It’s Time to Talk (Again) about Sewage Sludge on Farmland


Each year, millions of tons of sewage sludge is disposed of on fields in the United States. (Image: Susan A. Secretariat / Flickr)

By Laura Orlando

The "land application" of sewage sludge has been promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1993 as the preferred method for the disposal of this by-product of municipal wastewater treatment. Millions of tons of hazardous sewage sludge have subsequently been spread on farmland and public parks in the United States. Sometimes it is bagged and sold as “organic” fertilizer and compost in garden supply stores. No matter how it is processed or how slick it is marketed as a fertilizer or soil amendment, putting sewage sludge on land is a health and environmental disaster.

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Scientists’ open letter on the dangers of biosolids

Mar 01, 2016

The land disposal of sewage sludge has resulted in significant controversy, and a resistance movement is rightfully building to this misguided policy. Quite simply, the science doesn't support the disposal of sewage sludge across the landscape. The supposed benefits are more than offset by the risks to human and environmental health.

As scientists, we have been watching the issue with increasing concern.

An unimaginably large number of chemical and biological contaminants exist in these materials, and they persist in the product up to, and after, land disposal. Scientific investigations have identified only a tiny fraction of the total contaminant load. We cannot even say with any degree of confidence what the true range of contaminant risk is from the sludge. Call it an "unknown unknown." Because of potential synergistic interactions between the contaminants in the sludge, the risks are largely unknowable.

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Drugs found in Puget Sound salmon from tainted wastewater


From left, Michael Caputo, Richard Ramsden and Stuart Munsch collect fish in a beach seine in the Puyallup estuary in September 2014. Their samples were part of the study published this week. (Andrew Yeh)

Originally published February 23, 2016 at 7:47 pm Updated February 25, 2016 at 11:28 am

By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times environment reporter

Puget Sound salmon are on drugs — Prozac, Advil, Benadryl, Lipitor, even cocaine.

Those drugs and dozens of others are showing up in the tissues of juvenile chinook, researchers have found, thanks to tainted wastewater discharge.

The estuary waters near the outfalls of sewage-treatment plants, and effluent sampled at the plants, were cocktails of 81 drugs and personal-care products, with levels detected among the highest in the nation.

The medicine chest of common drugs also included Flonase, Aleve and Tylenol. Paxil, Valium and Zoloft. Tagamet, OxyContin and Darvon. Nicotine and caffeine. Fungicides, antiseptics and anticoagulants. And Cipro and other antibiotics galore.

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The History of Sludge for Agricultural Application

2/8/2016 11:11:00 AM
By Lidia Epp


It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in late October 2014. My husband and I were enjoying a soft shell crab sandwich at the Blue Crab Festival in West Point, Va., just a few miles from our home. Local arts and crafts were on the display, the Main Street was filled with people, cotton candy carts, draft beer stands, merry-go-round, the usual.

A lady with the Sierra Club baseball hat and a handful of flyers came over and asked if we know about the problem with biosolids.

“Biosolids?” we both asked in unison. “What’s that?”

“It’s a municipal sewage sludge and industrial waste that is applied to the farmland as a fertilizer. A company called Synagro applied for a permit to spread industrial waste on 17,000 acres in our area over the next 10 years. This practice is mostly unmonitored and the permit is very likely to be granted,” she answered, frowning.

“WHAT?!” we screamed, in unison again, and looked at each other in horror. This woman is crazy! This just can’t be!

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Contaminating Our Bodies With Everyday Products


Activists in Paris protest the use in common household products linked to endocrine disruption in March 2014. Credit Bertrand Guay/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

IN recent weeks, two major medical organizations have issued independent warnings about toxic chemicals in products all around us. Unregulated substances, they say, are sometimes linked to breast and prostate cancer, genital deformities, obesity, diabetes and infertility.

“Widespread exposure to toxic environmental chemicals threatens healthy human reproduction,” the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics warned in a landmark statement last month.

The warnings are a reminder that the chemical industry has inherited the mantle of Big Tobacco, minimizing science and resisting regulation in ways that cause devastating harm to unsuspecting citizens.

In the 1950s, researchers were finding that cigarettes caused cancer, but the political system lagged in responding. Now the same thing is happening with toxic chemicals.

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Sewage-based fertilizer permit canceled for Mount Bethel farms

By Kurt Bresswein | For lehighvalleylive.com
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on November 09, 2015 at 6:04 PM, updated November 09, 2015 at 6:05 PM

A Baltimore company has withdrawn plans to apply fertilizer made from human sewage sludge on farms in Upper Mount Bethel Township, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

"They're just not going to apply at this time," DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said. "They can reapply to do it again in spring."

Township residents organized as Sludge Free UMBT challenged the DEP's approval, granted Dec. 23, 2013, for Synagro Mid-Atlantic Inc. to apply the biosolids fertilizer on the Potomac, Sunrise and Stone Church farms. All three properties are owned by Ron Angle and farmed by Paul Smith through a lease.

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Are Your Vegetables on Drugs?


