SLUDGE TRACKER: The Adverse Impact of Land-Disposed Toxic Sewage Sludge on Human & Environmental Health



Toxicus ad Infinitum

The Adverse Impact of Land-Disposed Toxic Sewage Sludge on Human & Environmental Health

PO BOX 1127
MCKENNA, WE 95885, U.S.A.

Richard C. Honour, PhD, Author
Phone: 425.772.1473

Michelle Horkings-Brigham, Author
Phone: 360.894.0965

Sludge Tracker unveils the inept practices of toxic waste disposal by agencies and industry, as seen through the eyes and experiences of citizens and activists. This seminal work reveals the dangerous and destructive consequences of land-disposed Toxic Sewage Sludge, while shining a light forward on how we can build a healthier, more vibrant future.

Land-disposed Toxic Sewage Sludge, water-disposed wastewater effluents, and the land or water disposal of other toxic wastes, such as leachates from landfills, provoke a broad spectrum of adverse impacts on human and environmental health, noting well that nearly all chronic diseases are incited by long-term exposure to low levels of environmental contaminants and pollutants.

Our mismanaged wastes contribute to the global crisis of climate change, and to pollution of our air, food, soil, and water, leading to famine, drought, compromised health, epidemics, deforestation, and lost biodiversity. No matter the source, kind or concentration of toxics in our wastes, whether in sludges from wastewater treatment plants, wastewater effluents, stormwater runoff, landfill leachates, industrial or medical wastes, or agriculture runoff that may include fertilizers, pesticides or wastes from concentrated animal feeding operations, the net result is environmental degradation. The consequences include a decline in readily available potable water supplies, aggravated further by climate change and population growth.

It’s all about the reluctance of agencies to safely manage our produced, released, and ever-accumulating wastes, and it’s about water—good, clean, potable water. Earth is a planet with surface water, and it resides at a steady state, meaning there will never be more or less water than we have now, and it’s often in the wrong form or place. We need potable water for survival, yet today, nearly half the world’s population is adversely affected by a shortage of fresh water, and such predicament incites disease, famine, food insecurity, wildfire, human migration, and war. Therefore, we must notice that it’s all about the ready availability of clean water for the safeguarding of human and environmental health, which current infrastructure fails to do.

We can act by protecting our air, food, soil, and water from contamination and pollution, or we can bear witness to an alarming decline of our life-sustaining resources. The climate is changing and the population is increasing, while we continue to contaminate and deplete our critical fresh waters, never seeking alternatives or improvements for proper management of our growing toxic wastes. Protecting our essential resources is critical to human survival. Workable solutions exist to convert toxic wastes to renewable clean energy and beneficial byproducts—a climate crisis no longer.

Fertilizer turning Europe's farms into massive reservoirs of microplastics

A new study has found that fertilizer made from sewage sludge and used widely in agriculture operations is introducing vast amounts of microplastics into Europe's soils

The sludge that is created through sewage treatment processes is rich in nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen, making it an excellent source of fertilizer for agriculture. But not all that it contains is good for the environment, with a new study demonstrating how the material acts as a vehicle for huge amounts of tiny plastic fragments to enter soils, so much so the authors suggest Europe's farms could be acting as the world's largest reservoir for microplastics pollution.

Sewage sludge serves as an appealing and sustainable source of fertilizer, for both large-scale agriculture operations and home gardeners. But studies are starting to illustrate that its contents may not be entirely benign, neither for the environment or living organisms.

A study published last year that analyzed home fertilizer products found unsafe levels of toxic PFAS "forever chemicals" in every sample. That research found that typical sewage treatment methods don't break down these persistent chemicals, and as sludge is widely applied to lands across the US, it introduces huge amounts of them to food crops and waterways.

This new study was carried out by scientists at Cardiff University and the University of Manchester and focused on the farmlands of Europe, and the risks posed to them by fertilizers made from sewage sludge. The work involved analyzing samples from a wastewater plant in Newport, South Wales, which treats sewage from a population of around 300,000.

This showed that the plant was collecting larger plastic particles between 1 and 5 mm in size with a 100-percent strike rate, preventing them from slipping through into the waterways. Each gram of the sewage sludge created through this process, however, was then found to contain up to 24 microplastic particles, amounting to around one percent of its total weight.

read the full article

PFAS found in blood samples of more than 1,000 people in Cape Fear River Basin

By Lisa Sorg - 10/20/2022 - in Environment, News, Top Story

Excerpt from the article in NC Policy Watch:

"Traditional wastewater treatment methods can’t remove PFAS, so the compounds enter the waterways – the Haw River, the Cape Fear – unimpeded. Sludge, also known as biosolids, from wastewater treatment plants is often applied as fertilizer on agricultural fields. From there, PFAS can seep into the groundwater or run off into rivers and streams, and ultimately the drinking water supply."

read the full article

Synagro ordered to stop taking sewage in Hinkley as 3-month waste fire fuels 2nd lawsuit

An early view of the Synagro waste-pit blaze
June 1, 2022: The early view of an inferno in the guts of an 80-acre High Desert pit of feces, brewery muck and more from across Southern California.

San Bernardino County’s composting regulator may force Synagro Technologies Inc. to stop accepting all forms of waste at its open-air pit of sewage sludge in Hinkley after a more than three-month fire that’s now central to two “mass action” lawsuits by rural High Desert residents.

The county’s Environmental Health Services Division issued a cease-and-desist order with the potential for new fines against Synagro, a Maryland firm owned by a private-equity arm of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., in a Sept. 29 letter signed by EHS inspector Sarah Cunningham.
read full article

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