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Floridians Sue Over Sewage Sludge

Posted 01/03/03

ARCADIA, Florida, (ENS) - Several residents of a small Florida town have filed suit to stop two sewage sludge transportation companies from contaminating their neighborhood with sewage residues.

Earthjustice filed the suit last week on behalf of the residents against American Water Services Residuals Management and Blue Septic Tank Service. Sewage sludge dumped by the two companies on land
owned by ranchers Clyde Hollingsworth and Michael Boran, among others, washes into the Hidden Acres neighborhood, leaving a foul odor and sticky residue and sickening residents.

Concerns have been raised about the safety of local drinking water supplies. Residents have suffered health problems attributable to the sludge and now seek an end to sludge dumping near their community.

"We learned centuries ago that improper disposal of human wastes causes human illnesses," said Earthjustice attorney Eric Giroux. "It's time these sludge haulers and ranchers joined us in modern-day
America."

Sewage sludge, made up primarily of human waste, is a solid, semi-solid, or liquid residue generated during the treatment of sewage. According to a National Research Council report released
this summer, sewage sludge can contain everything from toxic metals to living bacteria, viruses and parasites.

DeSoto County receives sludge from 71 sewage plants in cities and counties throughout Florida, earning it the distinction of being called the sludge capital of Florida. Last year, sludge haulers dumped more
than half a million wet tons of sewage sludge onto land in DeSoto County, Florida.

American Water Services - formerly Azurix North America, an Enron subsidiary - the largest sludge hauler in DeSoto County, applies much of this sewage sludge to open fields within the immediate vicinity of a
residential neighborhood known as Hidden Acres. Because the area is a floodplain, the sludge flushes through the Horse Creek watershed onto the property of Hidden Acres residents when it rains.

Disposal of sewage sludge near Hidden Acres has caused a periodic sharp, foul stench in the neighborhood and leaves a pungent, persistent residue. Many Hidden Acres residents suffer health
problems that they blame on the sludge, including chronic headaches and diarrhea, nausea, rashes, upper respiratory and sinus problems and illnesses such as rotavirus.

One 17 month old baby has suffered two bouts of rotavirus, requiring emergency medical treatment.

"Thanksgiving was the worst," said Molly Bowen, referring to Thanksgiving Day, 2000, when, according to Hidden Acres residents, the sewage sludge odor spiked in intensity. "The stench was so strong
that I wanted to vomit. We closed all the doors and windows but it didn't go away."

"We've been getting sludged for years now," Bowen added. "Something must be done to make our children safe again."

Hidden Creek residents are suing for trespass, nuisance, damages, and an injunction to stop the sewage sludge dumping. The complaint was filed in the Florida Circuit Court of DeSoto County.

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