‘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.”
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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.


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.
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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.
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Biosolids may be coming to Toledo

By Lynnette Hoffman
Published: February 28, 2022

Lewis County residents attended a meeting to advocate against biosolids last Sunday.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, about 100 people gathered at the farm of Tom and Sharon Layton. They were there to discuss a new business that is coming to Layton Prairie that may have serious adverse effects on the residents and quality of water and soil. The business is called Bio-Solids, but most refer to it as sewer sludge.

Currently there are 400 acres set aside for this in Layton Prairie that have recently been purchased by Dan Ritola along with acreage owned by Greg Armstrong. The company paying these individuals to spread biosolids is Tribeca. Spreading biosolids is a very lucrative business.

Biosolids that are class B are defined as: Biosolids Class B have undergone treatment that has reduced but not eliminated pathogens Bio-solids, commonly referred to as sewer sludge, is human waste that has gone through a sewer treatment plant.

The guest speaker at this event, Richard Honour with the Precautionary Group, has his doctorate and has studied sewer sledge, discussed the many hazards on health and animals who are eating foods treated with biosolids. In fact, Richard has been in the sewer sludge business since the 1960s and he has endured several types of cancer related to sewer sludge. He stated, "nearly all chronic diseases of man are incited in low levels of contaminants or pollutants. Long term exposure to sewer sludge has caused cancer and other chronic illnesses.

Richard stated, "Don't believe it's safe, it's toxic waste. There is no such thing as safe sewer sludge." Many wonder why they are hazards to your health, all medications end up in the sewage. Antibiotics that are in human waste end up on the field, as does every medication, chemical and illness.

Jeff Wilson is an activist against sewer sludge who lives in Toledo. He worked in the business and stated, "there were 60 of us, now only 5 are remaining alive."

The effects of sewer sludge have killed 55 of his friends.
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The thick of it: Delving into the neglected global impacts of human waste

by Sean Mowbray on 11 January 2022


"Aquatic ecosystems are not the only ones impacted by sewage. Sewage sludge (also known as biosolids), the sticky stuff leftover from the wastewater treatment process, is used worldwide as a fertilizer and as a means of recycling the nutrients that are so damaging to coastal waters. In 2019, the U.S. produced an estimated 4.75 million dry tons of sewage sludge, with just over half applied to agricultural land.

However, depending on treatment methods, sewage sludge can spread the same toxic cocktail oozing into coastal systems on to land. It can seep into soils, enter food chains and groundwater, and also run off into streams and estuaries. In 2019, a U.S. EPA report noted that 116 chemicals found in sewage sludge samples had levels of toxicity high enough to impact humans, while 134 had sufficiently toxic levels to impact the environment.

Microplastics are well-known ocean contaminants, but they also are contained in sewage sludge. Depending on the technology used, wastewater treatment plants can remove up to 99% of microplastics. But the remainder becomes concentrated in processed sludge. One estimate puts the minimum amount of microplastics spread on agricultural lands via sewage sludge at 26,156 tons per year in the European Union, and 21,249 tons annually in the United States. Globally, there may be more microplastics spread on land than are entering the oceans — but we don’t know for sure."

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Good for groundwater – bad for crops? Plastic particles release pollutants in upper soil layers

The environmental geoscientists at the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science (CMESS) focused on a variety of parameters that contribute to plastic pollution in farmland soils. They calculated for different scenarios whether nano- and microplastic particles transport pollutants to groundwater resources. The result shows: they do not. ( © Audrey Desaulniers, Orcéine, Montreal)

Study shows that microplastics do not contribute to the mobility of organic pollutants in agricultural soils

In agriculture, large quantities of nano- and microplastics end up in the soil through compost, sewage sludge and the use of mulching foils. The plastic particles always carry various pollutants with them. However, they do not transport them into the groundwater, as is often assumed. Environmental geoscientists led by Thilo Hofmann have now determined that the plastic particles release the pollutants in the upper soil layers: they do not generally contaminate the groundwater, but have a negative effect on soil microbes and crops. The study by the University of Vienna appears in Nature Communications Earth & Environment.

Pollutants enter agricultural soils with plastic particles

Wastewater and rivers carry microplastics into the oceans. Wind distributes the particles to the remotest parts of the earth. However, agriculture itself plays a far greater role in plastic pollution of agricultural land: fertilizers such as compost manure or sewage sludge and the remains of agricultural mulching foils carry large quantities of plastic particles, so-called macro-, micro-, and nanoplastics, onto agricultural land. According to current estimates, for example, with every kilogram of sewage sludge, up to 300,000 plastic particles end up on agricultural soils - and with them pollutants. "Plastic always contains so-called additives. These additives ensure certain properties, durability or even the colour of a polymer. In addition, contaminants such as pesticides or pharmaceutical residues may become adsorbed to the plastic particles," explains Stephanie Castan, lead author of the study and PhD student at the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science (CMESS) at the University of Vienna.

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