Some Things Never Change

Keynote Address by David L. Lewis, Ph.D.

Annual March to the Athens-Clarke County Landfill

Billups Grove Baptist Church

Pastor Ben Kenneth Willis, First Lady Artherlene Willis

May 2012

When I graduated from high school and came to the University of Georgia (UGA) in 1966, Chester Davenport had just become the first African-American law student to graduate from UGA. Two years later, I took a part-time job at the "Water Lab" on College Station Road, which was under the U.S. Department of Interior. My favorite duty was going on field trips to sample rivers in North Georgia.

A lab tech named John worked in my section. Whenever we stopped to get drinks and snacks, John would sit in the car. It was many years later when I asked one of the supervisors why that was. "Because blacks weren't welcome back then," I was told. It had never entered my mind. I wasn't raised that way, and neither were my children. John passed away a number of years ago, and I still miss him.

In 1970, Congress created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its first priority was to clean up America's polluted waterways. Our lab became part of EPA's Office of Research & Development. I earned a bachelor's degree in microbiology at UGA in 1971, and continued on to get my Ph.D. in ecology. EPA gave me a permanent position as a research microbiologist, and I had my own laboratory. Becoming a scientist and having my own lab was everything I dreamed of since I was a small child.

To clean up the water, President Jimmy Carter undertook the Nation's largest public works program, which was to build sewage treatment plants in every city and town across America. Their purpose was to remove toxic pollutants from the water and concentrate them in sewage sludge, mainly for disposal in landfills. When President Carter announced the program to Congress in 1977,2 he warned: "We need to be sure that sewage projects supported by Federal money do not create additional environmental problems…We also must ensure that the systems are operated properly…that there is an effective pretreatment program to remove harmful industrial wastes from these systems; and that we are carefully considering alternative solutions…"

Shortly after President Bill Clinton began his first term in 1993, EPA passed the 503 sludge rule over the objections of scientists at EPA laboratories across the county. The rule allowed cities to just treat their sewage sludge with lime, or by other processes that do nothing to remove heavy metals and persistent organic chemicals. The toxic sludge could then be spread on farms and forests and school playgrounds as “fertilizer.”

Natural Law

From Rural Pennsylvania to South America, a Global Alliance is Promoting the Idea that Ecosystems Have Intrinsic Rights

By Jason Mark

Cathy Miorelli doesn’t think of herself as an environmentalist. When Miorelli decided to run for the city council of Tamaqua Borough – a small town in central Pennsylvania where she has lived her entire life – she didn’t have any sort of eco-agenda. It was 2004, and the hottest controversy in Tamaqua involved a proposal by an outside company to dump sewage sludge and coal fly ash into abandoned mining pits on the edge of town. But the main issue on Miorelli’s mind was creating more transparent governance on the council, which she says had long been dominated by an old boys’ network. “I was just concerned about everything overall, not really so much the environment,” says Miorelli, who has worked for 16 years as the nurse at the Tamaqua high school. “You know, I didn’t run on any kind of platform, saying that I was going to change the world here or anything.”


photo by Brett Weston, Corbis

She did change the world, though. Halfway through her one-term stint on the council, Miorelli spearheaded the passage of an anti-sewage sludge ordinance that included a provision recognizing the rights of “natural communities” to flourish – the first law of its kind in the world. The Tamaqua Borough ordinance inspired dozens of other communities in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania – including the city of Pittsburgh – to adopt similar rights of nature laws. Those ordinances then helped influence the people of Ecuador to put legal rights for ecosystems in that country’s new constitution. The idea that nature, just like people, possesses inalienable rights has percolated up to the United Nations, which has considered a proposal to adopt a “Charter on the Rights of Mother Nature.”

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Williamson County (Texas) landowner nixes application to bring sewage sludge to Granger farm


By Benjamin Wermund AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Updated: 11:42 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Published: 8:43 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Treated sewage sludge will not be dumped on a northeastern Williamson County farm as nearby residents had feared after the landowner canned an agreement that would have brought human-made leftovers from a nearby wastewater treatment facility to his pastures.

