GOLD HILL, N.C. -- Concern is rising in Cabarrus County over the potential of sewer sludge being dumped on farms. A few farmers want to use it for their crops, but their neighbors worry about the consequences.
A 2-hour meeting in Gold Hill Sunday night had over 100 people in attendance, all searching for answers on how the sludge could affect their quality of life. Applications are in, and now Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities and the company Synagro are waiting on permits to spread the biosolid sludge. Many at the meeting feel the same as Dr. Lance Riley.
"We don't want it in our soils, we don't want it in our water, we don't want it in our ground water, we don't want it in our water reservoirs," Riley said.
The reason people don't want it is because they believe it's harmful to their health, but the whole reason it's an option in the first place is because certain farmers in Cabarrus and surrounding counties have applied and requested to have Synagro spread the sludge on their land. Myra Dotson with the Sewage Sludge Action Network says what people do on their own land is their choice, but this impacts others.
"When it starts to effect the people around you, it's not going to stay on the land," Dotson said. "That's the problem."
Jackie Jarrell with Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities showed us some samples of how the waste water goes through the treatment process. As it goes through treatment, the solids are split from the liquid and go through a separate treatment to eliminate pollutants. In the end, the biosolid sludge is what's left, which this team says they're around every day and they feel it's perfectly safe.
"We can actually clean the water, we can clean the solids and we can protect the environment," Jarrell said.
With metals like arsenic, lead and nickel in this biosolid sludge, most would prefer to keep it away from their homes.
"What options are we left with?" Riley said. "It's almost like it's being forced down our throats."
The process is still in the very early stages. CMUD says there will be public hearings held either this winter or next spring, before any of the permits would be approved.