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Sewage sludge can be used on pastures

Will you please tell us if this is illegal, and if not, why not? In Josephine County, on a ranch 15 minutes outside of Grants Pass, the owners are having treated sewage spread on their pasture. The stench is horrible. They say they can spread it on the upper pasture but not on the lower pasture because if it runs into the river it's polluting it. The cattle can't graze on the upper pasture for 30 days.

— Anonymous

It is in fact legal to apply treated sewage sludge on pastureland in Oregon — as long as the sludge has been treated to Class A or B standards and has undergone vector pathogen reduction, according to Paul Kennedy, a biosolids coordinator in the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's Eugene office.

It's also true cattle can't graze on the pasture for 30 days after the sewage application, he said.

DEQ requires setbacks for application sites so they don't contaminate sensitive areas, such as waterways and wells, according to the state agency.

Biosolids earn a Class A or B ranking based on the treatment processes they've gone through to reduce pathogens. No matter what process is used, the product must meet certain pollutant concentration limits as well as operational standards to control pathogens and reduce the attraction of vectors, such as flies and other potential disease-carrying organisms, according to DEQ.

For decades, DEQ has recognized the benefits of applying biosolids to land, including enhanced soil fertility and increased growth of agricultural crops.

That being said, DEQ responds to public concerns about potential problems at specific sites, such as odors, runoff or timing of application. These concerns are often discussed with the responsible facility, including what corrective action may be needed. Any concerns regarding potential problems with biosolids activities should be directed to the nearest DEQ regional office, according to DEQ.

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