The city will hire a university researcher to give advice on whether to use biosolids from the sewage system for municipal operations, Halifax council decided Tuesday. Before last year, sewage from the older portions of Halifax and Dartmouth was simply dumped in the harbour, and that was the end of it. But with the completion and successful operation of the new sewage plants, sewage is dewatered at the plants, leaving a substantial amount of sludge. That sludge is trucked---two trucks daily from the Halifax plant, one daily from the Dartmouth plant and one weekly from the Herring Cove plant---out to a biosolid plant at the airport operated by N-Viro, a firm specializing in creating fertilizers out of sewage sludge.

At the plant, the sludge is mixed with kiln dust from the cement plant in Brookfield, and then dried, with the remaining liquid brought to a smaller sewage treatment plant nearby. The solids are composted and heated for an extended period, then packaged and sold as a Class A fertilizer regulated by Enviro Canada.

Critics say pharmaceuticals in human waste and heavy metals from industrial sewage can make their way into the resulting fertilizer. It didn’t help that the city’s first use of the product was a public relations disaster---a landscaping project on Dunbrack Street in Clayton Park produced a foul smell for up to a week, and left dozens sick.

Clearly, whatever the city decides to do with the fertilizer, it will have to move slowly in order to regain public trust, but the debate at council was oddly divisive. Councillors who cited the “ick” factor were openly ridiculed by other councillors. Councillor Steve Streatch, a rural representative and farmer, first condemned restauranteur Lil MacPherson and actor Ellen Page, who have been publicly questioning the use of biosolids, and then denounced biosolid critics as “unscientific, just like Al Gore and his film, *Naked Truth*,” referring incorrectly to Gore’s film *Inconvenient Truth*, which explores the scientifically established issue of climate change.

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