PARKER COUNTY, Texas –– The use of human waste as fertilizer is becoming a major concern for a growing number of Texas communities. Tuesday they take their fight to Austin. On Monday, it was Parker County.
"And I have never in my life smelled anything like what we've been smelling here the last three weeks," exclaimed one man at an emergency meeting of County Commissioners. They met outside in Springtown near treated fields.
But not too near.
"I don't know why we expect anyone to have to put up with that," said a clearly frustrated County Judge Mark Riley.
He got a snoot full from angry citizens like Julie Lambert. "So my property value, my worth, has it all gone to zero?" she asked. She said the smell chases her indoors for days at a time.
In Austin Tuesday, Judge Riley will ask the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to ban the practice in Parker County. Residents in Ellis, Wise, Johnson and other counties also want protection for their quality of life and property values.
"I'm not aware of any incidents where it's caused environmental problems," said Tony Walker with the TCEQ. He fought off flies while explaining that farmers want the fertilizer and have a right to use it.
"That stuff is considered similar to commercial fertilizer," he says."They can apply it anywhere."
That "stuff" is the solid material left over from treatment plants, like Village Creek in Fort Worth. It's treated in digesters for nearly a month, and stabilized with lime. But sometimes a powerful odor remains.
A company called Renda Environmental recycles the bio solids on 80 to 100 thousand acres a year in North Texas. Renda is challenging TCEQ findings of nuisance odor violations in Wise County last month. These are the first in the company's history, according to its website, despite more than 200 complaints filed.
The company says there's a three-to-five year wait for farmers wanting to get into the program because the fertilizer is so effective. Recycling also solves the problem of disposing of so many bio solids: about 120 tons a day.
But down-winders are growing increasingly angry.