The little town of Marston, laying between New Windsor and Taylorsville, in central Maryland has a fight on their hands and they're raising quite a stink - about stink. In the middle of the community lies a farm that runs what purports to be a green business, taking in waste residuals from various industries and then spreading these 'soil amendments' on the fields of local farmers. It sounds great in theory, but the practice itself leaves much to be desired. Frankly, it reeks.
If we were just talking about the typical manure spreading on farmland here, nobody would be fussing - these families have lived in the area for generations and they farm their lands too. They aren't city folks who have moved into the area and suddenly realized that farming have some odors attached to the process. What the folks are dealing with here is stench so bad that you roll up the windows, shut the vents and hold your breath while you drive past the fields where these soil additives have been spread.
One local resident described the smell as similar to that of a dirty diaper, if not worse. Different days bring different smells as the operation brings in a variety of different waste products, coming from various types of businesses including poultry slaughterhouses, cheese makers, spice makers, dairies and water treatment plants. While the EPA and similar agencies have been pushing the land application of these waste products, including sewage sludge, for years, there is growing concern among the residents of the area that the operation is over-spreading these additives, to the point of endangering the local water supply. It's easy to tell when residuals from the chicken processors have been spread on the local fields - the stench is absolutely horrific and the fields are circled continually by seagulls and vultures, eager to snap up the half-rotted chicken pieces on the fields.
Complaints about the operation are hardly new, despite what the owner claims in one of several articles that hit the local paper last weekend. Individuals in the community have made numerous efforts to make their views heard, but only recently have they attempted to band together in their efforts. They've even started a new website (http://stopthestinknow.com) to inform the public of the issues of the area.
While the fumes from the operation and the fields on which it spreads its additives are extremely disruptive to the quality of life in the area, of greater importance in the long term may be the danger to the environment of the long term use of these products. Nearly a decade ago, EPA's Inspector General released a report stating, "Accordingly, while EPA promotes land application (of sludge), EPA cannot assure the public that current land application practices are protective of human health and the environment." And yet, the practice continues.
To learn more about the issues facing Marston, be sure to read these articles: