A new report from city staff defends the use of biosolids as fertilizer for landscaping and forestry projects in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

It recommends the continued use of biosolids for landscaping and tree planting. The report also states that the material is safe and won't smell if it's handled properly.

But Downtown Coun. Dawn Sloane is not convinced, and she hopes another study will mean the material is burned rather than spread.

People who live near Dunbrack Street in Clayton Park found out in early August that the city was using treated sewage sludge as fertilizer. There was a powerful stink from the newly seeded boulevard. 

Biosolids were also used to fertilize newly-planted trees in Halifax's popular Point Pleasant Park.

Councillors were upset because they had no idea the material was being spread in urban areas and asked staff for a written explanation.

Sloane said Monday that downtown residents are not interested in having biosolids used in their neighbourhoods.

"We have a lot of community gardens within the downtown core.  The individuals I've talked to want to keep things organic and do not want to include this whatsoever," she said.

Sludge as fuel

Sloane is more enthusiastic about potentially burning sewage sludge as fuel. 

That idea is being investigated by Halifax Water, a research company and the operators of the biosolids plant,  said Richard MacLellan, HRM's manager of environmental sustainability.

"Premlinary results are very promising. There's more testing happening.  So that's a potential solution we could be able to realize in 12 to 24 months," he said.

MacLellan said a separate report on biosolids as fuel should be ready in a couple of months.

Meanwhile a debate on biosolids that was scheduled to take place this week at council has been delayed.

In August, actress Ellen Page, a native of Halifax, was among those speaking out against the use of biosolids.

"To be honest, I think biosolids are kind of an Orwellian term. I refer to it as 'sewage sludge,'" she told CBC News.

"It's taking industrial waste, waste from hospitals, businesses, households, full of man-made chemicals, highly toxic, proven carcinogens, radioactive material, and they're putting it on our soil. They're putting it into our ecosystem."

City officials said the sludge is processed to remove harmful chemicals and pathogens.