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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Tell the "World's Greenest Mayor" to Stop Poisoning His City with Toxic Sludge!

In 2008, Organic Style Magazine called San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom the World's Greenest Mayor. Apparently, Organic Style wasn't aware that the "World's Greenest Mayor" is, in the guise of giving something valuable to its citizens, giving toxic sewage sludge to city gardeners touting it as "organic biosolids compost."

Board backs sludge ban

Belmont, N.Y.
By Harrison Haas
hhaas@citizen.com

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Belmont Planning Board voted in favor of placing the proposed zoning amendment to prohibit the land application of all biosolids in all zones on the town warrant.

During a workshop session on Monday evening, board members also unanimously voted to not recommend the petition warrant article looking to adopt the state regulations on biosolids and allowing certain types.

EPA Sludge Cover Up and Denial of Human Health Risks

The attached testimony by Dr. Caroline Snyder is worth reading and posting. The EPA also knew in 1982 that sewage treatment plants generated antibiotic resistant bacteria (see below). The author is an EPA scientist, the paper was peer reviewed, and after the EPA started promoting land applications of sewage sludge---the study was suppressed and no longer available at the EPA, DHHS or the CDC.

Tiny Elgin, QC sets legal precedent in blocking use of municipal sludge on its territory

Dateline: Monday, October 12, 2009

by Holly Dressel

In November of 2006, the tiny municipality of Elgin, Quebec, comprised of only a few hundred people, passed a by-law prohibiting the spreading, storage or transport of municipal or de-inking sludge on its territory.

The people living in Elgin, about 60 km southwest of Montreal, understood that Canada's water treatment systems are not able to remove many toxic elements intrinsic to sludge, such as:

* pathogens like H1N1 or E. coli;
* dangerous chemicals like flame retardants;
* medications;
* hormones; or,
* the heavy metals that get into sewage systems from small industries and the de-inking process of paper recycling mills.

Farmers in the area were particularly worried about the heavy metals in de-inking sludges, which can sterilize soils, rendering the soil useless and in fact dangerous for crop production in a relatively short period of time. Such material can be trucked in from distant, large cities and cannot be traced.

Elgin's by-law was passed in order to "protect public health and the environment."

"... Lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation."

The local farm wishing to spread the sludge took the village to court, on the grounds that the process is not only legal in Quebec and across Canada but encouraged by provincial regulations. They were backed by a huge multinational waste management company, GSI, which makes its money by taking human and de-inking sludge off the hands of overwhelmed municipalities, calling it a crop fertilizer, and selling it to farmers at much cheaper rates than regular chemical fertilizers.

On October 1, 2009, to the surprise of many, Quebec's Superior court upheld the town's bylaw. Judge Steve J. Reimnitz invoked the well-known Supreme Court ruling in the case of Hudson, Quebec's similar ban on cosmetic pesticides.

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