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7-31-12: Where to Put the Poop
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Audio for this segment will be available by the end of the day.
As the classic kids' book tells us: everybody poops. That includes chickens, cows, pigs, humans. In Maryland, farmers have traditionally taken processed animal poop—or manure—and processed human poop—or biosolids—and used it as fertilizer for their fields.
Patricia Langenfelder, the President of the Maryland Farm Bureau, and a livestock and grain farmer in Kent County, says it's the best fertilizer there is. "we don’t have to go out and buy a commercial fertilizer from another part of the world. Much greener to use local fertilizer—i.e. manure. It’s much cheaper to do this. We’re recycling. The livestock produces the manures, we turn right around and feed the corn to the livestock."
However, fertilizer is considered to be a major source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay with nitrogen runoff leading to the creation of the “dead zone” every summer. With Maryland putting the bay on a pollution diet, there are new proposed regulations for managing how fertilizer is applied to fields.
The regulations may also affect how municipalities deal with processed sludge, or biosolids. Right now, many towns give those biosolids to farmers—but if the farmers don’t have a way to use them, they might have to find some other way to dispose of the sludge.
Sheilah talks about the proposed regulations with Royden Powell, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Resource Conservation at the Maryland Department of Agriculture, who’s been leading public meetings about the regulations around the state. We also hear from Chris Pomeroy, who’s the legal counsel for the Maryland Association of Municipal Wastewater Agencies – or MAMWA.
You can see the proposed regulations for yourself here. The Department of Agriculture is taking public comment until August 13th.