UNIONTOWN — They came Wednesday to raise a stink, worried that spreading sludge on farmland will contaminate the food supply, kill earthworms and turn Carroll into a dumping ground for waste.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is a sad thing," said Albert Liebno Sr. of Taneytown as he stoodin an aisle in the auditorium at Francis Scott Key High School with his hands on his hips. "If it takes paint off cars, what do you thinkit does to earthworms?"
About 100 people attended an informational meeting conducted by two state environmental officials who explained how sewage sludge is used as a fertilizer. They tried to assure residents that spreading sludge is safe.
"Maryland has the highest rate of cancer in the country," Uniontown resident Rachelle Hurwitz said.
"Sludge has nothing to do with cancer," said Simin Tirgari, chief of the Sewage Sludge Division at the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Studies have shown that milk from a cow who has eaten feed grown on cropland fertilized with sludge is not contaminated, she said.
"Sludge is nottoxic. We have a pretreatment program. They take out most toxic material," Tirgari said.
Three more county farmers have applied to spread sludge on their land, including one whose land is near Key and not far from Uniontown Elementary School.
Sludge has been spread on county farms since about 1977, said Herbert A. Streaker Jr. of the Bureau of Environmental Health in the county Health Department. Currently, Carroll has 37 active permits for farm and landfill applications,he said.
The state has not decided whether to issue the three permits, but will do so soon, said Douglas C. Proctor of the Sewage Sludge Division.
Representatives from the county health department andcounty
schools spoke up to oppose spreading sludge on the Ralph M. Stambaugh property off Bark Hill Road near Key.
But Peter Duvall, a land resource specialist for Enviro-Gro Technologies Inc. -- the Baltimore company that wants to spread the sludge -- said the companyoriginally wanted to spread sludge on 77 acres of the Stambaugh property that included fields adjacent to the school, but has changed itsplans.
Rodney and Melanie Stambaugh, who farm the property, rent the fields adjacent to the school and do not have permission from theowners to spread sludge, he said. Enviro-Gro now is asking to spreadsludge on 36 acres about 500 yards from the school, he said.
Melanie Stambaugh, 29, said Enviro-Gro approached her and her husband about spreading sludge.
"I didn't see any harm in it. I trust them todo what they say they're going to do," she said.
The other pending sludge permit applications are for:
* The Meliri C. Adkins property -- 103 acres at Trevanion and Clear View roads outside Taneytown.
* The Sidney D. Lease property -- 132 acres on Ladiesburg Road outside Union Bridge.
During the meeting, Hurwitz -- sitting toward the front of the auditorium -- got into a shouting match with a womanin back. Both stood and pointed at each other. The woman in back -- who wouldn't give her name -- said newcomers to the county have forced farmers out because of complaints about odors.
Hurwitz, who moved here from New Jersey, said she "respects" the country and added, "Idon't mind the smell of good clean horse manure in the morning."