Synagro planned to deliver sludge — also known as biosolids — from a sewage treatment plant in Waller County, but the Houston-based company pulled its permit application this week. The move came after landowner Jim Schwertner sent a letter last week notifying the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state's environmental agency, that he was no longer interested in using the sludge on his farm.

Lisa Wheeler, a spokeswoman for the environmental agency, said the agency has not received Synagro's notice yet.

Residents around Schwertner's farm, just east of Granger, had spoken out against the potential dumping of the sludge on the piece of farmland, saying they were worried it could contaminate their well water and the air around the farm.

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New Toxic Sludge PR and Lobbying Effort Gets Underway

A handful of sewage sludge mixed with yard trimmings.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012 14:36 By Sara Jerving, PR Watch | Report

A trade association known for using the terms "compost," "organic," and "biosolids" to describe sewage sludge is investing in a new public relations campaign to influence policymakers and the public. The US Composting Council(USCC), which was founded by the disposable diaper industry, will be expanding its long-standing efforts to "rebrand" sewage sludge, which is increasingly disposed of on agriculture crops and through garden centers without telling the public that their food is being grown in medical, industrial, and human waste.

Earlier this year, the USCC announced that it hired a PR firm, Colehour + Cohen, to help with the rebranding efforts and that it will also be increasing lobbying efforts.

The word “compost” traditionally has applied to vegetable material and scraps gardeners and farmers collect to re-use on crops and gardens. The USCC uses the term "compost" on an industrial scale to include sewage sludge, as well as other commercial and municipal waste.

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Trash Talk: Sewage sludge is a problem we all need to think about


Whenever we flush the toilet, problems are created with sewage sludge.
Credit: ELLEN MOORHOUSE PHOTO

Trash Talk delves into some nasty stuff occasionally, but Toronto resident Maureen Reilly has been doing just that almost daily for 15 years. Her subject: sewage and sewage sludge.

We spoke to her over a year ago and thought it timely to check back to find out what’s happening with the waste we all help generate. Indeed, just 120 kilometres northwest of Toronto, Dundalk residents are challenging plans to build a facility that will take sludge, some from Toronto, mix it with septage and industrial waste, turn it into a liquidy fertilizer product for spreading on farmers’ land.

Reilly has immersed herself in disposal issues ever since she fought (successfully) to keep industrial paper sludge off pasture surrounding her country house near Cannington. Her experience with regulatory authorities, politicians and waste haulers changed her life.

Reilly has made it her mission to cull the media for information about sewage treatment technologies, sludge controversies, industry misbehaviour and failures, scientific studies, environmental contaminants, hygiene and health issues. She sends these reports, with critical commentary, to subscribers of her Sludge Watch email service in a dozen countries. (To join, Google Sludge Watch.)

She and many others believe spreading urban sewage sludge on agricultural land is a grave mistake given the contaminants and pathogens that end up in sewers because of our chemicalized and medicated lifestyles and effluents from hospitals and industry. The impacts of these substances on soils, health and ecosystems are not understood, and as Reilly says, “Of the 10 of thousands of toxic compounds that could be in sewage, the sludge is tested for less than 12.”

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Tougher sentence sought in ex-Detroit City Council aide's corruption case

FBI surveillance video of John Clark and James Rosendall, Jr. The video was gathered on Feb. 20, 2008 as part of the FBI’s investigation of Synagro Technologies’ sludge hauling contract with the city of Detroit.

Detroit— A corrupt former Detroit City Council aide should get a stiffer prison sentence because he caused more damage to the city than a drug dealer, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is pushing for up to 16 months in prison for John Clark, who was caught on FBI surveillance video pocketing cash from a contractor. Clark was a onetime aide to Detroit City Councilman Kenneth Cockrel Jr.

"In a real sense, the damage done by the defendant's contribution to corruption in Detroit is far more serious than the damage done by some of the drug offenders sentenced in federal court who receive far more serious sentences of imprisonment," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey wrote Wednesday.

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Marcellus Shale & Sewage Sludge

By Darree Sicher

Who Took A Dump On Your Dinner Plate?

