattanooga’s Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment plant has nearly 10 biosolid contracts in Warren County.
Savage reached out to a farmer who is using this biosolid fertilizer and learned he is saving a lot of money.
“I talked to a farmer last night that gave me some more information. This man uses it and said that they were bringing it from Chattanooga to his farm and they even spread it absolutely free. He said he was saving around $30,000 not having to use fertilizer,” said Savage.
Savage says if the farmers were receiving the fertilizer and spreading it immediately, the smell would not be as bad; however, it is being stockpiled. He says water is pooling inside the piles and will eventually go back into the ground.
“I have talked to TDEC and from everything I gathered from the man from TDEC is he sees nothing wrong with it,” said Savage. “I really understand about farming and trying to make a profit. The price of fertilizer is very, very high, but are you going to do it at the expense of people living in residential areas?”
Savage understands the need for farmers to save money, but he is concerned about the health and safety of the people in the area. In May of 2022, Maine banned the use of sewage sludge on farms to reduce the risk of PFAS poisoning. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of chemicals used in many industries to make products resistant to water, stains and heat. The compounds are effective, but they are also linked to cancer, kidney disease, birth defects, decreased immunity, liver problems and a range of other serious diseases.
“I am all about trying to help farmers, but in a residential area it is hard on these people who live there,” said Savage. “I am sure there are some people who don’t see anything wrong with it, but I think there is a silent majority that won’t say anything that certainly don’t agree with it.”
When Savage spoke to TDEC, the representative told him that they would be coming to every one of these approved sites to check out what is happening. Savage says he understands it is a great deal for farmers to get free fertilizer, but says he has to look out for everyone in the district, not just the farmers.
“I am not trying to pick on the farmers, I just want to make sure they are abiding by the law and I want to make sure it is safe for the people. Sometimes just because it is legal, doesn’t mean it is right,” said Savage.
County Executive Terry Bell has been advised for people to contact Oakley Hall at 931-250-3582 or by email at Oakley.hall@TN.gov if anyone wants to voice concerns.