Officials in Arizona halted rail shipments of New York sludge in June after finding high levels of petroleum and disease-causing germs. The likelihood of coliform infestations also surfaced in sludge sent to Texas in what city officials concede was a screw up.
Neither problem was disclosed in a monthly report sent by the city's sludge management consultant to 150 local, state and federal officials, some of whom now feel the city is hiding bad news.
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Merco was selected from two dozen bidders in 1990 specifically because its plan called for applying the nutrient-rich sludge to arid lands to reclaim them for farming.
It costs only half as much to dump the sludge in an out-of-state landfill, as many cities do.
The Merco company that secured the contract, after several rounds of city screenings, bears little resemblance to the firm in operation today. All three corporate partners in the original joint venture - including the Oklahoma-based Mer Co. that gave the venture its name - are gone, replaced by three new companies from Long Island.