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Residents want say on sludge spreading

Caroline County residents can formally weigh in on Synagro Central LLC’s plans to spread treated sewage sludge on several thousand acres.

The Department of Environmental Quality on Monday opened a 30-day public comment period on the company’s modified permit application. An initial public information meeting was held in Caroline in February.

The public comment period is a window of opportunity for residents living adjacent to the areas to be treated to request a public hearing and suggest revisions.

Synagro wants to add eight tracts covering 3,831 acres, to an existing permit to spread biosolids on farm fields and forestry tracts in the rural county.

According to a legal ad in The Free Lance–Star this week, requests for a public hearing must include the name and permit number for which the hearing is requested; the reason why a hearing is sought; and a brief, informal statement on potential impacts.

“A public hearing may be held, including another comment period, if public response is significant, based on individual requests for a public hearing, and there are substantial disputed issues relevant to the permit,” the notice says.

A similar process is playing out in several area localities, including Spotsylvania County, where DEQ is preparing a draft permit for Synagro to apply biosolids on more than 6,200 acres.

Some residents there have been mobilizing in recent weeks to oppose the application, and to request that a public hearing be scheduled.

An information session on Synagro’s application was held in Spotsylvania in March.

Requests for public hearings are reviewed by DEQ staff, then referred to the agency’s Richmond headquarters for approval. Hearings are held before the State Water Control Board.

Since 2008, when the DEQ took over Virginia’s biosolids permit program, three public hearings have been scheduled for the agency’s Northern Regional Office, which includes much of the Fredericksburg area. Each of those was for applications in Fauquier County, an agency representative has said.

While there have been some revisions to permits, none has been denied by the water board.

Biosolids have been used for decades on tens of thousands of acres across the Fredericksburg area.

Companies such as Synagro are paid by municipalities to dispose of the material, which is given free to farmers as fertilizer.

Opponents say the material is harmful to the environment and human health, while supporters and the industry contend it is a safe method of disposal that provides farmers with beneficial crop nutrients.

Public hearings are posted on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall: http://townhall.virginia.gov/l/Meetings.cfm

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431

rdennen@freelancestar.com

 

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