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Martin County officials rule out biosolids as source of hepatitis A outbreak

Posted: 5:56 PM, Apr 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-22 19:42:10-04

STUART, Fla. — Health officials in Martin County say there were no new hepatitis A cases reported over the weekend, leaving the current number at 19, along with three deaths.

WPTV has learned eight of the cases involved people over the age of 60, and so far no children have been infected.

There was a lot of talk initially about restaurants as a source, but so far no food workers or food handlers have had the virus, according to county officials.

On Monday, Martin County officials said the wastewater treatment plant, which processes human waste into biosolids, was not a possible source of the virus.

Tons of waste from Martin County homes and businesses wind up at the Tropical Farms Wastewater Treatment Facility annually. From there, the waste is treated one of two ways.

"Eliminates all pathogens and viruses that can be land applied, like any fertilizer can be land applied," said Sam Amerson, Martin County Director of Utilities and Solid Waste.

Some people in the community have expressed concerns over biosolids, and whether it could be behind the recent hepatitis A outbreak.

Amerson said what they’re doing at the treatment facility has no connection.

"We’ve talked to state DEP and State Department of Health and they assure us there is no link between hepatitis A and biosolids at this point," said Amerson.

Partially treated sludge has been banned from South Florida since 2013. The Martin County product goes through a more thorough process.

"This will go to a composting facility. That will be mixed with vegetation, composted for 45 days. That will produce a class A or double A product which is unregulated," said Amerson.

There is a classification of solids called Class B which are only partially treated. There are no facilities in Martin County spreading Class B biosolids.

On Tuesday, Amerson will go before Martin County Commissioners to talk about the biosolids process.