EDITORIAL: Keep PFAS out of recycled sewage sludge

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PFAS chemicals have recently been at the heart of health and environmental issues in Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and other areas around the state, leading to legal action, tougher regulations and cleanup efforts.

The chemicals have been linked to a variety of health issues, including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, colitis and high blood pressure.

In most cases, the environmental contamination comes from the discharge of the compounds into the soil from manufacturers of products that use PFAS chemicals, such as non-stick cooking material, firefighting foam and stain-resistant carpet.

But those same dangerous chemicals may also be finding their way in greater amounts into our soil, groundwater and even food supply through their use in fertilizers made from sewage sludge.

It’s imperative that the state do all it can to reduce PFAS chemicals into the environment, not add to them.

That’s why groups like the Sierra Club and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York are among those concerned about an element of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft Solid Waste Management plan that could nearly triple the amount of recycled sewage sludge used in fertilizer and applied to farmland and home gardens.

According to an article in the Altamont Enterprise, the DEC projects that 425,585 tons of sewage sludge is expected to be recycled this year. In 2018, the amount recycled was just over 300,000 tons. By 2050, the amount of recycled sludge is expected to rise to 782,527 tons, the newspaper reported.

The potential for that sludge to contain PFAS chemicals means that there could be an increase in PFAS’s making their way into the environment.

DEC officials said they recognize the potential for PFAS chemicals to re-enter the environment through sludge and they’re taking steps to address it, including proposing sampling requirements for so-called biosolids recycled in New York state, a comprehensive risk assessment to determine a limit for biosolids recycling, and efforts to identify potential commercial and industrial sources of PFAS chemicals in biosolids.

The public really needs to keep an eye on this effort to ensure that the state is doing all it can to avoid contributing to more of these chemicals entering the environment.

The public comment period for submitting comments on the draft Solid Waste Management plan has been extended to June 29, so people still have an opportunity to review the proposals and express their views.

Visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/draftsswmp.pdf to review the plan, and submit written comments via email to: NYSSolidWastePla[email protected]. (Include “Comments on SSWMP” in the subject line.)

No amount of recycling is worth threatening the health and well-being of New York’s residents and consumers. The state can’t let more PFAS into the environment.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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