In one form or another, Upper Mount Bethel Township supervisors found themselves dealing with sludge Monday night and listening to a large crowd of township residents who do not want it spread on farmers’ fields as a fertilizer, a move they fear would damage air and water quality.
In the end, the township rescinded an earlier decision it made to pay $60,000 for fertilizers and lime that farmers could spread on their fields instead of sludge, a fertilizer made from human waste that is supplied by area sewer authorities.
And township resident, Ron Angle, who sparked the debate over the use of sludge in the township, promised he will start spreading the stuff this spring on property he leases to farmers.
About 70 people jousted with Angle and the supervisors.
They came armed with a petition and a plea that the supervisors adopt a “Bill of Rights” that would protect them from what they said would be the risk of exposure to stench and declining property values and protect their way of life.
They waived “No hazardous waste, Yes to community Bill of Rights” signs and gave standing ovations to anti-sludge supporters.
The supervisors voted down the “Bill of Rights” proposal, saying they did not like the language in their proposal but agreed to discuss it at an upcoming workshop meeting.
The frustration with the board and with Angle surfaced throughout the meeting.
“Why are you doing this to us?” Dianne Zimmerer asked the board, saying the board was letting the community “get sludged” by Angle, who has a state permit from the Department of Environmental Protect to spread sludge.
“It’s a hard issue,” said Supervisor Joe Battillo. “I feel your pain. I wish the state would change the law.”
Attorney Debra Bodine said she was “appalled” nothing had been done by the board of supervisors on the sludge issue and urged they challenge the law that permits it.
“Laws are sometimes wrong,” Bodine said, referring to the nation’s history with slavery and women’s rights.
Outside the meeting room, Angle said he was on strong legal footing and, besides that he said, sludge has been used for decades as a fertilizer in Lancaster County and is now used in Forks Township and in Lower Mount Bethel Township.
“Everything is done by the book,” Angle said, referring to the state regulations involving sludge. “It’s all highly regulated.”
Angle, referring to the resentment he faced at the meeting, said, “We do have a certain percentage of kooks here.”