Public opinion important to future of agriculture

Farming is a global business these days — what happens on the far side of the world often impacts what farmers in the Southeast plant and how they market their crops.

Farming is also a local business and how the public perceives agriculture goes a long way toward influencing state and federal elected officials, who make the laws that govern agriculture. For the most part our elected officials don’t really understand what farming is all about and don’t have unified voice to explain it to them.

Food safety is a big public issue, yet the estimated 6-7 million tons of potentially toxic municipal waste that goes on farm land each year is not a public issue — at least not yet.

In Virginia, for example, there are about 8.5 million acres of farmland, but only 55,000 acres are treated with biosolids, a legal, but euphemistic term for municipal sludge.

Read the full article

Judge compels deposition of EPA official

U.S. District Judge Clay Land, of Athens, Georgia, issued an order yesterday compelling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide their employee Madolyn Dominy for deposition in a whistleblower's scientific fraud case. Madolyn Dominy was the EPA's Regional Biosolids Coordinator from 1998 to 2004. In his whistleblower lawsuit, Dr. David L. Lewis (pictured) and dairy farmers Andy McElmurray and William Boyce claim that researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) conspired with EPA employees to make false statements as part of a grant application to justify land application of sewage sludge. The law firm of Hallman & Wingate of Marietta, Georgia, represents Dr. Lewis, McElmurray and Boyce in this case. The EPA tried to use is "Touhy" regulation to prevent Hallman & Wingate from deposing Dominy. Yesterday, Judge Land rejected this attempt, and ordered that EPA make Dominy available for deposition by September 11, 2009. A copy of the order is available at this link.

Dr. Lewis and the dairy farmers filed their lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act. They initially asked the government to intervene to recover money the researchers obtained under false pretenses. The government declined, so they are pursuing discovery to prove that the researchers' "Gaskin Study" containing false, unreliable and fabricated scientific data regarding the effects of sewage sludge on animal health and land. Dr. Lewis and the farmers also claim that the researchers cited the Gaskin Study in additional grant applications, thus violating the False Claims Act again. The lawsuit arises from the EPA's efforts to justify its "Sludge Rule" that allows sewage sludge to be spread on certain open lands. The Sludge Rule is at 40 C.F.R. Part 503. Dr. Lewis has determined that the EPA's rule lacks the scientific basis needed to assure its safety.

The Gaskin Study related to sewage sludge that was processed by an Augusta, Georgia wastewater treatment plant and applied as fertilizer to various parcels of land, including the farms of Boyce and McElmurray. During the late 1990s, Boyce and McElmurray claim that the sewage sludge contained hazardous wastes which ultimately poisoned and killed their dairy cows. Together with Dr. Lewis, they claim that the UGA researchers and EPA employees worked together on studies of the Augusta sewage sludge land application project with an agenda of promoting land application of sewage sludge as safe and beneficial and discrediting any allegations to the contrary.

read full article

Spreading Sewage Sludge on U.S. Fields, Hidden Cause of Food Safety Problems


Giving FDA More Power and More Money is NOT the Answer, Changing National Sewage Policy Is

by Guest Blogger, Jim Bynum, Vice President of Help for Sewage Victims

The House recently passed a new food safety bill (HR2749) giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new power and more money. According to recently discovered documents, this will do nothing to protect our food. Since 1980 it has been the official national policy to dispose of sewage waste on grazing land, fruits and vegetables, parks school grounds and home lawns. The policy was signed by EPA, FDA and USDA based on the premise that EPA had a mandate from Congress under Public Law 92-500 (Clean Water Act) to prevent sewage effluents (water and sludge) from being released into surface water. At that time there were more that 3,000 municipal sewage treatment land application sites in operation. However, most states balked at using land treatment systems without additional secondary treatment and EPA refused to fund those treatment systems.

Sewage Treatment Plants Mass Produce Bad Bacteria

Shortly after the national policy was created in 1980, EPA studies documented that sewage treatment plants were creating antibiotic resistant bacteria. According to EPA in 1982, “present-day conventional waste water treatment — “poisons the rivers and streams” Not only that, but drinking water treatment plants were picking up the antibiotic resistant bacteria and adding chlorine resistance to their armor. Furthermore, Milwaukee’s Milorganite and Chicago Metropolitan Sewage District’s sludge as well as 50% of the other municipalities could not meet the national policy requirement.

