Hertford fined $4K for sludge mishap


By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

Thursday, December 14, 2017

HERTFORD — A state agency has fined the town of Hertford $4,067 after a contractor incorrectly applied sludge from the town’s wastewater system to the wrong farm field.

Hertford has a permit from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality allowing it to spread sludge — the remains of treated wastewater — on agricultural fields as a fertilizer. The application can only take place after the sludge is first tested to make sure it’s safe. 

Town Manager Brandon Shoaf said the fine from DEQ was the result of the town’s contractor, Granville Farms/JBS Contracting, spreading sludge on the wrong farm field on Oct. 10.

The sludge was sprayed too near a ditch and a residential property line. An official with DEQ said the field where the sludge was sprayed is located on the north side of Snug Harbor Road, about a mile and a half south of Bethel.

“The short of it is, our contractor that hauls and land applies sludge for us, spread the sludge on an unpermitted field, too close to property lines and buffers without our permission,” Shoaf said.

The town self-reported the violation to DEQ as soon as town officials realized the proper notification wasn’t given, and immediately had Granville Farms stop the spraying. 

In a letter to DEQ officials, Shoaf explained how the wrong field was sprayed:

“In this instance, the decision was made, on the recommendation of the ... contractor, to apply (sludge) on short notice to take advantage of a small window of opportunity between the farmer picking soybeans and his planting of winter wheat,” Shoaf’s letter reads. “The farmer met with a representative of the application company and indicated which fields to use. The farmer believed the site that he chose was in the permit for land application.”

Shoaf called the wrong field being sprayed with sludge “unfortunate,” but said it has not created a public health issue.

In the town’s letter to DEQ, Shoaf set out eight steps the town will take to make sure there’s no recurrence of the mistake. Shoaf said the town will also ask DEQ to either waive or reduce the fine.

The $4,067 fine includes eight individual violations, each with a $500 penalty. It also includes $67 in enforcement costs.