A new study conducted on zucchini plants suggests that pharmaceuticals in biosolid fertilizers could be harming your veggies.

By Natasha Gilbert on October 22, 2015

Fertilizing crops with biosolids—a combination of human, commercial, and industrial wastes otherwise known by critics as “sewage sludge”—is a common but controversial practice.

On the one hand, municipalities argue, it is much more environmentally sound to recycle nutrients that would otherwise be sent to landfills. The use of these fertilizers also cuts down on the amount of man-made fertilizers needed to boost crops and keep soils healthy.

On the other hand, biosolids have often raised safety concerns, and the quality and safety can vary depending how they’ve been treated. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Standards prohibit their use in organic agriculture because of concerns over contamination from hormones, steroids, and pathogens. And there has been a passionate debate over whether biosolids are safe to use because of the risk of contamination.

Despite the fact that there are many substances found in biosolids, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only regulates a few including pathogens and heavy metals. And the agency has no control over the level of pharmaceuticals in biosolids or in wastewater.

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The Truth about Biosolid Pollution

Natural health expert and Mercola.com founder Dr. Joseph Mercola interviews Dr. David Lewis, a microbiologist with a PhD in Microbial Ecology who spent three decades working as an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientist.

Chronic Wasting Disease A Byproduct Of Sewage Mismanagement

June 14, 2015 by Gary Chandler

Sick Wildlife The Tip Of An Iceberg Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is ravaging wildlife in many regions across North America. It’s part of a larger epidemic of neurological disease that is killing millions of people, wildlife and livestock around the world. Once again, wildlife are serving as the proverbial canary in a coal mine.

CWD is part of an incurable spectrum disease called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” Mismanagement of pathogens associated with the disease are contributing to a broader epidemic of neurological disease among wildlife, livestock and people.




Few, if any, mammals are immune to prion disease. There is no species barrier. It’s been found in dolphins, too, thanks to sewage runoff and sewage dumped at sea. It is likely contributing to the mass stranding of whales, too.

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Sludge bill stationary in N.C. General assembly

Published 12:10 am Saturday, February 28, 2015
By Josh Bergeron

Discussion over sludge being spread on farm fields has moved to the North Carolina General Assembly.

Filed in early February, a bill sponsored by three Republican state legislators could give more local control to county governments when outside entities request to spread biosolids on farm fields. Numbered House Bill 61, it’s got three primary sponsors — Reps. Carl Ford, R-76, Larry Pittman, R-82, and Michael Speciale, R-3. Ford and Pittman represent Cabarrus County, while Speciale is a house representative along the coast. One day after it was filed, the bill was referred to the Local Government Committee, which Ford is a chairman of. No action has been taken on it since Feb. 10.

A portion of the bill could require entities looking to bring biosolids, or sludge, into neighboring counties to incinerate the waste before spreading it on farm fields.

Pittman specifically cited opposition about a Charlotte Water — formerly Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities — proposal to expand its permit to spread biosolids on farm fields as a reason for the bill.

The bill is meant to allow county governments to address the public health concerns of their citizens in regard to the land application of potentially harmful substances in their community. “Presently, the local government authorities’ hands are tied. This bill does not require anyone to do anything, but simply allows county governments the option of taking action to protect their citizens if the citizens request that they do so and they are willing to do so.”

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Sludge opponents: 'We're not going to have it'

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 8:52 am

CONCORD, N.C. -- Opponents of proposed sewer sludge spreading permits came out in force to the Cabarrus County Commissioners meeting on Monday.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department (CMUD) and its contracted partner, Synagro, are seeking permits from the state Department of Energy and Natural Resources (NCDENR) to spread sewer sludge, or “biosolids,” on farmland in Cabarrus, Rowan and Iredell counties, including several sites in Gold Hill.

Biosolids are the solid materials left behind after wastewater is treated. CMUD treats an average of 81 million gallons of wastewater every day and produces about 100,000 wet tons of sludge annually, according to the agency’s website. The sludge is applied free of charge to more than 16,000 acres of private farmland in the region.

Residents of rural Cabarrus County are in an uproar over the prospect of sludge being spread on fields near their farms and residences. They fear negative impacts to human health, the environment and land values. They also say the sludge contains industrial toxins like PCBs and pathogens.

“There are no benefits in allowing the human waste to be dumped on our farmlands, which would lead to the contamination of ground and surface water,” said Rodney Kindley, who lives on St. Stephens Church Road near the proposed spreading area.

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Residents concerned about potential sludge near homes


Dan Yesenosky, WCNC 6:08 a.m. EST November 10, 2014

Gold Hill, N.C. -- Concern is rising in Cabarrus County over the potential of sewer sludge being dumped on farms. A few farmers want to use it for their crops, but their neighbors worry about the consequences.

A two-hour meeting in Gold Hill Sunday night had over 100 people in attendance, all searching for answers on how the sludge could affect their quality of life. Applications are in, and now Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities and the company Synagro are waiting on permits to spread the biosolid sludge.

