Skip Navigation


Agronomic Services — News Release

TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2001

Contact: Catherine Stokes
Information and Communications Specialist
(919) 733-2655

Newton Grove benefits from waste management advice

NEWTON GROVE — During the past three years, the town of Newton Grove has learned to manage its municipal waste more efficiently and economically. As recently as 1998, the town was spending time, money and energy to haul its waste to two remote sites—at least 35 acres each—for land application. Today, the town of about 600 residents applies its waste to a 7.5-acre field next to the treatment facility.

Consultant Jim Ballance and N.C. Department Agriculture and Consumer Services regional agronomist Tim Hall are largely responsible for the improved system.

In May 1998, Newton Grove hired Ballance to handle maintenance work on the sewer and water system. At that time, the town paid a company $12,000 to dispose of a few tanker loads of sludge each year.

Ballance, recognizing this was an expensive arrangement, proposed using a piece of property adjacent to the treatment facility as a sludge application site. Town leaders liked his idea.

The alternative site was significantly smaller but still large enough for the town’s needs. The town already owned the land and could save money by switching to a new system. The only problem was getting the site ready for sludge application.

The new site had been a field nursery for landscape trees at one time. It was overgrown with abandoned nursery trees and dense weeds, and only part of it was suitable for immediate use. Trees and brush had to be removed and perennial grasses were planted to take up nutrients. Ballance began clearing the site and was ready to apply sludge to a section of it in spring 1999.

Not long afterwards, the town’s land application permit was due for renewal. “The Division of Water Quality told me I needed an agronomist’s report,” Ballance said. “I didn’t know any agronomists so I started asking around, and it wasn’t long before I was put in touch with Tim Hall.”

Hall, a NCDA&CS regional agronomist, came to inspect the site. He identified the soil type, evaluated the town’s production of sludge and its nitrogen content, and considered the capabilities of various grasses to use the applied nutrients on the site.

“This system isn’t much different from those used on many swine farms,” Hall said. “Those farms often use hybrid bermudagrass to take up nitrogen and other nutrients in the waste. The problem we faced here was this site is infested with common bermudagrass, which is a tough weed in fields of improved bermudagrass hybrids. Since common bermudagrass would have been difficult and costly to eliminate, I thought we should try to use it as the base for the system, even though it won’t remove as much nitrogen per acre as a hybrid would.

“We evaluated the nitrogen output from the treatment facility and determined there was enough adjacent land to accommodate the town’s sludge applications, even at a lower application rate. So we seeded the site with a forage-type common bermudagrass. And by overseeding in the fall with a winter annual crop like oats or rye, the facility can operate year round.”

Ballance completed the laborious clean-up and tree removal on the site, applied lime, based on soil test recommendations, and seeded a small grain crop in the fall. He then incorporated the lime in the spring just before seeding.

Hall prepared the agronomist’s report detailing the crop and rate modifications to the sludge application plan, took soil samples from each section of the site as it was cleared, and recommended a local sod producer who could do the precise seeding job required. “Tim set all that up,” Ballance said. “In just a couple of days, the tilling, liming and seeding were all done—and for only $700.”

Now the improved field is suitable for use as the town’s primary sludge application site, and an additional tract just two miles from the treatment plant has been re-permitted for use as a backup site. Ballance has further improved the application site by installing a pipe through the center of the field to make it easier to pump out the sludge. So far, the backup site has not been needed.

“The new site is relatively easy to maintain,” Hall said. “It needs to be overseeded with a small grain crop each fall, which then has to be removed early in the spring. Jim has done a good job this year getting it taken off in time. We’ll stay on top of the soil sampling for liming. Other than that, the only thing to do is mow the field for hay fairly often, which will encourage the bermudagrass to spread and thicken.”

As a NCDA&CS regional agronomist, Hall is available to provide advice for handling fertilization or nutrient management problems in Duplin, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender and Sampson counties. He can be reached by phone at (910) 324-9924 or by e-mail at

The Field Services Section of the NCDA&CS Agronomic Division has 14 regional agronomists located throughout the state. These agronomists are available to visit or consult with anyone in their region who needs help taking agronomic samples, adjusting fertilizer programs, pinpointing nutrient deficiencies or toxicities, identifying nematode problems, or interpreting agronomic reports. For more information or the name of the regional agronomist assigned to your area, visit the Agronomic Division’s Field Services Web site at, or call J. Kent Messick at (919) 733-2655.


Last Update August 1, 2007


NCDA&CS Agronomic Services Division, Colleen M. Hudak-Wise, Ph.D., Director
Mailing Address: 1040 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1040
Physical Address: 4300 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh NC 27607-6465
Phone: (919) 733-2655; FAX: (919) 733-2837

How can we make this page better for you?
Contact the NCDA&CS

Found a bug? Have a suggestion? Fill out the form below and we'll take a look!

Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Question or Comments:

Back to top

Get Email Alerts

Stay up to date with NCDA&CS. Sign up to receive the latest news and upcoming events via email.