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Biosolids: Responsible recycling or danger to health?

GILMANTON — Depending on who one speaks to, using bio-solids as fertilizer is the greatest thing since sliced bread or the the most dangerous thing since nuclear fission.

According to the 2016 Random House Dictionary, the definition of bio-solids is "plural noun 1. nutrient-rich organic materials obtained from waste water treatment and used beneficially, as for fertilizer: The application of bio-solids to land improves soil properties and plant productivity, and reduces dependence on inorganic fertilizers."

To bio-solid detractors, even the basic definition is skewed to paint a rosy picture, while those who use them would likely agree with the above definition.

In Gilmanton, there is a group of people who petitioned to ban the use of the bio-solids against the wishes of many farmers and their supporters who say the science shows that when applied and managed correctly, bio-solids are perfectly safe for the food they raise and the neighbors who can occasionally smell their fields.

A "yes" vote on Article 3 means a voter wishes to ban their use. A "no" vote means the voters wish to continue the use of bio-solids in town.

According to Michael Rainey of the state Department of Environmental Sciences, the use of Class A and Class B bio-solids is based on science that was settled in the late 1980s, which is that "if you treat bio-solids in a certain way, you are going to kill certain pathogens."

When asked about some of the common complaints about bio-solids, including many specific concerns raised by letter writers offering their thoughts and observations, Rainey said they do smell. He said if properly applied, the smell should last about two to three days, which is about the same for animal manure.

He said that some people are especially sensitive to smells. For example, he fielded a complaint from a few people who live across the Merrimack River from the wastewater treatment plant in Franklin who were getting headaches from the odors. He said he took a few of them on a tour of the plant and while most of them, including himself, felt fine, one woman looked like she was going to vomit.

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