Residents in a Lehigh County township are waging a battle against local farms that are using a fertilizer made from human feces.
Several Lynn Township, Pa. farmers use a bio-solid called “granulite” to fertilize their crops, according to township authorities. “Granulite” is sewage sludge turned into dried pellets, 30 percent of which is made of human waste.
Residents like Bill Schaffhouser fear the health effects when this chemically-treated sewage fertilizer seeps into the ground and water.
“There’s a huge difference between using fertilizer and using human feces that’s been treated with different chemicals,” Schaffhouser tells NBC Philadelphia's Stacy Stauffer. “This stuff will end up in the food and meat they eat, the milk they drink…this is a real issue.”
Township officials tell NBC Philadelphia that they have no control over the situation. According to the township, because the Department of Environmental Protection issued the permits, the township cannot override the permits.
But the DEP told NBC Philadelphia Wednesday that it does not issue permits for the granulite to the farmers, but it does monitor how the fertilizer is used.
The DEP gave NBC Philadelphia this statement:
"The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in conjunction with Lehigh County Conservation District monitors all farms in that county where land use approval has been obtained to utilize biosolids. The DEP does not issue permits to private land owners for use of this material. The DEP issues permits to anyone who generates biosolids, including wastewater treatment plants and septage haulers. Those entities must get a permit from DEP before biosolids can be applied to the land."
Meanwhile, Schaffhouser says that he and his neighbors can no longer drink their water because the sewage fertilizer has seeped into the drinking water, the storm drains and the nearby creek.
“It’s on the streets, it’s all through our neighbors yard right by this swing set and it’s supposed to be regulated but who’s regulating it? The DEP? I don’t think so,” Schaffhouser says.
Despite the township’s apparent impotence in the situation, Schaffhouser says he will continue to press the municipal leaders to ban farms from using bio-solids.
“We’ve got the chemicals going into the ground, got human feces going into ground none of its normal, none of its natural,” Schaffhouser says.
Residents voiced their complaints at a township meeting Tuesday night, but were told that they had to contact the state with their complaints, officials said.
DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said that if anyone does have a complaint about private farms or lands that using biosolids, he or she can file a formal complaint with the DEP Northeast Regional Office by calling (570) 826-2511 or by going to the website.