Sewage Sludge Negatively Impacts Water Quality in Florida

Dear Commissioners, 

South Florida sewer plants have been exporting their sewage remnants to Brevard County for at least five years. An example is the Port St. John site, which has over 232,000 pounds applied. It is less than 4 miles from the Indian River Lagoon, near an Elementary School, High School, and a community church. The field where this is applied drains into a canal that leads to the St. Johns River.  

Every summer, we ban fertilizer with nitrogen and phosphorus (nutrients that can feed harmful algae blooms), which are supposed to help the Indian River Lagoon. However, the DEP allows landowners to dump “Class B” waste as fertilizer. Either we want to protect the Indian River Lagoon from excessive nitrogen and phosphorus, or we want it to appear as though we are protecting the lagoon.  

Sludge contains highly varied organic chemicals, toxic metals, chemical irritants, and pathogens. [1]

There is an unknown amount of harmful toxins in these biosolids, including carcinogenic chemicals such as PFAS, in which the state of Florida does not have an enforceable health limit set. PFAS are a significant concern due to their extensive presence and persistence in the environment. PFAS exposure can cause suppressed immune function, lower vaccine effectiveness, higher risk of autoimmune diseases, and cancer. 

PFAS, present in significant concentrations in sludge, makes it possible for them to enter human and ecological food-chains from biosolids-amended soil. [2] 

A 2002 study by the University of Georgia found higher reports of ill-health symptoms and diseases near biosolids permitted fields. [3] Just because there is compliance with the regulations does not ensure the protection of public health. [4]

Even though Class B biosolids require specific pathogen reduction, it is not based on risk assessment, and “Class B” still contains significant levels of pathogens. [5]

We are taking things that other counties ban. Brevard County is not an outhouse. Spreading sludge risks decades of expensive environmental restoration to improve the river’s water quality. [6]

Today, I ask for your formal support in the ban of biosolids (also known as sludge) to better protect the health of communities and our waterways. 

Solutions: Another option is to convert the nutrients to energy and electricity by converting the material to biofuels.

Sludge can also be used as a fuel source in power plants, or it can be heated in a process that creates a synthetic gas that could be used to operate portions of a sewer plant. 


Stel Bailey
Executive Director, Fight For Zero

Florida Sewage Sludge Map 

Here's a 2016 report from Florida Today about how biosolids (aka sewage sludge) may be sickening our lagoon:
Should Brevard ban biosolids as a fertilizer due to environmental concerns?

South Florida Sewage sludge fouling our water

2020 Update: Brevard County Commission extends temporary moratorium on new applications of Biosolids to lands in Brevard

2020 Update: Brevard County Biosolid sampling report on Deer Ranch Park

Sewage sludge leads to farm groundwater PFAS Contamination

Department of Environmental Protection:

Domestic Wastewater Biosolids
Biosolids use and regulations in Florida

Environmental Protection Agency:

Land application of biosolids

Fight for Zero

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