UPDATE: On March 8th, Gilmanton voters defeated the proposed ban on local biosolids use by a vote of 531 to 501.
NEW: Responses to Internet misinformation... see blog post...
Gilmanton, a town of ~3,800 residents in the lakes region of central New Hampshire, is having another classic debate about use of biosolids on local farms. The debate is driven by a Town Meeting Warrant article that would change zoning laws to ban the local use of biosolids (Class A or Class B). The warrant article was introduced by neighbors to farm sites where biosolids are used; they complain of odors and other nuisances. The Planning Board held a public hearing on the article on January 14th (see NEBRA comments) and voted unanimously to NOT SUPPORT it. Voters discussed the warrant article at the Town Meeting deliberative session January 30th, 10 am, at the Elementary School. Voters will decide by written ballot vote on March 8th.
The town had the same debate in 2011, when a similar vote was held. That measure was defeated 310 to 169.
The biosolids debate is not just theoretical. There is a direct link between every household and business in Gilmanton. Most of the septage from Gilmanton goes to the Franklin Wastewater Treatment Facility - ~270,000 gallons a year. That facility produces biosolids that are land applied - and Gilmanton septage adds to that production. Franklin has a long-standing policy that, if a town bans use of biosolids, then the cost of septage disposal from that town increases. Franklin currently charges Gilmanton residents $85 per 1000 gallons; that would go up to $130 if Gilmanton adopted a local ban, according to NH DES records.
Biosolids are in widespread use throughout New Hampshire and around North America. Their use is supported by 40+ years of research, thousands of peer-reviewed papers, and numerous federal and state regulatory agencies (including U. S. EPA, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, U. S. Food & Drug Administration, and nearly every state environmental regulatory agency). Where legal challenges have been made, courts have consistently supported biosolids use. For example, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently upheld biosolids use as a "normal agricultural operation" under that state's Right-To-Farm Act.
NEBRA welcomes the ongoing discussions of biosolids and encourages citizens to learn more. See the NEBRA FAQ and the Resources pages for details about the common topics of concern. See Highlights for examples of the many benefits and successes of biosolids recycling.
The Gilmanton, NH Biosolids Debate 2016
Petitioned Warrant Article, December 2015
NEBRA Comments, January 12, 2016
News, Laconia Daily Sun, January 23, 2016
NEBRA letter to Editor, Laconia Daily Sun, January 27, 2016
The Gilmanton, NH Biosolids Debate 2011
Warrant Article & Voting Results, March, 2011
NEBRA Comments to Planning Board, July 2010 - includes responses to specific local concerns