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Sewer compost clean

Limits on many chemicals still unclear

A loader gathers some of the finished compost to move it outside, ready for shipping. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
August 12, 2009
SOUTHBRIDGE — In the industry, they call it "biosolids." Most people call it "sludge," or something shorter beginning with 's.'

Whatever you call it, in Southbridge that material is being dried, mixed with woodchips and sold as compost for use on just about anything from football fields to farms. And, despite the common perception, even standing in the middle of the wastewater treatment plant's compost building doesn't smell bad — nothing stronger than a typical family farm.

"We've been composting here since the 1986 upgrade," said plant manager Paul Krasnecky of Veolia Inc., who later described the resulting material as a Type I compost under state law, suitable for "unrestricted use from food crops all the way down." That means it must not exceed specific limits of 10 heavy metals, PCBs and pesticides, boron and fecal coliform bacteria, as tested after the composting process is done. In most cases, the state limits are more stringent than federal limits; the exceptions are arsenic, selenium and coliform, for which Massachusetts does not set limits.

See Friday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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