News Release 640

Study of tannery sludge applied to farm fields in Northwest MO finds no health threat

Volume 38-640 (For Immediate Release)
For more information: 573-751-1010

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, NOV. 9, 2010 -- A comprehensive analysis of the application of a northwest Missouri tannery’s wastewater sludge onto farm fields has found no health threat to farmers working the fields or to residents living nearby, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

A public meeting to discuss the report is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 9 at the St. Joseph City Hall council chamber, located on the third floor of City Hall, 1100 Frederick Ave. in St. Joseph. The doors will open at 5:30 p.m. to give the public an opportunity to ask questions one-on-one of staff from the departments of Natural Resources and Health and Senior Services, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A formal presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m.          

Tannery wastewater sludge had been applied as a fertilizer to some farm fields in the four-county area for 26 years. After concerns arose in 2009 about whether the sludge contained hexavalent chromium, the Department of Natural Resources initiated a sample program and review.

In 2009 and 2010, the department collected nearly 600 soil and water samples from northwest Missouri farm fields, residential yards and drinking water wells in Andrew, Buchanan, Clinton and DeKalb counties. The department gathered and analyzed data to determine whether hexavalent chromium levels increased in the soil and water following the tannery sludge application.

None of the samples exceeded the health-based screening level, 86 parts per million, set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.  The highest level detected in the fields was 5 parts per million, well below the threshold of concern.  

The complete report is available online at dnr.mo.gov/env/hwp/sw-sampling.htm. Documents related to the review, including soil and water sampling data are also available on this website.

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