I have lived in Mount Bethel since August 3, 2009, a transplant from the much more urban Central PA. It took me some time to adjust to the one-hour round trip required for groceries; there is nothing simple when you forget the bread, almond milk, or water. We do not live in a spot conducive for bike riding to a friend’s house or strolling around the block or popping in to a neighbor’s home for a cup of coffee. In my first months, I felt isolated and disheartened. And then I started running.
That’s really when I began to fall in love with the area. I ran past expansive fields, through gorgeous National Parks, down quiet streets full of family homes. I hiked on our own property, a beautiful nine acres of fields and hunting land. I watched the seasons change; I breathed deep; I learned to enjoy the silence and the slower pace. This place, this home, is one I have actually grown to love.
This is where we raise our children, run our dogs, live our lives. This is where we plan to start a family garden, possibly tend some chickens, and where my husband hunts for much of our meat. The water and soil are an intricate part of our lives. We shower, we brush our teeth, wash our clothes, fill our pets’ water bowls, wash our hands; we play in the hose in the summertime and jump in the leaves in the fall…all the while, trusting that the water and soil are free of deadly toxins.
And now here we stand on the verge of losing what is so precious to us. Former Northampton City Councilman Ron Angle has decided he wants to dump sludge on his farmland. What is sludge and how will this affect the rest us, not just those whose property borders on his own? I will attempt to tell you as calmly and rationally as I can, but know that as I type this, my hands are shaking, my gut is wrenching, and there are angry tears forming. Because I do not take my family’s health nor the health of my friends and neighbors as lightly as Mr. Angle does now that he has left political office.
“Sewage sludge is the concentration of everything that goes down the drain of homes, businesses, industries and hospitals after water is extracted at the wastewater treatment plant. Everything. After the water is extracted from the waste, the toxic chemicals, pathogens, bacteria, pharmaceuticals and poisons are concentrated into a solid or semi-solid form that is promoted as a “fertilizer option” called biosolids or sludge.” (from United Sludge-Free Alliance)
There are even different classes to sludge: A and B. Just like Hollywood, the B Class is less desirable. Class A is sludge that is totally treated and tested for any detectable levels of heavy metals and other pathogens. Class B may yet contain some traces of these. In January 2012, Mr. Angle stated that if sludge were to be dumped on Mount Bethel farmland, it would be “Class A and only Class A.” Now, in November 2013, guess which class he has actually chosen to pollute our township? You guessed it. Read a recent article here.
In another quote Mr. Angle states that “Lower Mount Bethel Township has taken a position that it’s a farming community. As part of that commitment, you have to make a commitment to the farmer.” Let’s make a commitment to the farmer who also makes a commitment to the consumer. A commitment to not pollute our wells and our soil. A commitment to not pretend that only the treated areas will be the ones to suffer. A commitment to our community as a whole, to our children.
How will this affect the surrounding areas, aside from the overwhelming odor of feces? Believe it or not, wind and water run-off have no respect for property boundaries. Nor do the deer and other wildlife that will tread on the sludge-laden land and then track the soil wherever they decide to go next. And if the deer feed on this land? Not only is this a farming community, Mr. Angle, it’s a hunting community. Many of us use the land for far more than farming. A good portion of my family’s meals over the winter months come from deer hunted right here in Mount Bethel. What those deer ingest is of great concern to me.
The results from these pathogens are frightening, to say the least. Reading the numerous articles listing the ill effects is disheartening and scary, ranging from headaches, nausea, diarrhea, respiratory ailments, viral infections…and death. In her book Garbage Land: The Secret Trail of Trash, Elizabeth Royte recounts the case of Shayne Connor, an otherwise healthy man who died soon after Class B biosolids (the technical name for sludge) were applied near his home. Synagro, the company behind much of the sludge dumping in the United States, settled this wrongful death case out of court. An 11-year-old Pennsylvania boy met the same fate after riding his bike through sludge-laden fields.
So let me ask you this: would you want to live next to these farmlands? Would you want your children and your pets and your food sources anywhere near these farmlands? If there is even the slightest bit of truth to the thousands of testimonies of illness, human and animal death, and potential for any of it…then tell me why anyone would actively partake in this, aside from that oh-so-shiny dollar sign?
Yes. It’s cheap. Imagine that: shit is cheap. And now that Mr. Angle is out of office and backtracking on his original “concern” for only Class A sludge, I think we’ve found our motive. If Mr. Angle has so little concern for his neighbors (one home containing a family with six children) whose land directly contacts his own proposed dumping ground…why do we believe his ultimate concern is for the farming community? Perhaps that is what he calls his wallet.
Support our actual community and our actual families by “liking” the UMBT United Against Sludge Dumping Facebook page. If you’re local, join us on December 9th at 6:00 p.m. at the Township Building to tell your Supervisors that you support the Community Bill of Rights Ordinance. Together, we have power.