Take Back the Land

by Marion Hart, Asst. Ed.; Civil Engineering—ASCE, 345 East 47th St., New York, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1988, Vol. 58, Issue 2, Pg. 52-55

Document Type: Feature article


Municipal sludge applied to land devastated by strip mining has brought thousands of acres of Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania land back to life. After two years of testing at a Palmerton, Penn. Superfund site, the EPA is ready to use sludge to restore plant and wildlife to a mountain scientists know as a biological desert. The sewage sludge solution dates back to the early 1970s when researchers got the idea of turning two environmental problems into an advantage. Every year, municipal wastewater treatment facilities in the U.S. produce nearly 7 million dry metric tons of wastewater sludge. Experts warnings that the figure will double by the year 2000 made a search for new disposal options a necessity. The U.S. mining industry provided a way out in the form of the more than 600,000 hectares of land left unusable after 40 years of mining. Researchers have found that the organic matter and nutrients in treated sludge can help reclaim these ravaged areas.

Subject Headings: Sludge | Mines and mining | Municipal wastewater | Wastewater treatment | Local government | Lifeline systems | Waste sites | Environmental Protection Agency | United States | Ohio | Illinois | Pennsylvania

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