Dead livestock and poisoned water — Texas farmers sue over PFAS contamination

By Shannon Kelleher

Two Texas farm families have seen their health decline, their pets and livestock sickened and killed, their water poisoned and and their property values wiped out due to high levels of chemical contamination linked to a company marketing treated sewage sludge as a fertilizer and soil conditioner, according to a lawsuit filed by the families.

The lawsuit alleges the plaintiffs’ farms, located near Fort Worth, were “poisoned by toxic chemicals” after a neighboring farmer took shipment of “smoking” piles of biosolids that contained hazardous per- and polyfluoroalkl substances (PFAS) in late 2022.

The PFAS-laced fertilizer was allegedly made by Synagro of Texas-CDR Inc., using semi-solid treated waste obtained from wastewater facilities. The waste, referred to as biosolids, has been promoted as an effective means for turning sewage into useful agricultural applications that can boost crop yields.

The biosolids are supposed to be treated to remove toxins, but PFAS chemicals are difficult – if not impossible – to break down, and are known to persist in the environment. Sometimes called “forever chemicals,” several types of PFAS are known to be hazardous to human health, including some linked to cancers.

Synagro is one of the largest in the biosolids industry, and knew, or should have known, that its biosolid products contained PFAS, according to the lawsuit, which was filed last week in Maryland, where Synagro is headquartered.

Synagro did not respond to a request for comment. On its website, the company calls itself a “partner for a cleaner, greener world” and says it works to “protect the health of the water, our Earth and those who depend on them now and for the future.”