How human waste is used on farms

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Show examines human biosolids from septic systems

Montana has thousands of septic systems, but what happens to that human waste?

Much of it gets spread on farm fields. A new episode of “Montana PBS Reports: IMPACT” looks at how chemicals in compost affect the environment.

The show will air on Montana PBS at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14.

The episode examines a practice cities and states have used for decades to treat sewage to create nutrient-rich composts and fertilizers, called biosolids, which have been used on farmland across the U.S. Now the Environmental Protection Agency is examining whether biosolids are safe for gardens and crops.

This episode explores a class of chemicals often found in abundance in biosolids, which has been linked to various health concerns and cancers. A Montana PBS investigation tested soils and composts for these chemicals. The episode also includes an interview with a Montana farmer who has used biosolids on their fields for 44 years and interviews with Montanans who used composts containing biosolids in their home gardens.

“Montana PBS Reports: IMPACT” is a news and public affairs program that provides in-depth reporting on issues important to Montanans. For more details, visit

Viewers can watch the new episode on Dec. 14 live on television, online at or on the Montana PBS Facebook page at

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