Maryland Legislation Passes, Protecting State From Impact of Industrial Sludge

Maryland lawmakers voted for cleaner water and healthier communities this General Assembly session with the passage of legislation that will address the state’s influx of industrial sludge. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), ShoreRivers, Chesapeake Legal Alliance, and local community members now urge Governor Wes Moore to sign House Bill 991 and Senate Bill 1074 into law.

Industrial sludge, sometimes referred to as food processing residuals (FPR) or dissolved air flotation (DAF) material, has been of growing concern to farmers and communities across the state. These are semi-solid leftovers derived from the rendering of protein, like poultry and seafood, that are then applied to farmland as an agricultural fertilizer. Overapplication and mishandling of this material allow it to runoff into waterways, putting local water quality and Bay health at risk. It also creates foul odors, harms neighboring communities, and causes health concerns. 

“Improper handling and application of industrial sludge causes it to spill and run off directly into our local waterways and ultimately into the Chesapeake Bay,” said Alan Girard, Maryland Advocacy Director at CBF. “It’s also a major concern for the Marylanders living near these sludge application and storage sites that drink well water and live off the land.” 

Since Maryland currently does not require a permit for industrial sludge use, its safe and proper handling has come into question. Unlike Maryland, neighboring states including Delaware and Virginia require a permit for handling and applying sludge, making it advantageous for rendering plants located there to ship their sludge to Maryland for disposal. According to a 2023 study by the University of Maryland, more than half of the industrial sludge land-applied in Maryland in recent years came from out of state.

“Pollution concerns from the use and storage of industrial sludge have increased rapidly on the Eastern Shore — underscoring the urgency for state action to protect local rivers and creeks and hold accountable anyone who chooses to misuse DAF material in the future,” said Matt Pluta, Choptank Riverkeeper at ShoreRivers. 

“We thank our state legislators, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and all the communities who came to the table to prioritize this issue and pass this legislation,” Pluta said. “The next step will be making sure there’s strong regulations in place to carry out the intent of the legislation, and we'll continue to advocate that it’s done responsibly and with the health of our waterways in mind.”

Many community members across Maryland voiced their concerns with industrial sludge and supported legislation to regulate it.

“The smell of the industrial sludge being spread in our community has been unbearable, not to mention the negative environmental impacts,” said Jason Green, resident of Mayberry, Maryland. “We are glad that our calls for much-needed regulation have been heard and supported by our delegation and CBF and resulted in the passing of this legislation.”

The legislation will close a loophole in state oversight and keep Maryland on-par with neighboring states by:

  • Requiring a utilization permit for the use, storage, and hauling of industrial sludge in the state;
  • Ensuring local governments issue all necessary approvals before someone can utilize sludge;
  • Authorizing the Maryland Department of Agriculture to enter and inspect any site where industrial sludge is used;
  • Increase penalties for users who willfully violate Maryland’s nutrient management regulations.

These tools will help ensure industrial sludge is only used safely and effectively in Maryland, limiting odors and health concerns, as well as preventing nutrients from entering local waterways and the Bay.


Valerie Keefer

Maryland Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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