Nova Scotia’s Biosolids Debate: An Update

Protests against the land application of biosolids continue in Nova Scotia, even as the Halifax biosolids land application program continues on many farms.


Protests against the land application of biosolids continue in Nova Scotia.   The Nova Scotia Environmental Network has submitted a petition against biosolids to legislators and is publicizing a growing list of farms that they say do not use biosolids.  At the same time, however, the Halifax “Harbor Solutions” biosolids management program continues producing “Halifax Soil Amendment” that is used on farms throughout the province.   Last month, CBC reported: “In August, actress Ellen Page, a native of Halifax, was among those speaking out against the use of biosolids. ‘To be honest, I think biosolids are kind of an Orwellian term. I refer to it as 'sewage sludge….’”   CBC went on to say that “A new report from city staff defends the use of biosolids as fertilizer for landscaping and forestry projects in the Halifax Regional Municipality. It recommends the continued use of biosolids for landscaping and tree planting. The report also states that the material is safe and won't smell if it's handled properly.”

This biosolids debate, with its ever larger division, has been ongoing since the early 2000s and has

included a science forum in June 2005 (in which NEBRA was involved) and a couple of updates of the provincial biosolids guidelines.

Last year, a report from Dalhousie University (available here)
provided an overview of the debate and recommendations for moving forward, including “implementing a national strategy for biosolids management, improving transparency for record keeping and reporting of test results, implementing mandatory third party involvement in testing, performing a social impact assessment, and creating a biosolids manager within HRM to address stakeholder concerns and oversee and improve public consultation and outreach.”  The report clearly recognizes the value of biosolids recycling, while aiming to improve the sustainability and public support of the program.  

Last week, the local Chronicle Herald reported that Ellen Page has teamed up with a local organic foods advocate to work further in opposition to biosolids use in the province.  A thoughtful blog response by journalist Parker Donham provides another perspective.

In the meantime, Halifax and other communities’ biosolids continue to be used on many farms throughout Nova Scotia (the Halifax material is voluntarily not used on food crops).  More details about the Halifax biosolids program are available here.