Outdoor biosolids composting operation photo. Image credit:ADG Engineering
According to just published reports, two loads of radioactive sewerage sludge from Ottawa's public wastewater treatment plant were detected and stopped en-route to an "upstate New York" US composting operation - no doubt by Homeland Security employees with Geiger Counters. None of that hot Canadian sludge will go on our lovely farmland or orchards, thank goodness. (This represents an unexpected, positive outcome of anti-terrorist precautions.) There is more to the story.There was no sign of high radioactivity in wastewater flowing into the Ottawa treatment plant, nor in the plant itself:
"So far, our hazardous materials team found nothing but background radiation levels at our waste treatment plant, and experts came in this morning but also found nothing unusual," the city's spokesman Michael Fitzpatrick told AFP.Via:Yahoo News, AFP, Ottawa puzzled by sewage radiation find
That means that the radioactive materials got into the plant as a slug load 'some time ago', and ended up partitioning into de-watered sludge being hauled away for further composting. To get your arms around what "some time ago" actually means you have to know how often sludge is taken out of the plant's digesters: several months may have passed, depending on design.
Such occurrences can be from an accidental one-time release, or sloppy recurring operations by a legal waste discharger. (Or, if you are in conspiratorial state of mind, it could have been the "bad guys.")
However, in updated reporting, Common medical isotope cause of radioactive Ottawa sludge: regulator, The Ottawa Citizen is reporting that the isotope is of medical origin: hence the source is most likely a hospital or clinic.
The radioactive isotope detected by U.S. customs officials in two truckloads of treated Ottawa sewage is iodine-131, commonly used in medical treatments, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says.
Where was that sludge headed exactly?
The New York State DEC website states:
In New York State, thousands of tons of organic waste materials are composted each year. These include treated sewage sludge, otherwise known as biosolids...from waste water treatment plants (WWTPs); food waste residuals from industrial food processing facilities; food waste from recovery programs at hospitals, colleges, office buildings, and prisons; paper sludge; yard waste and other organic waste materials.The list of 38 regulated commercial biosolids (the PC term for sludge) composting sites in NY State is downloadable here as pdf file).
No doubt, the authorities are all over the composting operations that receive sludge from Ottawa. This will make for some nervous neighbors and, until the final report comes out, worried consumers, farmers, and regulatory officials.
Stay calm- wait for the facts to come out.
Of course, we'll keep our newsfeeds on the lookout for locally-grown food sold in New York City that glows in the dark (joking).
Seriously, stay warm and don't over react. The US Federal government currently believes that public information should be openly accessible and that science will set us on the right path.
Sludge: it's everywhere, even in our archives.
Sewage Sludge "Experiment" in Poor Kids' Backyards
Gold Fever Leads to Metal Mining in Garbage Dumps and Sewage ...
Milwaukee Closes The Loop On Poop
The Hot Poop on Fertilizer from Sewage
Ecobrique – Building With Sewage