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Environment & Climate Change

Smell of sewage used as fertilizer "will take your breath away"

NEFCO, a Massachusetts-based company, has partnered with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to turn waste water residue into fertilizer pellets like the ones shown above.
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NEFCO, a Massachusetts-based company, has partnered with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to turn waste water residue into fertilizer pellets like the ones shown above.

Waste water sludge is making its way to Michigan farms in the form of fertilizer pellets. The practice has not gone unnoticed in rural Lenawee County, where last fall and this spring, residents have complained about the foul odor emanating from nearby fields. 

Here's how James Bryja of Onsted describes the smell: 

NEFCO, a Massachusetts-based company, has partnered with the Great Lakes Water Authority and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to create what the company calls on its website "the largest biosolids drying facility in North America."

How does the process work? How safe is this relatively new agricultural practice? And can it be done without offending people's nostrils? Listen below to our conversations with a NEFCO spokesperson, an MDEQ official, and a researcher from the University of North Carolina.