The Shrewsbury Township supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance to regulate the spreading of sewage sludge as fertilizer Wednesday night.

"Everybody should be able to walk outside their home and take advantage of a home they paid for," supervisor Gene Montanarelli said.

The 12-page ordinance is nearly the same as one adopted by East Brunswick Township, Schuylkill County, even though that township is currently involved in a lawsuit that contends the ordinance violates state law. State and federal regulations say local municipalities can't ban the use of sludge on agricultural lands.

The new ordinance bans corporations from spreading sludge. An individual may not use a corporation to apply sludge, but individuals can spread it themselves if they agree to thorough testing for certain pollutants.

In its agricultural form, sludge -- pulled from the material left at the bottom of a sewage tank after water treatment -- contains both human and industrial waste, and it is used by farmers to fertilize fields. Shrewsbury Township farmer George Phillips uses sludge from Houston-based sludge processor Synagro Technologies Inc. to fertilize about 600 acres.

Resident Susan Fox, who is leading the fight against the sludge, says pollutants in the substance are sickening residents and contaminating groundwater.

"Tell someone about this, and then someone else. We've got to fix it and our environment," Fox said in front of about 50 residents at the meeting to hear the supervisors' decision. Fox took a petition with more than 580 signatures of upset residents to a hearing last month.


Phillips has said that he applies sludge according to state regulations; the state Department of Environmental Protection says sludge can be safe when applied correctly.

Township residents Barry and Cynthia Taylor spoke at the meeting of their experience with the matter, saying runoff from Phillips' fields is only 25 feet from their well.

Supervisor Ed Hughes said the topic of sludge is the toughest issue he has dealt with during his time in office.

Hughes says he has read several completed studies stating that live organisms remain in the sludge which may cause disease if contagious waste is spread.

Cynthia Taylor is breathing a little easier now, she said.

"I'm glad it's over and they came together and did the right thing for the community," she said.