Full article

Farmacology: Johns Hopkins researchers are investigating a troubling potential source of resistant pathogens: the American farm

By Dale Keiger

Ellen Silbergeld, Eng '72 (PhD), recalls that she did not want to go to the seminar. She was a professor of epidemiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1999 when her department's chairman needed an audience for the seminar's presenter, a candidate for a faculty position. Silbergeld recalls the chairman saying, "Please, just sit in the room. You can come to lunch." So she sat in the room, and something caught her attention. The seminar was on hospital-acquired infections, but the presenter mentioned in passing that some drug-resistant infections came from food. That seemed odd. Silbergeld knew you could pick up Salmonella from, say, tainted chicken salad. But how would that Salmonella have become resistant to antibiotics? She turned to a colleague and asked. Because, he said, factory chicken farms routinely feed antibiotics to their flocks, to accelerate growth, and the drugs generate resistance.

Full article

How about Meth, Cocaine and Ecstasy in sewage sludge runoff into ground and surface waters?

Testing at 96 Oregon sewage plants shows meth, cocaine and ecstasy
by Scott Learn, The Oregonian
Friday July 24, 2009, 7:00 PM


As Tour de France riders can attest, one way to figure out whether someone is using illegal drugs is to do a urinalysis.

That isn't possible, of course, at the level of whole cities or towns.

Or maybe it is.

Last year, researchers at Oregon State University, the University of Washington and McGill University took one-day samples from 96 Oregon sewage treatment plants that volunteered to participate. They tested for the presence of chemicals indicating methamphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy or MDMA. Then they estimated the daily drug load per person for each community.

Cocaine showed up in 80 percent of the communities tested. Ecstasy, the one-time party drug now spreading to other venues, in about 40 percent. And meth appeared in every test, from Oregon's smallest towns to its biggest cities.

Read full article

Sludge On Farm Causing "Stink" With County Officials

John Pless
2009-07-21 17:49:58

A Meigs County farmer is facing a very expensive proposition -- plowing up his cornfields and removing the soil.

It's all because of the fertilizer he used earlier this year.

"A citizen's complaint came into my office," Meigs County Mayor Ken Jones said.

The complaint came to Jones back in the winter and centers around tons of sludge from Knoxville's sewage treatment plant being dumped on David Stewart's farm north of Decatur. It was tilled in the soil months before the current corn crop was planted.

A company called Synagro contracts with Knoxville's Utilities Board to remove what's left over in the sewage treatment process, called biosolids, and then dumps the treated material somewhere else. Often times it's dumped on farms and forests.

The problem is biosolids aren't allowed in Meigs County.

"Meigs County has a zoning regulation that prohibits any land in Meigs County from being used for the disposal of commercial waste," Jones explained.

Use the Precautionary Principle

by Andrew Kimbrell

Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety
Posted: July 3, 2009 03:54 PM

I appreciate Eddie Gehman Kohan's passion for the Obama's Kitchen Garden and all that it represents, and I concur that it is a source of inspiration for people around the world. I specifically mention in my last piece the First Lady's good intentions and the excitement over the garden from those in the sustainable food community.

As someone who has devoted over twenty years to helping develop and defend organic standards and to fighting technologies that threaten food safety, seed biodiversity and farmer communities, I look forward to an Administration that promotes the organic rule and expands its ethic to cover more of America's food crops.

Where we strongly disagree is about the safety of using sewage sludge for growing crops. Let me repeat that the national organic rule for which so many of us fought for so many years specifically lists sewage sludge as a "prohibited method." So it is at least misleading to say as she does that the Obama garden is an inspiration for "organic sourcing" when, however unwittingly, it's plants have been grown in a manner prohibited under national organic standards. I specifically do not blame the Obamas for this; to the contrary, I wrote that they are the "victims" of a public relations stunt by a prior administration.

Read the full article at Huffington Post

Pages

Subscribe to Sewage Sludge Action Network RSS