Tuesday, 20 March 2012 14:36 By Sara Jerving, PR Watch | Report
A trade association known for using the terms "compost," "organic," and "biosolids" to describe sewage sludge is investing in a new public relations campaign to influence policymakers and the public. The US Composting Council(USCC), which was founded by the disposable diaper industry, will be expanding its long-standing efforts to "rebrand" sewage sludge, which is increasingly disposed of on agriculture crops and through garden centers without telling the public that their food is being grown in medical, industrial, and human waste.
Earlier this year, the USCC announced that it hired a PR firm, Colehour + Cohen, to help with the rebranding efforts and that it will also be increasing lobbying efforts.
The word “compost” traditionally has applied to vegetable material and scraps gardeners and farmers collect to re-use on crops and gardens. The USCC uses the term "compost" on an industrial scale to include sewage sludge, as well as other commercial and municipal waste.
Whenever we flush the toilet, problems are created with sewage sludge.
Credit: ELLEN MOORHOUSE PHOTO
Trash Talk delves into some nasty stuff occasionally, but Toronto resident Maureen Reilly has been doing just that almost daily for 15 years. Her subject: sewage and sewage sludge.
We spoke to her over a year ago and thought it timely to check back to find out what’s happening with the waste we all help generate. Indeed, just 120 kilometres northwest of Toronto, Dundalk residents are challenging plans to build a facility that will take sludge, some from Toronto, mix it with septage and industrial waste, turn it into a liquidy fertilizer product for spreading on farmers’ land.
Reilly has immersed herself in disposal issues ever since she fought (successfully) to keep industrial paper sludge off pasture surrounding her country house near Cannington. Her experience with regulatory authorities, politicians and waste haulers changed her life.
Reilly has made it her mission to cull the media for information about sewage treatment technologies, sludge controversies, industry misbehaviour and failures, scientific studies, environmental contaminants, hygiene and health issues. She sends these reports, with critical commentary, to subscribers of her Sludge Watch email service in a dozen countries. (To join, Google Sludge Watch.)
She and many others believe spreading urban sewage sludge on agricultural land is a grave mistake given the contaminants and pathogens that end up in sewers because of our chemicalized and medicated lifestyles and effluents from hospitals and industry. The impacts of these substances on soils, health and ecosystems are not understood, and as Reilly says, “Of the 10 of thousands of toxic compounds that could be in sewage, the sludge is tested for less than 12.”
FBI surveillance video of John Clark and James Rosendall, Jr. The video was gathered on Feb. 20, 2008 as part of the FBI’s investigation of Synagro Technologies’ sludge hauling contract with the city of Detroit.
Detroit— A corrupt former Detroit City Council aide should get a stiffer prison sentence because he caused more damage to the city than a drug dealer, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday.
The U.S. Attorney's Office is pushing for up to 16 months in prison for John Clark, who was caught on FBI surveillance video pocketing cash from a contractor. Clark was a onetime aide to Detroit City Councilman Kenneth Cockrel Jr.
"In a real sense, the damage done by the defendant's contribution to corruption in Detroit is far more serious than the damage done by some of the drug offenders sentenced in federal court who receive far more serious sentences of imprisonment," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey wrote Wednesday.
Marcellus Shale drilling looks like big money for Pennsylvania, a tsunami of riches and fuel independence. But there is concern, not only about fresh water quality after the discharge of the known toxic chemicals used in the Marcellus Shale drilling process, but also with the land that will receive the remaining waste. Will the toxic chemicals used in the drilling process be made safe through the “treatment of waste water”?
Millions of people rely on Pennsylvania watershed areas to provide their drinking water via rivers, lakes, wells and purchased bottled water. Water is also necessary to sustain our food supply. Although Pennsylvania’s population is sixth in the nation, citizens throughout America will be affected by the contamination from the Marcellus Shale drilling – just follow the trail of rain water run-off and sewage sludge/biosolids, the equal opportunity pollution sources.
I came home the other night to the thick stench of biosolids (treated sewage sludge) on the wind. The trucks had been driving past our cabin for days- and sometimes into the night. I went to collect eggs and close the chickens in as I do every night. I walked in the crisp but putrid night air with a handkerchief around my face. The smell was assaulting but what was even more disturbing was the realization that the real assault is against my family, my neighbors, the land and the future health of our community.
While you may have never heard of biosolids the battle to stop it’s application on agricultural and public lands has been raging for many years. Biosolids, according to the EPA, is said to be: “…nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of sewage sludge (the name for the solid, semisolid or liquid untreated residue generated during the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment facility). When treated and processed, sewage sludge becomes biosolids which can be safely recycled and applied as fertilizer to sustainably improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth.” In the same breathe they admit: “Thirty years ago, thousands of American cities dumped their raw sewage directly into our nation’s rivers, lakes, and bays. Today, because of improved wastewater treatment, our waterways have been cleaned up and made safer for recreation and seafood harvest. And, because of the strict Federal and state standards, the treated residuals from wastewater treatment (biosolids) can be safely recycled. Local governments make the decision whether to recycle the biosolids as a fertilizer, incinerate it or bury it in a landfill.” If biosolids are so valuable why would it be incinerated or buried in a landfill as a waste product?
Research into producing electricity from urine has been carried out by scientists at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol.
It is claimed the publication of a research paper into the viability of urine as a fuel for Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) is a world first.
They say tests have produced small amounts of energy, but more research could produce "useful" levels of power.
Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos said he was "excited by the potential of the work".
MFCs contain the same kind of bacteria that is found in soil, the human gut or waste water from sewers.
'Regulating the flow'
The bacteria anaerobically (without oxygen) respire just like any other living organism, and this process gives off electrons.
Those electrons are then passed through an electrode and a measure of electricity is generated.
Bacteria feed on the urine, which they effectively use as a fuel to continue to breathe and give off electrons.
"Urine is chemically rich in substances favourable to the MFCs," said Dr Ieropoulos.
"Through this study... we were able to show that by miniaturisation and multiplication of the number of MFCs into a stack and regulating the flow of urine, it may be possible to look at scales of use that have the potential to produce useful levels of power, for example in a domestic or small village setting."