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What is Organic Waste? Organic Waste is any material that is biodegradable and comes from a plant or an animal. FPR is organic waste. Other examples include food waste, manure, green waste, human waste, sewage, paper waste, biodegradable plastic, and slaughterhouse waste. The word “organic” is used in its scientific sense and means anything that has a molecule with carbon linked to another element. This has nothing to do with “organic farming”.
Health Concerns: It has been proven that organic waste can cause considerable health concerns. From nitrates in drinking water that can cause Blue Baby Syndrome, thyroid dysfunction, and cancers, to toxins in surface waters that can damage kidney, liver, central nervous systems, reproductive systems, and cause cancers. Air pollution bioaerosols can cause heart and lung diseases and exacerbate asthma and so much more. CAFO manures contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria locally. Poultry litter can carry pathogens, fungi, mycotoxins, and endocrine disrupters. This is a sampling of possibilities detailed in research we’ve done. Some of this research is linked in these documents but we encourage you to use this information as a starting point and do your own.
Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) is the amount of oxygen consumed by microorganisms while they decompose organic matter under aerobic conditions. Dissolved oxygen is a crucial component of aquatic ecosystems. When an effluent with high BOD reaches waters, oxygen levels are depleted which causes oxygen-consuming organisms (fish, shellfish, aquatic insects) to die off, and upsets the delicate ecosystem. An aquatic dead zone can result.
Nutrient Pollution: Nitrogen and phosphorus help plants grow, but too much in the air or water can have diverse and far-reaching impacts on public health, the environment, and the economy. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water causes algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle. Large growths of algae are called algal blooms and they can severely reduce or eliminate oxygen in the water.
With FPRs (and all organic wastes) the soil is the treatment medium.
Organic Waste is very high in Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD). This tendency is true of fruits and vegetables, and especially for slaughterhouse FPRs. Per the FPR Manual: “High BOD rates are common in FPRs. At excessive application rates high BOD FPRs can cause anaerobic soil conditions that slow decomposition of organics, clog the soil, and create odors. Application rates and frequency must be limited.”
Fats and Oils can decrease soil permeability and it’s ability to “process” future FPR and manure applications.
Algal Blooms: An algal bloom is the overgrowth of algae or algae-like bacteria in fresh or salt waters. Not all algal blooms are toxic, but research indicates a growing number are. A Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) is a bloom that produces toxins that are dangerous to humans and animals. Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms are the most common type of HABs and they can produce cyanotoxins. Cyanotoxins can bioaccumulate in fish, shellfish, and zooplankton and can make people sick if they come in to contact with polluted water, consume tainted fish or shellfish, or drink contaminated water. These toxins can affect the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and reproductive system, and there is an association to various cancers.
Can Nutrient Pollution affect groundwater and air quality? Yes. In groundwater, nutrient pollution can be harmful even at low levels. A big concern is Nitrates in drinking water. Infants are particularly vulnerable.
The following article describes the pollution that occurred in Port of Morrow, OR. It says, “Drinking high levels of nitrate can cause health risks, including respiratory infections, thyroid dysfunction and stomach or bladder cancer. It can also cause “blue baby syndrome,” which decreases the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen, especially in infants drinking baby formula mixed with contaminated water.
Air pollution: Excess nitrogen in the air can produce pollutants such as ammonia and ozone, which can impair our ability to breathe and see. Manure emits ammonia that then combines with other air pollutants, like nitrogen oxides and sulfates, to create tiny—and deadly—solid particles. We humans inhale these particles, which can cause heart and lung diseases and are said to account for at least 3.3 million deaths each year globally, and 17,900 deaths in the United States as of 2021.
Please also see the section on Poultry Litter.
Odors: Per the FPR Manual: “More than any other factor, odor is listed as the most common source of complaints in FPR management programs. Two common sources of nuisance odors are land application fields and FPR storage areas.”
They’re not just normal farming, “Welcome to the country” odors. This petition site has comments (“Reasons for Signing”) regarding neighbor experiences of FPR odors:
Poultry Litter concerns: Chicken litter is a mixture of chicken feces, feathers, bedding materials and spilt feeds, drugs, and water. Findings indicate that direct land application of chicken litter could be harming animals, human, and environmental health. When spread on fields, poultry litter contaminants can spread offsite in Organic Dust (bioaerosols).
“The key safety concerns of chicken litter are its contamination with pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, helminthes, parasitic protozoa, and viruses; antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant genes; growth hormones such as egg and meat boosters; heavy metals; and pesticides.”
We believe townships should warn neighbors within 400m (at a minimum) that they should not be outside while poultry litter is being spread – especially the immune compromised, elderly or very young.
Are there other concerns with organic waste? Yes. They can also contain heavy metals (arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, molybdenum, selenium), PCBs, PFAS (“forever chemicals”), endotoxins, dioxins, detergents/cleaning agents, and more. Slaughterhouses (depending on animal): prions, bird flu, etc.
From New Jersey’s FPR guidelines (2002). This guide was published before problems with overspreading and water pollution became widely known. (We also believe process wastewater is specifically excluded from allowed NJ FPRs, while that’s not the case in PA.) “In most cases, non-traditional organic waste is not processed before being land applied. Therefore, a variety of potential problems can be associated with their use, including release of odors, attraction of flies, contamination with trash, presence of viable weed seeds, pesticide residues, plant pathogens and animal pathogens (e.g., from pet droppings). Although there are potential problems with the use of unprocessed, non- traditional, organic wastes, many can be avoided with prior knowledge of the waste characteristics (waste analysis and visual inspection), proper siting criteria (soil suitability and avoiding environmentally sensitive areas), and timely application and incorporation.