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Upper Mount Bethel creates plan to end sludge controversy

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 14 2014 05:07:59 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 15 2014 04:39:06 AM CST

The signs over sludge can be put down, at least for now.

UPPER MOUNT BETHEL TWP., Pa. -

The signs over sludge can be put down, at least for now in Northampton Co.

"Bittersweet I guess you could say," said Diane Zimmerer.

The bittersweet for Zimmerer and the rest of those opposed to human sludge, or bio-solids, a controversial but DEP-approved farmland fertilizer, is an agreement made Monday night by Upper Mount Bethel Township.

"They will provide me fertilizer every year for three years. I sign an agreement not to put sludge on the fields," said property owner Ron Angle.

Angle started the firestorm of flap a few months ago, when he wanted to spread sludge over hundreds of acres of his farmland.

The Northampton County township agreed to set aside $60,000 out of its general fund,each year to pay for conventional fertilizers for farmers instead of sludge.

Township Solicitor Ronold Karasek says at this point a tax increase to pay for it isn't expected.

"This is a relatively novel approach so we would be learning as we go along," Karasek said.

Who qualifies and how much of the fund each farmer would receive also needs to be figured out.

Karasek does admit Angle is the only one who has wanted to use bio-solids and at least up until now is the only landowner who would benefit from the newly-created fund.

"The fertilizer will go on the fields. I don't farm. I lease my farms out to farmers who do farm," Angle said.

Angle also says the new fund will only help to create better soil and improve the quality of farming.

However, those like Zimmerer still push for an outright ban on sludge, which she feels poses a serious health risk.

"We have children here who have health issues and want to be able to live in our home safely," she said.

The program is expected to get going by spring.