Marcellus Shale drilling looks like big money for Pennsylvania, a tsunami of riches and fuel independence. But there is concern, not only about fresh water quality after the discharge of the known toxic chemicals used in the Marcellus Shale drilling process, but also with the land that will receive the remaining waste. Will the toxic chemicals used in the drilling process be made safe through the “treatment of waste water”?

Millions of people rely on Pennsylvania watershed areas to provide their drinking water via rivers, lakes, wells and purchased bottled water. Water is also necessary to sustain our food supply. Although Pennsylvania’s population is sixth in the nation, citizens throughout America will be affected by the contamination from the Marcellus Shale drilling – just follow the trail of rain water run-off and sewage sludge/biosolids, the equal opportunity pollution sources.

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Human Feces Used as Fertilizer Has Neighbors Fuming

Local farms are using fertilizer made up of human sewage and residents say they can't drink their water because of contamination.
By Teresa Masterson
Wednesday, Dec 28, 2011


Residents of a Lynn Township neighborhood are upset by the fertilizer spread on farm fields nearby. They say the fertilizer made of human waste has seeped into their drinking water.

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Dark Soil: Ending the Land Application of Biosolids In America

By Jason Fowler on 11/30/2011

I came home the other night to the thick stench of biosolids (treated sewage sludge) on the wind. The trucks had been driving past our cabin for days- and sometimes into the night. I went to collect eggs and close the chickens in as I do every night. I walked in the crisp but putrid night air with a handkerchief around my face. The smell was assaulting but what was even more disturbing was the realization that the real assault is against my family, my neighbors, the land and the future health of our community.

While you may have never heard of biosolids the battle to stop it’s application on agricultural and public lands has been raging for many years. Biosolids, according to the EPA, is said to be: “…nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of sewage sludge (the name for the solid, semisolid or liquid untreated residue generated during the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment facility). When treated and processed, sewage sludge becomes biosolids which can be safely recycled and applied as fertilizer to sustainably improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth.” In the same breathe they admit: “Thirty years ago, thousands of American cities dumped their raw sewage directly into our nation’s rivers, lakes, and bays. Today, because of improved wastewater treatment, our waterways have been cleaned up and made safer for recreation and seafood harvest. And, because of the strict Federal and state standards, the treated residuals from wastewater treatment (biosolids) can be safely recycled. Local governments make the decision whether to recycle the biosolids as a fertilizer, incinerate it or bury it in a landfill.” If biosolids are so valuable why would it be incinerated or buried in a landfill as a waste product?

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'Urine power' tests at UWE in Bristol are successful

Research into producing electricity from urine has been carried out by scientists at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol.

It is claimed the publication of a research paper into the viability of urine as a fuel for Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) is a world first.

They say tests have produced small amounts of energy, but more research could produce "useful" levels of power.

Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos said he was "excited by the potential of the work".

MFCs contain the same kind of bacteria that is found in soil, the human gut or waste water from sewers.

'Regulating the flow'

The bacteria anaerobically (without oxygen) respire just like any other living organism, and this process gives off electrons.

Those electrons are then passed through an electrode and a measure of electricity is generated.

Bacteria feed on the urine, which they effectively use as a fuel to continue to breathe and give off electrons.

"Urine is chemically rich in substances favourable to the MFCs," said Dr Ieropoulos.

"Through this study... we were able to show that by miniaturisation and multiplication of the number of MFCs into a stack and regulating the flow of urine, it may be possible to look at scales of use that have the potential to produce useful levels of power, for example in a domestic or small village setting."

from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-15636544?utm_source=feedbur...

SSAN Tables at The Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University

Students in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University had an opportunity to learn about the problem of sewage sludge and its effects on water, air and soil thanks to an information table set up by SSAN at a recent film series event held in the Levine Science Research Center on the Duke campus. The film series was a fundraiser for the Nicholas School's Environmental Internship Fund which was founded by a group of Nicholas School students to facilitate environmental internship supplemental funding.

Film Naming Contest Winner & Industry Attention Drawn to Video

Our film naming contest concludes. The winning name - submitted by our own Nancy Holt - is

SEWAGE SLUDGE ON OUR FARMS: A TOXIC BETRAYAL

So Nancy wins the prize, a beautiful set of pottery.

