Sewage sludge could become big concern

7 February 1997

Sewage sludge could become big concern

PRESSURE from water companies for farmers to apply sewage sludge to their forestry and farmland was criticised by farmers at an NFU environment surgery.

The extra pressure stems from EU regulations which demand that water companies halt dumping treated sewage at seas from 1998.

Several farmers were concerned about the effects of heavy metals on their land and the environment. Graham Coltis, West Riding, said analysis of his herbage following repeated applications of sewage sludge had shown a build-up of arsenic and cadmium.

Oliver Doubleday, chairman of the NFUs parliamentary, land use and environment committee, said farmers had to be on their guard as water companies had tried to win derogations from government over applying sewage sludge, contaminated with heavy metals, on set-aside land going in to short rotational coppice.

Mr Doubleday said farmers must be responsible and have their land regularly checked for heavy metals, such as zinc.

Ieuan Lewis, chairman of the Welsh NFU parliamentary, land use and environment committee, said there were proposals in Wales to place sewage sludge onto forestry land, and he warned farmers of the danger of wash-off.

Jeremy Chamberlayne, Gloucestershire, warned farmers that water companies were also trying to get farmers to pay for application costs: "It simply is not worth taking unless the sewage companies pay for spreading."

Dr Mike Paine, NFU water adviser, agreed there were questions whether necessary safeguards were in place over use of sewage sludge on agricultural land.

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