Irrigating Your Vegetables With Treated Sewage Water? Still Not a Good Idea if You Are Concerned About E. Coli

By Frank Pecarich
Retired Soil Scientist

Well, the season for growing leafy vegetables in Salinas Valley is mostly over until the spring. According to the history of the past 10 years, we will again see an outbreak of deadly E. coli 0157H: 7 sometime this coming summer of fall. We can safely say that because nothing of substance has changed since the furor over the 3 deaths and over 200 sickened citizens in the Fall of 2006.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans suffer 6.3 million illnesses per month, 27,000 people are hospitalized each month, and 416 die each month from something they ate.

We are being told that future attention to pathogen prevention in Monterey County will be mainly focused on animal grazing areas being too close to cultivated fields. That is because the primary “host” animal for E. coli 0157H: 7 is an animal like a cow. What isn’t appreciated is that when the pathogen E. coli 0147H:7 is ingested by a human, we humans are the “host” for that organism until it passes from our body.

In this last outbreak, there were 200 such humans who were harboring E. coli 0157H:7 plus all the others who were infected but did not report the disease. It has been estimated by pathologists and medical specialists that for every reported incident of E. coli 0157H:7 there are 9 more that are not reported. Those people then aided in the pathogen getting to another source of contamination, the sewer and ultimately, the local waste water treatment system. In the Monterey County incident, there may well be 2,000 people out there that were adversely impacted, not just the 200 as oft reported.

How Does It Get From Cows to Humans?

In addition to humans who are sick with drug resistant pathogens such as E. coli 0157H:7 passing their contaminated feces into the sewage system from their homes and the hospitals, blood and fecal material are flushed away from animal slaughter houses that can be contaminated with pathogens, like E. coli 0157H:7. Add to that source, the hospital treatment centers that have their sewage flushed into the local waste water treatment facility and you have a deadly toxic “Witch’s caldron” environment in the local sewer treatment system.

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Chez Sludge: How the Sewage Sludge Industry Bedded Alice Waters

BY John Stauber, July 9, 2010

Alice Waters

The celebrity chef Alice Waters is probably the world's most famous advocate of growing and eating local, Organic food. In February 2010 her Chez Panisse Foundation chose as its new Executive Director the wealthy "green socialite" and liberal political activist Francesca Vietor. Vietor's hiring created a serious conflict of interest that has married Waters and her Foundation to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and its scam of disposing of toxic sewage sludge waste as free "organic Biosolids compost" for gardens.

San Francisco's Mayor, Gavin Newsom, appointed Francesca Vietor as one of the five Commissioners who run the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in 2008, just a year after the SFPUC began giving away toxic sewage sludge as "organic Biosolids compost." San Francisco, often dubbed the green city with a green mayor, was seemingly providing free "Organic compost" to urban gardens. It sounded too good to be true, and it was. While San Francisco does have an admirable program to collect vegetable waste and turn it into valuable garden compost, the city sells that stuff, the good stuff, Organic with a capital "O." What the city gives away for free as "organic Biosolids compost" is actually hazardous waste, sewage sludge, from San Francisco and eight other counties.

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Toxic Sludge is Good for You: Bribery, Indentured Science & PR

* By Ronnie Cummins & Alexis Baden-Mayer
Organic Consumers Association, February 4, 2010

SEWAGE SLUDGE OR BIOSOLIDS? Is It A Toxic Hazardous Solid Waste or Safe Fertilizer? Ignorance, Confusion, and Lies

What you don’t know about sewage sludge, aka biosolids, could change your life and those of your family forever through exposure to its deadly coliform, bacteria, viruses, helminths, protozoa, fungi, organics, synthetic organics and inorganic heavy metals. Sewage sludge is the biological active aggregates (bacterial biofilms-pathogens-residual-organics-solids of the secondary biological sewage treatment process. In 1981, EPA, FDA
and USDA signed a Statement of Federal Policy and Guidance allowing sludge to be used as a fertilizer on fruits and vegetables. Most people, including medical doctors, those with Ph.D's, regulators, politicians, judges and especially farmers, have been convinced by EPA that sewage sludge is safe for use as a fertilizer. They are unaware there has never been a risk assessment for the dangerous toxic chemicals, pathogens, or metals in sludge.