In other news...a sewage sludge industry newsletter (North East Biosolids and Residuals Association) has cited SSAN and its film. In their newsletter, they make the statement

"...current evidence certainly suggests biosolids use on soils in accordance with regulations and best management practices is safe for public health and the environment."

It is amazing that NEBRA says land applications of sewage sludge is safe because the EPA will not say that. The reason given by the EPA for no answer of safety to humans, animals or the environment? Because they do not know. (Tracy Mehan, EPA Assistant Administrator, US-EPA, October 29, 2003) and according to the EPA today, the EPA itself does not promote land applications.

Documentary Video Naming Contest


Folks, the Sewage Sludge Action Network has produced a video documentary about sewage sludge's harmful effects on the environment. But we have one thing left to be done...we need a title, i.e. a name, for our documentary video. Absent a title, the video is currently described as Sewage Sludge on farmland, but we want and need a formal title for our documentary.

So...we have decided to create a contest for the best documentary video name. The contest ends on Friday, September 30th at 5pm Eastern time. A panel of judges comprised of the SSAN coordinating committee will select the winning name. The prize is a one-hundred ($100) gift certificate to Eddie Smith Porcelain pottery. Here's what Debbie Nichol's has to say about Eddie's pottery:

"I think that Eddie Smith pottery is excellent and I personally own quite a bit of his pottery. He has shown his pottery at the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Guild show held every Thanksgiving in Raleigh, so obviously, he is very good."




Please submit one or more names for our documentary video via our contact us form.

Family moves on after dairy

By Rob Pavey
Staff Writer
Sunday, July 3, 2011

Michael Holahan/Staff

Bill Boyce and his wife, Carolyn, opened a restaurant behind their house after closing their long-running family dairy farm.

KEYSVILLE, Ga. --- Bill Boyce loves the smell of wood smoke and the telltale hiss of chicken grilled to perfection.

"I still don't fish, still don't hunt and still don't play golf," he said. "But I sure love to cook."

Boyce and his wife, Carolyn, opened Country Boys Cooking in 2005 after spending most of their lives operating a family dairy established by Bill's father in 1947.

Today, the dairy, its 1,400 cows and almost 700 acres are gone.

The Boyces spent years trying to advance their claims that improperly treated sewage sludge -- applied to their land by City of Augusta officials as free fertilizer -- caused the downfall of their dairy by poisoning both cattle and soil.

A $550,000 jury award in June 2003 left the family, in the words of their lawyer, "vindicated but not compensated."

The award was a fraction of the $12.5 million in damages sought by the family in a trial that was watched nationally because of its implications on federal rules governing the use of sludge as fertilizer.

The end of the trial heralded the end of an era for the Burke County family.

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Press Release: LOCAL CITIZEN GROUP RELEASES ITS OWN DOCUMENTARY FILM TO EDUCATE PUBLIC ON RISKS OF SPREADING SEWAGE SLUDGE ON FARMLAND IN NC

PRESS RELEASE

June 27, 2011

Contact: Myra Dotson, Chair
(919) 270-7534
Betty Cross, Co-Chair
(919) 929-3281

In keeping with its mission to educate the public about the practice of spreading toxic sewage sludge on farm and forest land, SEWAGE SLUDGE ACTION NETWORK (SSAN), is pleased to announce the release of a new documentary film. Created for SSAN by local film makers Don Yonavjak and Tina Motley-Pearson, the documentary aims to raise public awareness of issues involving land application of sewage sludge. Yonavjak and Motley-Pearson have brought attention to numerous environmental issues through their work in several North Carolina counties including Alamance, Chatham, Orange, and Wake.

Farmland application of toxic sewage sludge is a severe environmental insult and a largely ignored crisis that has been kept from the public for over 30 years. This devastating practice is an under recognized source of air and water pollution, food contamination, human illness and death.

Please join our efforts in educating the public about this practice by sharing our new documentary with friends, colleagues and elected officials. A download can be made from the site. Please contact us to schedule a showing and a presentation for your group, neighborhood, church, or synagogue.

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