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Grandview residents file suit against biosolids company

In World
February 20, 2024

Feb. 19—Five Grandview residents claim health, animal and property damages in a suit against a biosolids company.

The plaintiffs, owners of two Grandview properties, filed suit against Synagro Technologies Thursday in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County in Maryland.

“Plaintiff’s farms were poisoned by toxic chemicals in a biosolids-based fertilizer produced and marketed by Synagro when a neighboring farmer spread it on his crops,” according to the court filing.

The plaintiffs claim that, since application of Synagro biosolids fertilizer to the neighboring property, they have suffered numerous health issues as well as the loss of pets, livestock, fish and crops.

Plaintiffs claim that toxins from the biosolids have polluted their soil, surface and drinking water to the point of rendering their properties virtually worthless.

“They face the stark possibility of having to abandon the home they love and the property they have developed,” according to the filing.

The plaintiffs allege strict liability, negligence and private nuisance against Synagro in their suit and have requested a jury trial.

Synagro, a Maryland-based company, contracts with more than 1,000 municipal wastewater facilities including Fort Worth.

Synagro uses the biosolids, also known as sewage sludge, from such facilities to make fertilizer.

“During the wastewater treatment process, liquids are separated from solids, and the solids are treated to remove some toxic ingredients and remove pathogens,” according to the filing. “However, even after treatment, biosolids typically contain a variety of persistent pollutants.”

Among chemicals not removed during conventional wastewater treatment are PFAS, a large group of man made chemicals containing “extremely strong” multiple chemical bonds lending them “exceptional” chemical and thermal stability, according to the filing.

Such chemicals are “highly persistent in the environment” and are therefore also known as forever chemicals.

“They accumulate in the biosolids that Synagro uses to make fertilizer, which they falsely market as being safe and organic,” according to the suit.

PFAS chemicals are found in clothing, household cleaners, carpets, upholstered furniture, makeup and other products.

“PFAS are washed down the drain and enter sewer systems, where they are sent to wastewater treatment plants,” according to the suit.

From there, they work their way into the environment, according to the suit.

“PFAS in biosolids leach into the soil or groundwater and are then taken up by plants,” according to the suit. “Which are subsequently consumed by humans and wildlife.”

PFAS chemicals are toxic to animals and have been associated to cancer, birth defects, developmental damage to infants and other ailments in humans.

The EPA in 2023 issued drinking water limits for six PFAS chemicals of four parts per trillion.

“There is no dose below which either chemical is considered safe,” according to the EPA.

The plaintiff’s suit alleges that PFAS chemicals pose long-term threats.

“Farms, ranches and communities can be devastated by the subsequent contamination of water, soil, crops, fish and livestock,” according to the suit.

The filing details an investigation of the affected properties undertaken by the Johnson County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office in 2022, which is still ongoing.

The Johnson County Commissioners Court held a called meeting Friday during which the findings, so far, of that investigation were presented.

PFAS levels found in water, soil and animal tissue samples collected from the affected properties revealed extremely high PFAS levels when tested, county officials said.

The suit notes that Synagro handed out samples of its finished biosolids product to people attending the Dec. 1, 2022 grand opening of the company’s Fort Worth facility.

Pct. 4 Contable Environmental Investigator Dana Ames obtained one of those so-called stocking stuffer samples and had it tested, according to the suit.

The sample tested positive for 27 individual PFAS chemicals.

Synagro, in the company’s 2022 sustainability report, acknowledged that PFAS chemicals “may be present in the biosolids that Synagro sells,” according to the suit.

Synagro in 2023 joined forces with CharTech Solutions to develop a high-temperature PFAS mitigation process, something a Synagro/CharTech press release said had been in the works for three years.

“Notably, there would be no need for Synagro to develop such technology is PFAS did not exist in biosolids,” according to the suit. “Unfortunately, thermal destruction of PFAS-containing wastes can lead to additional health and environmental harm, since PFAS have high thermal stability, and incineration may release harmful byproducts,” according to the case.

The suit cites a 2013 study on biosolids archived from 2001 showing “massive quantities of PFAS in all samples.”

The suit also notes that farms in Michigan, New Mexico and Maine have been shut down because of PSAS contamination.

“In 2022, Maine passed a law that prohibits the land application of biosolids,” according to the suit.

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