Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Kaptur asks EPA to examine sludge use in area


Sewer sludge dumped at facility 3 - a man-made island where sewer sludge and river dredging is dumped.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to examine the possible impact of depositing and storing the city of Toledo’s sewer sludge at Facility 3, the 500-acre, man-made, diked-in area that juts into Maumee Bay.

Miss Kaptur sent a letter seeking “technical assistance and guidance” after a request from Toledo Councilman D. Michael Collins, who disagrees with using Facility 3 for sludge storage.

“At issue are potential contamination problems by pathogens associated with the sludge and the possibility that the material may be linked to phosphorus-loading in the bay and lake,” Miss Kaptur wrote. “The councilman also expressed concern over a lack of information as to other locations where the sludge may be being deposited without documentation and the runoff potential of those placements.”

Much of Facility 3 is owned by the Lucas County Port Authority. It was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1970s to house contaminated sediment dredged from the Maumee River and Maumee Bay shipping channels.

All the sludge created at the city’s sewer plant in North Toledo — about 50,000 tons a year — is taken there by S&L Fertilizer of East Toledo. The company mixes the sludge with material dredged from the shipping channels and a small amount of spent lime obtained from the city’s water treatment plant in East Toledo to create a product called Nu-Soil. S&L sends Nu-Soil back to the city to use as cover at the Hoffman Road Landfill, but a Blade review of public records earlier this month showed the Nu-Soil was used elsewhere. The Blade review also found that the Ohio EPA had not required that the sludge and contaminated dredge material combination be tracked.

S&L was paid $269,548 in 2008 and $210,174 in 2009 for “waste water treatment.” The company was additionally paid $1.9 million in 2008 and $1.1 million in 2009 for “water treatment.”

Nu-Soil has been used as fill at Ravine Park in East Toledo, a retirees’ golf course, and at a private residence on Manhattan Boulevard, city records show. Some is sold to farmers, said Terry Perry, who operates S&L.

The Blade review of records from the city and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority shows a number of conflicting statements, including whether Nu-Soil has been presented as a so-called “Class A” product, which is considered pathogen-free, or as a “Class B” product, which is considered to contain dangerous pathogens such as E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria.

The Ohio EPA for about 12 years had not required S&L to track and report where the Nu-Soil went, state EPA Director Scott Nally said in a February, 2012, letter. That changed on Dec. 1, when a new Ohio EPA permit required all Class B pathogen-laden sludge be removed from Facility 3 within two years after dumping ceases.

There is also conflicting information from the city and the Ohio EPA.

The city has received Nu-Soil under its contract with S&L since 1988 and has been using the material as cover. Approximately 30,000 tons are stockpiled at the landfill because the Ohio EPA ordered Toledo to stop using it pending tests, said Dave Welch, Toledo’s public utilities director.

But Dina Pierce, a spokesman for the Ohio EPA, said that is incorrect and that the city was given authorization in April to use Nu-Soil as cover for idle sections of the landfill and it still could be used as daily cover.

Steve Katich, chief of staff for Miss Kaptur, said the congressman is concerned about what is being spread in different locations and “what is happening at the mouth of the river.”

Port authority board member Jerry Chabler said it would be best if the federal EPA investigates.

“Based upon my research … I am glad they are coming in, if they agree to come in,” he said. “I really don’t expect a whole lot of difference between what the Ohio EPA has been saying.”

Jen Sorgenfrei, spokesman for Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, said it is Miss Kaptur’s prerogative to seek a federal review.

“The city has tested, as has the Ohio EPA, and there has been no indication of an impact on the water quality in that area, let alone adverse impact,” Ms. Sorgenfrei said.

S&L hauls 50,000 wet tons of Toledo’s sludge annually to Facility 3. Mr. Perry said a wet ton is 80 percent water and 20 percent solid, so he factors that amount as 10,000 dry tons of sludge. After curing three months at Facility 3, the water evaporates or sinks into the ground, Mr. Perry said.

As 10 percent of the Nu-Soil mixture, that sludge would create 100,000 tons of Nu-Soil a year. With the city accepting 25,000 tons of Nu-Soil a year at the landfill, that leaves 75,000 tons a year either still at Facility 3 or going elsewhere.

A city record obtained by The Blade shows 29,850 tons of Nu-Soil delivered to the Hoffman Road Landfill in 2010. An additional 6,529 tons was marked as delivered to the city, with Ravine Park listed as the destination, in 2010. The same record states 32,195 tons was sent in 2007 to the landfill and 19,971 tons to Ravine Park.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: or 419-724-6171 

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