ELLIS COUNTY — A group of Ellis County residents, tired of the stench that invades their lives this time of year, are asking county commissioners to take action.
And now, one of those commissioners is responding by proposing a resolution asking state lawmakers to tighten restrictions on the spreading of human "biosolid" fertilizer on local farmland.
The sewage treatment plant that processes it — and company that spreads it — both swear by the substance. They say biosolids, carefully cured and nutrient-rich, can be a safe and effective way to turn human waste into farmland fertilizer.
But that's not exactly what’s been happening.
Not only are rural residents disgusted by the smell, one local farmer is sick about what she found in her hay. Anna Wight showed us her neighbor’s discovery.
"You can see that there are sanitary napkins... there are tampons... and this is all items that she pulled from one bale of hay," Wight said.
What she displayed is just the latest example of what has a growing number of Ellis County residents upset about the supposedly safe biosolid fertilizer being spread on or near their property.
"This is not fertilizer; this is dumping,” Wight said. “This exceeds what I would expect to use to feed my animals."
Wight and other residents have already lodged numerous complaints with state regulators complaining about the smell and the lack of containment of biosolids being spread on neighboring fields, some of which appear to be barren and polluted.
Nothing seems to stop the practice, so they went to Ellis County Commissioners seeking help. Commissioner Paul Perry, for one, is listening.
“There either needs to be a better way to process this — a far better way, which I hear there are — or there needs to be distance rules, or we need to quit doing this in Ellis County,” Perry said.
He hopes Ellis County will lead the charge in helping to change state law regulating the processing and spreading of biosolids.
And while those caught violating existing laws are being cited and fined, new evidence suggests existing laws are failing the people they are designed to protect.