Many at the meeting feel the same as Dr. Lance Riley.

"We don't want it in our soils, we don't want it in our water, we don't want it in our ground water, we don't want it in our water reservoirs," Riley said.

The reason people don't want it is because they believe it's harmful to their health, but the whole reason it's an option in the first place is because certain farmers in Cabarrus and surrounding counties have applied and requested to have Synagro spread the sludge on their land. Myra Dotson with the Sewage Sludge Action Network says what people do on their own land is their choice, but this impacts others.

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Rowan, Cabarrus gathering opposes plans for farmlands to accept sludge from Charlotte


Mark Wineka/Salisbury Post Danny Knight, who lives on Old Beatty Ford Road next to acreage proposed for the land application of sewer sludge from Charlotte-Mecklenbur Utilities, picks up some of the hand-out information in Gold Hill Sunday.

GOLD HILL — Danny and Angela Knight live on Old Beatty Ford Road next to acreage proposed for the land application of sewer sludge from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department.

They don’t want it, because they are fearful the biosolids could contaminate nearby streams and be harmful to groundwater, poisonous to breathe and uncomfortable to smell.

The Knights also have concerns that Shive Elementary School is about a half-mile from the proposed site, as the crow flies.
Attending a community meeting Sunday at the Gold Hill Fire Department, Angela Knight asked how individuals could fight large companies and big government who are responsible for spreading the sludge.

“Me, as an individual, I’m not big enough,” Angela Knight said. “Nobody wants this next to their place. ... I don’t want it there.”

Synagro, which handles CMUD’s land application program, has applied for numerous permits from the N.C. Division of Water Quality to spread biosolids from the waste treatment process on farmland in Rowan, Cabarrus, Stanly, Anson and Iredell counties.

The permits have yet to be approved, according to Dr. Lance Riley, who organized Sunday’s meeting.
“We’re in the sweet spot now where nothing’s going on,” Riley told about 75 people from Rowan and neighboring counties. “Let’s keep it that way.”

Representatives from CMUD and Synagro have scheduled a community meeting themselves to explain the proposed land application program. That meeting will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at St. Stephens Lutheran Church.

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EBOLA VIRUS BEING RELEASED TO ATLANTA SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT

8/5/2014

By Jim Bynum

"Ebola Patients Brought to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta", after The Federal Public Health Service had assured the public that it is a Biosafety Level 4 treatment center as required by CDC. It appears to meet the CDC standard for containment of aerosols in hospitals, but offers no safety for aerosols generated during sewage treatment to plant workers, sludge (biosolids) haulers, or those exposed to Filoviruses (ebola) in reclaimed sewage effluent used as irrigation on parks, school grounds and food crops as well as the users of sewage sludge (biosolids) used for the same purposes.

Laboratories are required to disinfect all hazardous pathogenic (infectious) waste before releasing the waste into the environment for Disposal however, in this case some misinformed Military Officer within the Federal Public
Health Service (yes, it is a military organization embedded within every federal health protection agency) assured the doctors that general waste management practices at a sewage treatment plant will kill any virus in blood, shit or urine that’s flushed into the waste water system.

It would appear several federal laws have been ignored such as 42 U.S. Code § 6903 in disposing of waste in sewers.
[(5) The term “hazardous waste” means a solid waste, or combination of solid wastes, which because of its quantity,
concentration, or physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics may—
(A) cause, or significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating
reversible, illness; or
(B) pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored,
transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed.]

If Filoviruses such as Ebola are In Sewage, it will survive in the Effluent == Reclaimed water and Sludge products

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New Resource Page: Sewage Sludge (Biosolids) — land application, health risks, and regulatory failure

June 25, 2014

Sewage sludge (also known as ‘biosolids’) refers to the semi-solids left over from municipal waste water treatment. It contains highly variable mixtures of household and industrial pollutants. These include radioactive material, pharmaceuticals, organic chemicals, antibiotics, and heavy metals, excess nutrients (e.g. N and P), and human pathogens. Its safe disposal has been problematic for municipalities and EPA since the inception of modern large-scale water treatment facilities (1).

Despite its documented harmful impacts, the U.S. EPA and others vigorously promote land application of sewage sludge — to farmers and ranchers as a fertilizer and to households as organic compost.

Many scientific experts argue that the risks of land application are not adequately addressed by EPA’s current 503 sludge rule. They believe the short and long term health of the public as well as the environment are at risk. The Bioscience Resource Project has just added Sewage Sludge (Biosolids) — land application, health risks, and regulatory failure to its resource pages. This page summarizes and links to key scientific papers that provide an overview of the current health, environmental, and political issues around land application of sludges. Included are suggestions for reformulating the problem to ensure clean water without toxic sludge production.

To access the new page see: Sewage Sludge (Biosolids) — land application, health risks, and regulatory failure.

(1) For an illuminating non-technical introduction to the origins of sewerage systems and the creation and disposal of toxic sludge see: Civilization & Sludge: Notes on the History of the Management of Human Excreta by Abby A. Rockefeller.

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