Last week the Alabama State Senate ended their final day of session after being in session that morning for a total of approximately 25 minutes.

Their only order of business that morning was to pass the education budget. However, when they adjourned approximately 59 pages of bills died. This included House Bill 183. House Bill 183, sponsored by Representative Tommy  Hanes (R-23), was the  “Human sewage Bio-Solids” Bill. HB-183 would have allowed Jackson County citizens to vote on whether or not Bio-Solids could continue to be spread through land application in Jackson County. Currently, these Bio-Solids are transported from Chattanooga to Jackson County and are plowed into crop farmers’ fields or spread on cattle farmers’ pastures as fertilizer. Colbert, Franklin and Lawrence Counties voted to ban the practice in 2010.
The spreading of Bio-Solids is believed to have began in Jackson County in the 1990s when loads were said to have been hauled onto TVA property. A group of citizens, primarily from Sand Mountain, previously approached the Legislative Delegation and the County Commission requesting help with the matter. One citizen stated that she used to take her children to Flat Rock Creek, however, there is no life form left in the creek. Another citizen stated that Flat Rock Creek was foaming at one point.
Sharon Thomas stated that in Fabius, 60 percent of wells were contaminated within a six week time period. She stated that some pathogens that are in Bio-Solids, when airborne, can be contracted by humans. Thomas also stated that she has heard of instances of deer, cattle and dogs dying. She has also seen the creeks “foam.”
Resident Dean Smith stated, “This stuff is all over the dollar. I have a $35,000 in ground pool. You have to use a gas mask, just to be out there. I’ve been there 30 years, there are flies and gnats everywhere. You buy a place to enjoy and you can’t even enjoy your own place. When you go out in the mornings, it’s not roses we are smelling.”
During this same County Commission meeting, the testing of creeks and ponds in the Flat Rock area were discussed by the Bio-Solids coordinator from Chattanooga, during which time it was stated that the only thing tested for was E-coli.  
In March, 2002 an EPA status report for land applications of Bio-Solids was released. The reports state, “However, there are indications that more research is needed on risks to human health from pathogens in sludge. When the Sludge Rule was promulgated in 1993, due to safety and liability questions, the food processing industry was reluctant to accept the practice of using treated wastewater and sludge in producing food for human consumption. Therefore, EPA asked the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study that resulted in the 1996 report, Use of Reclaimed Water and Sludge in Food Crop Production.  Although the Council concluded that the “use of wastewater and sludge in the production of crops for human consumption presents a manageable risk,” concerns about pathogens in sludge were discussed in their report. Some of the same concerns were discussed by research scientists during the 2001 Cincinnati Conference. This conference, jointly sponsored by EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was attended by an international group of research scientists. The report headed Health Reports stated, “The National Whistleblower Center sent us a list of 21 complaints alleging well contamination, illness, or death in which exposure to sludge was identified as a possible cause. The Center contended that EPA failed to investigate any of these cases.”
Many Jackson County residents have raised concerns that  the spreading of this waste is causing health problems to residents and wildlife. A 2016 Jackson County Health Care Authority report stated, “Incidence rates (of cancer) for Jackson County are slightly above the statewide incidence rates for lung, colorectal, and melanoma, while significantly below the Alabama incidence rate for prostate cancers.”
Alabama’s Senator Gerald Dial, (R-13) who served as the Chairman on Local Legislation, stated, “I am disappointed in the process and behind the scenes behavior. The leadership and moving parts behind the scenes kept this bill from passing and allowing Jackson County to vote. It is disheartening to see this done this way. I have served and seen a lot of this over the years, but this is one of the worst cases I have seen of denying the people the right to vote. When I arrived on Thursday morning, the lobbyist were already working the halls, trying to kill this bill.”
Representative Tommy Hanes stated, “I worked hard in both the House and the Senate to pass this. Special interest groups beat me this time. The bill was moved around the Senate Chair on Local Legislation, following its approval to come out of the committee. Other states have stricter regulations and Jackson County has the right to vote on this matter.” 

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