Concerns over safety of Tulsa's bio-solids program

Thursday, September 4th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The city of Tulsa provides treated sewage to landowners in five area counties as fertilizer. But a Creek County woman worries treated waste might be harmful to her livestock.

News on 6 reporter Rick Wells went to Creek County Thursday to find out more about the program.

“This our side of the road where it is coming from this side filling up the whole ditch and into our pasture." Cathie Teirney is showing me pictures she took Labor Day weekend after 11 inches of rain fell in the area. It's not all the water that ran onto her land that worries her, it's what might have been in the water.

The landowner across the road from her place is a participant in the city of Tulsa’s bio-solids land application program. Processed sludge from the sewage treatment plant is spread on pastureland as fertilizer. Tom Krueger with the city of Tulsa: "we've got a lot more landowners than we can supply material to." It's a popular program, and provides a beneficial use for treated human waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

Teirney: "Human waste it is so strong smelling there has to be something that washed onto my property." That's her concern if it smells bad it must be bad. She raises show horses and if they became sick, it could cost her thousands of dollars.

She and some neighbors called the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and the city of Tulsa, both showed up while we were there to check things out. Larry Phillips with DEQ: "we're here to make sure everything was done properly."

They looked around and talked to Cathie Tierney at length about the safety of the bio-solids program. That’s the official name; I was surprised what they really call it. Wells: "You call it cake?" Krueger: "It's called cake, it's nice and black and rich like cake." Wells: "OK." They assured her, perhaps not successfully the so-called cake would not harm her horses and all the runoff had maybe fertilized her pasture. So problem solved, piece of cake.

Water quality officials from Tulsa took samples from her stock ponds and others in the area. The samples will be tested to look for unusually high levels of e-coli or anything else that might be harmful to livestock.