Biosolids debate comes before HRM council

A Halifax staff report that argues biosolids — sewage sludge — is a safe fertilizer comes before council Tuesday.

A Halifax staff report that argues biosolids — sewage sludge — is a safe fertilizer comes before council Tuesday.

Last summer, people complained of a foul odour after the treated human waste was used along Dunbrack Street in Clayton Park. The sludge was also used as a fertilizer for newly planted trees in Point Pleasant Park.

Councillors said they were unaware biosolids were being used and asked for a report from city staff.

The Halifax Regional Muncipality's environment manager, Richard MacLellan, says the city has learned from the Dunbrack complaints and says measures can be taken to keep the smell to a minimum.

Sludge is safe: HRM staff

MacLellan says the product is safe, despite critics who say it amounts to putting industrial waste — including man-made chemicals, carcinogens, and radioactive material — into the soil.

"It's been regulated, tested, looked at in a number of different ways," MacLellan said. "It's pasteurized so there's no pathogens. It has lower fecal coliforms than manure you'd pick up at Home Depot, Kent, or Canadian Tire or whatever to use for your own landscaping purposes."

The report also says the heavy metal count is lower than in lime or other fertilizers.

It recommends that Halifax continue its use of biosolids, but critics hope councillors will put a stop the practice.

Opponents wanted to make a presentation to council but they were turned down.

Instead councillors have been invited to a Monday viewing of a Canadian documentary about biosolids called Sludge Diet.