Adapted from an article by Grant Nichols in the Bradford Journal & Miner Vol.CLVII No.29 by Christine Murphy and published in Lilipoh.
In May of 1996 the Bradford City Water Authority, of Bradford, PA, with a special waiver from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), embarked on an unique sludge conversion project. As in all closed-loop water filtration systems the biggest problem is how to dispose of sludge (a phosphorus poor by-product with low levels of organic materials). For many years the disposal procedure of choice has been to compress the material and deposit it in a landfill.
The new project however considered revitalizing the sludge and converting it to soil. The first step was depositing the sludge at a stone quarry on the Bradford Watershed. Next, seeding and fertilizing was done using two different methods. A 24'x24' area was planted with commercial seeding and chemical fertilizing techniques. The balance of the area of approximately 1-1/2 acres, was treated with biodynamic methods only. According to Kim Benjamin, water utility manager, the area cultivated using biodynamic techniques is now healthy and strong while the chemically fertilized area is thin and burned out (see photo).
L.A. Rotheraine*, agronomist for the project, proved that sludge can be fully reclaimed and revitalized and that biodynamic methods are the most effective and practical solution to sludge disposal. It is also the cheapest. Had the sludge been handled in conventional ways, it would have cost taxpayers $64,000 more to get the job done!
During the course of the summer the sludge was sprayed three or four more times with the Thun Barrel Compost by Bob Cummins of the Cummins Construction Company and Rotheraine. A delighted Cummins --the contractor for the Water Authority--when asked if he had any doubts about the success of the project, said, "As soon as Evergreen Elm lent us Rotheraine to mastermind the job, I knew we would succeed." Today, one year later, the biodynamically treated area is unbelievably fertile; far healthier than a comparable regular environment.