Biosolids: Recycled Human Waste Fertilizer Used On Your Food

By: April Davis/ Clayton Bauman
By: April Davis/ Clayton Bauman

A truck that spilled treated human waste fertilizer Monday in New Bern had some of our viewers voicing concerns about product safety.

We did some research about the material called biosolids. It can be used in soil to grow several crops- including those we eat. The process is heavily regulated by the EPA and takes place at waste treatment facilities. Greenville Utilites showed us the dewatering process at its plant Wednesday which creates biosolids. Officials with the Pitt County Cooperative Extension say the EPA requires monitoring of several factors.

"They've also regulated what can be exactly in the sludge as far as mineral content, pathogen load, and other potential pollutants that can be in the crops," said Andy Burlingham with the Cooperative Extension.

The use of biosolids also helps keep more waste out of landfills.

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  • by Caroline Location: United States on Mar 22, 2012 at 06:24 PM
    Biosolids are probably the most pollutant-rich material produced by modern society. Most of the 60,000 synthetic chemical compounds in commerce today ( with a 1000 new ones added annually) end up, concentrated in biosolids. Every entity connected to a sewer can discharge its hazardous and toxic waste into sewage treatment plant. Here, the pollutants are removed from the waste water, concentrating in the resulting sludge. Federal regulations require testing for only 9 metals. The most recent National Academy of Sciences biosolids report warned that the US regulations are based on outdated risk assessment models, outdated science, or no science at all. Farmers are liable if they or their neighbors are adversely affected. Biosolids, a mixture of human pathogens and industrial waste, does not belong on the land where we grow our food or graze our animals. For more information visit
  • by Anonymous on Mar 22, 2012 at 03:06 PM
    Let's get back to the home garden! Grow a few rows of vegetables in your back yard and amend your soil with organic amendments and all you need to do is water it and give it a good aerated compost tea once a month and that's it. No fertilizer needed when the soil already holds the nutrients.
  • by Make Up Your Mind on Mar 22, 2012 at 12:44 PM
    As a farmer, I find it annoying that no matter what we do to please the public you are never satisfied. You want food, you want us to be more "Green", you want us to produce more in less space but do it "better". How is it fair when we follow more regulations on fertilizer and pesticides and still get a bad rap, even though you as a home owner can put unlimited amounts, and know nothing about following the labeled allowable amounts. You want us to be more resourceful and more renewable so we use waste products from animals and humans and you still complain? And really what is the difference between human waste and animal waste? We are working our butts off to provide you with the kind of food that you want and you still complain?!?! And for those of you that think organic is best...what kind of fertilizer is organic? Think about it...they are using human and animal waste, and that is food you directly eat. Regulations are tighter than ever on farmers so you don't have to worry about that, all you have to worry about is how many will still want to be around to put up with your regulations and negative comments just to provide you with food, shelter, and clothing. Please do not complain about those who are working their butts off to please you and provide you with essentials, instead meet a farmer and get to know what they do and put up with its actually quite fascinating.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 22, 2012 at 03:04 PM in reply to Make Up Your Mind
      I completely understand where you are coming from. However, organic is the BEST thing you can do for your body. I'm not talking about human waste organic either. I'm talking about earth worm castings, compost and compost teas, alfalfa meal, cotton seed meal, fish emulsions, and the list goes on and on. I do understand where you are coming from on a large scale production level though. However, those inorganic chemicals you are exposing yourself to are eventually going to cause cancer. I don't know you or your health but it will eventually give you cancer, fact.
  • by priorities on Mar 22, 2012 at 11:38 AM
    Recycled sludge is the least of our health concerns. It helps the soil big time. The use of it is regulated by the state. There are far more hazardous things all around us everyday. The most dangerous thing you do around here is get on the highway with women on cell phones.
  • by 1970 on Mar 22, 2012 at 10:45 AM
    I went to the waste treatment plant in New Bern back when I was a boy. They had a holding tank of black sludge which they called "sludge". I was told it was made into fetilizer. I didn't think much of it then, but eventually, it freaked me out. But then, we're all made of atoms....just like the sludge. It's like the saying they use at funerals...."Atoms to atoms, dust to dust" lol
  • by rapper Location: snow hill on Mar 22, 2012 at 08:45 AM
    This stuff adds to the flavor of the lettuce,potatoes and tomatos used with the Pink Slime burgers at McD's. Wash it all down with some of that recycled sugar water they call 'sweetened ice tea' and you all set ! How 'bout "Supersizing" it ? Are you all "Lovin' It" yet?
  • by You want cheap food on Mar 22, 2012 at 08:39 AM
    you get cheap processes.... I grow my own and don't have to worry. The rest of you can deal with increased illness anyway you wish.....
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 23, 2012 at 10:41 AM in reply to You want cheap food
      Thank goodness someone else gets it!
  • by taxman Location: wilson on Mar 22, 2012 at 08:35 AM
    Yes, bio-solid fertilizer indeed. Sure makes stuff grow. One potential problem,however, is that the Rethugs in Congress may cut back the FDA budget for inspections on this material and how it is used in growing and producing food crops in this country. This would enable them to continue to downsize government while allowing unregulated use of this material by the agricultural industries. Make sure you wash your vegetables well before putting them in your mouth. And if you should become ill due to eating contaminated crops,thank your Retugican congressman or woman;Fox,Jones,etc,etc.
  • by Charles Location: Virginia on Mar 22, 2012 at 08:11 AM
    Your reporters and editors need to do more research on biosolids, which are NOT used on food crops that are consumed directly by humans. Biosolids are used primarily on pastures, hay fields and grains that are consumed by cattle and poultry, such as corn and soybeans. Decades of scientific research and practical experience have demonstrated the safety of biosolids. For more info:
  • by Maureen Location: Reilly on Mar 22, 2012 at 07:03 AM
    Sewage sludge 'biosolids' contain pathogens and undisclosed industrieal chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Many toxic compounds get into the food grown with this material. It is not a good idea to put sewage wastes - no matter what you call them - on farmland.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 22, 2012 at 10:58 AM in reply to Maureen
      Can you prove this?
      • reply
        by Jim on Mar 22, 2012 at 07:13 PM in reply to
        for information on potential bioterrorism coliform and fecal coliform agents see this link.
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