Texas farmers launch PFAS lawsuit against biosolids company

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CRD Biosolids
The CRD ended its online engagement on March 6 for input on a Long-Term Biosolids Management Plan. Photo Credit: CRD courtesy of Twitter

A group of Texas farmers is suing a Maryland-based company, which also produces biosolids in Canada, over claims their farms were damaged by a biosolids-based fertilizer contaminated with PFAS. 

In a February 27 court filing, the farmers allege that Synagro Technologies and its Texas subsidiary are responsible for a range of health issues experienced by the farmers and their animals since they began using the fertilizer in 2022.  

The civil lawsuit claims that the biosolids-based fertilizer tested positive for 27 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS. Eight of the compounds were found to have “extremely high” concentrations of PFAS, according to contracted soil and water tests taken from the five plaintiff’s properties.  

“Synagro knew, or reasonably should have known, of the foreseeable risks and defects of its biosolids fertilizer,” the lawsuit argues. “Synagro nonetheless failed to provide adequate warnings of the known and foreseeable risk or hazard related to the way the Synagro Granulite was designed, including pollution of properties and water supplies with PFAS. Synagro also failed to provide adequate instructions regarding the use and disposal of its biosolids fertilizer to prevent pollution of properties and water supplies with PFAS.” 

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The farmers are seeking compensation and punitive damages in an amount greater than $75,000.  

Some of the human health issues raised in the lawsuit include high blood pressure, respiratory and cardiac problems, skin irritations and growths. There are also claims of livestock fatalities and irreparable damage to farmland.  

Synagro works with a number of Canadian municipalities, including Hamilton and Windsor, Ontario, according to the company’s website. It is the majority owner of the residuals treatment facility located at the Hartland Landfill for the Capital Regional District (CRD) about 14 kilometres northwest of Victoria, B.C.

In British Columbia, the CRD is still finalizing its biosolids plan, but has gone on record to note that its generated biosolids have not been utilized for agricultural purposes, and the majority are currently landfilled. The CRD had planned to rely on incineration at a cement production facility in Richmond, but faced operational difficulties at the cement kiln over the last two years.    

Public consultation on the biosolids plan has been ongoing in 2024, however, the British Columbia government requires the CRD to submit a Long-Term Biosolids Management Plan by June. 

On the CRD website, it states that, “CRD biosolids have been analyzed for contaminants such as pharmaceuticals, and PFAS, and results show that concentrations are low, and that the potential for risk to human health and the environment is small.”  

The CRD further notes that its biosolids were tested for 38 of the most common PFAS compounds, and detected 14 types of PFAS in the parts-per-billion range. The rest were not found.  

Lastly, the CRD notes that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is proposing to adopt a standard of less than 50 parts per billion of perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, as an indicator of PFAS contamination, to protect agricultural land. The concentration of PFOS in CRD biosolids is approximately 6 ppb, its website states. 

Neither Synagro nor the CRD have publicly commented on the pending legal action.

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