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Steaming Pile of . . . ‘Bleep’ Burns, Permeates Groton Neighborhood With Foul Odors, Potential Health Hazard

by Connie Sartini
Residents of the Martin’s Pond Road and Chestnut Hill area told the Board of Health Tuesday night that their neighborhood has been overwhelmed with the odor of human feces during the last six weeks as a result of fertilizer containing human waste that was dumped into piles at Brooks Orchard, directly abutting several of these properties.
     In some cases, the dumped material was less that 500 feet from residences, making it impossible for residents to use their yards, pools, or hold any type of outdoor gatherings.
     According to abutting resident Josh Degen, five, tractor-trailer loads of processed human waste was dumped at the site in mid-July, to be spread on the fields as a way to renovate the fields. “I endorse the right-to-farm, but this boils down to farming correctly.”
     Degen advised the Board of Health that the tenant farmer never spread the stinking material, and as a result, it slowly began to heat up creating a fog over the large piles, and eventually erupted in “spontaneous combustion.”
     Degen said that the Groton Fire Chief came to the site, but advised that if they put water on the piles to get rid of the heat, it would create liquified human fecal matter. Degen stressed, “Every night the heated piles got worse, causing cancellation of many planned summertime events for the residents.”
     Reportedly, the farmer ran into some financial issues and that was his reason for not spreading the material. Degen said, he showed up Sept. 3 and spread some of the burnt matter. The concern, Degen said, is that once this material ignites, it may no longer meet DEP guidelines.
     He also expressed concern regarding potential pathogens and heavy metals that will be released into the air once the pile dries and the farmer attempts to spread it with a rotary spreader. “We will be exposed to fecal matter and heavy metals blowing through the air. I don’t know what is in each batch but we can’t open out windows and we can’t live in our houses.”
     BOH member Bob Fleischer advised that he had driven by the area, adding, “There was an intense smell in the air. Once it burned, it may not be the same thing that was put there.”
     Nashoba Associated Board of Health Agent Ira Grossman told the Board that “This is Type 1 material and does not require special handling. We can request information from the producer. Testing records are available if we request them.”
     Grossman said that “composted fecal waste is baked at 2200 degrees so that it will no longer have people bacteria. There is no expectation that there are any hazardous materials as a result of the fire.” He added that state officials do not view this as a fire but rather as smoldering.
     Grossman said he was familiar with the particular farmer as a similar situation happened with him in Shirley several years ago. “His operational practices leave a lot to be desired,” Grossman commented.
     BOH member Dr. Susan Horowitz asked if the farmer could be directed to truck the unspread material out of the site. She added that the farmer has two choices, “Spread it or take it out.”
     Grossman added, “There needs to be best practices and not create this smell for your neighbors.”
     As a result of this meeting, the Board of Health followed Grossman’s advice and voted to issue a directive that this farmer must complete the spread of the human waste materials within five days and use dust reducing techniques. If he is unable to do this, he will be directed to hire someone, but it has to be completed in five days.
     Horowitz stressed, “We want to make sure that this does not happen in the future.,” The BOH does have the right to place regulations on this material to prevent this situation from happening again.
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