When organic is toxic: How a composting facility likely spread massive amounts of ‘forever chemicals’ across one town in Massachusetts

Sue and Tom Ryan are one of 200 families who have had some of the highest PFAS levels detected in their drinking water. They have chickens but they have to throw away the eggs due to the contamination. SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF

WESTMINSTER — Nearly a decade ago, Sue and Tom Ryan moved into a custom-built, four-bedroom house with a pool, views of Mount Wachusett, and more than 3 acres to keep horses, raise chickens, and grow a well-tended garden.

With hopes of living more sustainably and healthily, eating food they grew themselves, the couple cleared much of their land and spread loads of “top-shelf loam” from a company called Mass Natural, an organic composting business across the street in this rural town in Central Massachusetts.

But their health got worse and this spring, they learned of a potential reason why: The water they were drinking and cooking with contained massive amounts of toxic chemicals, known as PFAS — more than 50 times what state regulators consider safe to drink.
read full article at Boston Globe

Sewage Sludge Repackaged as Garden Fertilizer Tests Positive for Toxic Chemicals


By Frank Carini / ecoRI News staff

February 10, 2022

Sewage sludge that many wastewater treatment facilities lightly treat and then sell throughout the United States as home fertilizer contains concerning levels of controversial substances.

Last year the Sierra Club and the Michigan-based Ecology Center found toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS or “forever chemicals,” in nine fertilizers made from sewage sludge — commonly called “biosolids” in ingredient lists — and mapped businesses selling sludge-based fertilizers and composts for home use.

Eight of the nine products tested exceeded the screening guideline for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) set in Maine, the state with the strictest safeguards for PFAS levels in sludge spread on agricultural lands. PFOS and PFOA are two of the more dangerous forever chemicals. They are no longer manufactured in the United States, but they are still produced internationally and can be imported in consumer goods.

Overall, there may be as many as 5,000 of these manufactured chemical compounds on the market today. They persist in the environment and in our bloodstreams, as these compounds suffer no degradation in light or air or through biological processes. Since they are highly mobile, their contamination is spreading through soil into ground and surface waters and accumulating in fish, shellfish, wildlife, and crops.

read full article

Microplastics found in human bloodstream

24 March 2022
A research team led by ecotoxicologist Heather Leslie and analytical chemist Marja Lamoree have become the first to demonstrate that plastic particles from our living environment end up in the human bloodstream.

The results of the research project, called Immunoplast, were published today in the scientific journal Environment International. The research shows that miniscule pieces of plastic from our living environment are absorbed into the human bloodstream.
....
The next question is how easy it is for these particles to move from the bloodstream into tissues such as in organs like the brain. Heather Leslie, working at VU during the research, explains: “We have now proven that our bloodstream, our river of life as it were, has plastic in it.”
read full article

‘I don’t know how we’ll survive’: the farmers facing ruin in America’s ‘forever chemicals’ crisis


By James Alexander On Mar 22, 2022

Songbird Farm’s 17 acres (7 hectares) hold sandy loam fields, three greenhouses, and cutover woods that comprise an idyllic setting near Maine’s central coast. The small organic operation carved out a niche growing heirloom grains, tomatoes, sweet garlic, cantaloupe and other products that were sold to organic food stores or as part of a community-supported agriculture program, where people pay to receive boxes of locally grown produce.

Farmers Johanna Davis and Adam Nordell bought Songbird in 2014. By 2021 the young family with their three-year-old son were hitting their stride, Nordell said.

But disaster struck in December. The couple learned the farm’s previous owner had decades earlier used PFAS-tainted sewage sludge, or “biosolids”, as fertilizer on Songbird’s fields. Testing revealed their soil, drinking water, irrigation water, crops, chickens and blood were contaminated with high levels of the toxic chemicals.

The couple quickly recalled products, alerted customers, suspended their operation and have been left deeply fearful for their financial and physical well being.

“This has flipped everything about our lives on its head,” Nordell said. “We haven’t done a blood test on our kid yet and that’s the most terrifying part. It’s fucking devastating.”
read full article

Julie McDonald Commentary: Family’s Experience a Cautionary Tale of Battling Biosolids

On Sunday afternoon, for the second week in a row, dozens of people crowded into a room — this time New Life Assembly of God Church in Toledo — to learn about the dangers of biosludge.

JULIE MCDONALD / FOR THE CHRONICLE

Posted Monday, March 7, 2022 4:49 pm

By Julie McDonald / For The Chronicle

When I heard about plans for spreading biosludge on Layton Prairie, I cringed.

For more than three decades, I listened to my sister-in-law Linda Zander recount the dangers of human waste spread on agricultural land that she said destroyed the dairy farm she and my brother-in-law operated for 26 years near Lynden. She collected more than 75 boxes filled with documents, photos, diaries, test results and testimonials for use as evidence in lawsuits. She said heavy metals — zinc, copper, lead and manganese — left behind by sludge spread on an adjacent neighbor’s 70-acre field sickened many of their 150 dairy cows and contaminated their wells. She contended contaminated well water gave my brother-in-law Ray Zander nickel poisoning and caused neurological damage in their grandchildren. She said 16 families experienced illness from the sludge.

During her battle, Linda founded an organization called Help for Sewage Sludge Victims and contended she often faced harassment and threats.

She filed a lawsuit in Whatcom County Superior Court against the haulers, the municipalities dumping the sludge and the neighbors who let it be spread on their farmland, but it was dismissed by summary judgment Oct. 8, 1993. She appealed, but the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision July 31, 1995, and the Washington Supreme Court refused to review the decision.
read full article

Poultry waste, sewage sludge from other states flowing into rural Alabama

Updated: Mar. 03, 2022, 2:54 p.m. | Published: Mar. 03, 2022, 7:45 a.m.

By Dennis Pillion | dpillion@al.com
In the peaceful and serene rolling foothills of north Alabama, the old Hidden Valley dairy farm is now a poultry waste storage area.

Tanker trucks unload a slurry of reeking goo taken from poultry processing plants, pouring the ooze into holding ponds, which emit a sharp, acrid stench that reaches neighbors in Morgan County.

“The smell in summertime is so horrendous, you can’t even stand to walk outside your own house,” said Robert Chandler, who owns 80 acres next to the sludge farm.

Chandler and his neighbors, who live about 20 miles south of Decatur, are among the growing list of Alabama residents who say their lives have been disrupted by biosolids – the leftover sludge from wastewater treatment plants that process human sewage and from industrial wastewater, such as the leftover bits from chicken rendering plants.

The mixture is often trucked into Alabama from other states and then applied, at least in name, as fertilizer to fields in rural areas. And the profits often flow back out-of-state, as two of the major companies handling sludge are based elsewhere.
read full article