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A Backlash After San Francisco Labels Sewage Sludge "Organic"


— By Josh Harkinson | Thu Mar. 4, 2010 3:45 PM PST

Activists wearing face masks and haz-mat suits dumped a pile of sewage sludge on the steps of San Francisco's city hall today to protest the city's practice of marketing the material to home gardeners as "organic compost." The US Department of Agriculture's organic standards explicity prohibit organic produce from being grown on sludge-treated land. "The City of San Francisco owes an apology to all of the food consumers in California who have been eating non-organic food grown on sewage sludge," said Ronnie Cummins, president of the Organic Consumers Association. He was wearing a haz-mat suit on which he'd written a message to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom: "Organic gardens aren't toxic waste dumps."

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Outrage in San Francisco: City Gives Residents 'Organic' Compost Containing Toxic Sewage Sludge

The city's actions are a wake-up call that the entire nation regularly consumes foods grown on fields fertilized with sludge.

March 4, 2010 | By Jill Richardson

When San Francisco, one of the greenest cities in America, offered its residents free compost, many were excited to take it. After all, purchasing enough compost for even a small 10 x 10-foot garden can cost over $50, and generating one's own compost in high enough quantities for such a garden takes a long time.

Few of the gardeners who lined up to receive the free compost at events like last September's Big Blue Bucket Eco-Fair suspected that the 20 tons of free bags labeled "organic biosolids compost" actually contained sewage sludge from nine California counties. On Thursday, March 4, angry San Franciscans returned the toxic sludge to the city, dumping it at Mayor Gavin Newsom's office in protest.

Sewage sludge is the end product of the treatment process for any human waste, hospital waste, industrial waste and -- in San Francisco -- stormwater that goes down the drain. The end goal is treated water (called effluent), which San Francisco dumps into the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. But the impurities and toxins removed from the water do not go away. With the water removed, the remaining byproduct is a highly concentrated toxic sludge containing anything that went down the drain but did not break down during the treatment process. That usually includes a number of heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pharmaceuticals, steroids, flame-retardants, bacteria (including antibiotic-resistant bacteria), fungi, parasites and viruses.

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What Sewage Sludge Toxins may be in Your ‘Natural’ Pet Food?


Sewage sludge contains all sorts of household and industrial toxins which are flushed down the toilet or private and industrial drains. How could this possibly impact the quality of your ‘natural’ pet food?

Just to remind you: the term ‘natural’ isn’t regulated and the best way to actually get a natural pet food when you want one is to buy a certified organic pet food, which among other things, wouldn’t contain sewage sludge-grown crops or animal ingredients. Verification by an independent party, an organic certification agency, is your guarantee that this is the case.

Non-certified organic pet foods contain so-called ‘conventional’ (i.e., non-certified organic) ingredients. Conventional agriculture routinely uses sewage sludge (also called ‘biosolids’) as ‘fertilizer.’ Every year more than half of the roughly 7 million metric tons of the biosolids produced in the United States are applied as fertilizer to farm fields.

The large amount of human waste processed in sewage plants means that sewage sludge contains high concentrations of phosphates and nitrates, which are desirable components of fertilizers. However, this sludge also contains highly toxic materials such as fluorides, industrial solvents, heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics, and even radioactive waste which may accumulate in the plants that are grown on sludge-fertilized farmland, as well as in the animals that are fed sludge-treated crops.

WHAT TOXINS ARE CONTAINED IN SEWAGE SLUDGE?

Here are just some of the many toxins that were detected by the EPA in sewage sludge from 74 randomly selected publicly owned water treatment/sewage sludge plants in 35 states (Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey Report, 2009).

For understandable reasons, the EPA study had to limit the analysis to relatively few toxins; it is likely that sewage sludge contains many more toxins that have not been included in the EPA study.

‘Class B biosolids,’ which are the principal type of biosolids applied to land, also contain a variety of enteric pathogens (e.g., E.coli, salmonella). These were also not included in the recent EPA study.

At the end of this page you can find information on some of these toxins (marked in the text with numbers in parenthesis) and the health problems with which they are known to be associated.

1. Metals

Twenty seven of the 28 metals analyzed were found in every sewage sludge sample. The most prevalent were barium(1), beryllium(2), manganese(3), molybdenum(4), and silver(5). The other metals included: aluminum, antimony, arsenic, boron, cadmium, cobalt, lead, mercury, selenium, thallium, tin, vanadium, yttrium, and zinc.

Remember that elemental metals often are very toxic while they are life-sustaining in the forms in which they occur naturally in foods.

2. “Organics”

Of the six organics analyzed, four were found in at least 72 samples, one was found in 63 samples, and one was found in 39 samples. The most prevalent ‘organics’ are: pyrene(1), fluoranthene(2), 4-Chloroaniline(3).

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