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Used for fertilizer, treated sewage represents the ultimate in recycling, supporters say

More than 40 million gallons of home, business and industrial sewage flow into the WLSSD sewage treatment plant each day. After a multitude of treatment stages and dewatering, it's whittled down to 90 wet tons of sludge per day, almost 34,000 ton...

More than 40 million gallons of home, business and industrial sewage flow into the WLSSD sewage treatment plant each day. After a multitude of treatment stages and dewatering, it's whittled down to 90 wet tons of sludge per day, almost 34,000 tons annually.

Five days a week, 52 weeks a year, six semi trucks leave the WLSSD plant, hauling treated sewage sludge -- called biosolids -- to Northland farms and mineland reclamation sites.

Federal and state regulators, waste disposal specialists and many farmers say the process is a safe, responsible and inexpensive way to eliminate our human and business waste. Pouring nutrients that humans consume back into the land is beneficial, they believe.

Recycling sewage sludge on fields has become the disposal method of choice for most of the 15,000 municipal wastewater plants across the United States. More than 60 percent of the 5.6 million dry tons of sludge produced nationally ends up on fields, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Since 1992, when Congress banned the dumping of treated sludge in oceans, land application has skyrocketed past incineration and landfills, the other two approved options for sludge disposal.

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Using biosolids for fertilizer is the ultimate recycling, supporters say. Opponents say the stuff can contain viruses and other contaminants that aren't fully cooked out in processing. Last week, Los Angeles became the first municipality to gain EPA permission to bury sludge in underground caverns.

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