“QUINCY — The sludge arrives by the ton, pumped through miles of underwater pipes from Deer Island to a waste-water treatment plant on the banks of the Weymouth Fore River, where it’s spun through centrifuges into a kind of wet cake, dried by large furnaces, and made into fertilizer pellets.
Converting much of the region’s sewage into a valuable byproduct was a major achievement of the Boston Harbor cleanup. Over the past three decades, the fertilizer has been sold or given away in massive amounts: tens of thousands of tons a year sent to farms and golf courses, parks and gardens across the region.
“We call it black gold,” said Carl Pawlowski, manager of residuals operations at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, which sells the pellets in colorful 40-pound bags as Bay State Fertilizer, billed on its packaging as “The Responsible Choice for Healthier Lawns and Gardens.”
But recent tests of the fertilizer, which has been sold for nearly 30 years, have caused concern, due to levels of toxic chemicals known as PFAS, which have been linked to kidney cancer, low infant birth weights, and a range of other diseases.”
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