Film Naming Contest Winner & Industry Attention Drawn to Video

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


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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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.

E-Coli Outbreak in Europe Traced to Human Feces, NOT animal manures

The strain of Escherichia coli that has caused lethal food poisoning in northern Germany was almost certainly carried by bean sprouts. The bacteria have not been found in food, but epidemiological investigation of what victims ate point towards one German sprout farm.

Meanwhile, mounting evidence suggests the bacterial strain responsible for the outbreak has been circulating in Germany for the past decade – and in people, not cattle as initially supposed.

Food Chain Breach: Radioactive Sludge Used for Fertilizer on Farms

The revelation that natural gas drilling companies are dumping radioactive waste water into our rivers virtually unregulated was shocking enough, but now the New York Times is reporting that radioactive sludge is being used for fertilizer on our nation’s farms. You heard right: radioactive fertilizer – a direct line to the food chain.

Has the whole world gone stark raving mad? Well, if not the whole world, at least the part that handles U.S. environmental regulation.

The news that radioactive material is being used for fertilizer on the farms that produce our vegetables and milk (among other food products) should make even the most permissive pro-industry segments of the American public exceedingly uncomfortable. Radiation outside the food chain – in rivers, for example – is one level of risk, but radiation contamination in the food chain is a much more serious and insidious threat to public health.

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Sludge not 'suitable' for worms

By Matthew Haggart on Sat, 26 Mar 2011

Cromwell worm farmer Robbie Dick has commissioned laboratory tests on sewage sludge from the Queenstown Lakes District Council's Project Pure facility near Wanaka. Photo by Matthew Haggart.

Independent laboratory tests have indicated treated sewage sludge from the Queenstown Lakes District Council's Project Pure wastewater facility near Wanaka contains disease-carrying organisms and is unlikely to provide any benefits for farmland pasture.

A test of the sludge by Soil Foodweb, a global microbiology testing organisation which has a laboratory in Roxburgh, has found the biosolid waste contains no beneficial organisms which will be conducive to soil or plant life.

MS Awareness Week

March 17, 2011 | Posted in: Opinion

March 14-20, 2011 is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. Please be conscious of the prevalence of multiple sclerosis in this area and in the United States. There is no known cure or cause of MS. There are many theories and genetic predispositions. But, personally, I believe the prevalence of man-made toxins in our environment are contributing to the extensive amount of autoimmune illnesses such as MS as well as the multitude of cancers in this country.

I have been informed of sewage sludge being dumped on our farmland all over Orange County. This sludge is given free to area farmers and may include “hundreds of dangerous pathogens, toxic heavy metals, flame-retardants, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, pharmaceutical drugs and other hazardous chemicals coming from residential drains, storm water runoff, hospitals, and industrial plants” along with “antibiotic-resistant bacteria created through horizontal gene transfer.” This sludge is being dumped regularly on farmland in our county.

If you are as concerned as I am, I urge you to contact your congressman to support H.R.254, the Sewage Sludge in Food Production Consumer Notification Act. This act would prevent food and animal feed from being grown on land spread with toxic sludge.

You never know what cancer or autoimmune disease you may prevent by stopping this practice. Please help stop the spreading of this unspeakable sludge concoction on our local farmland and all over the country.

And please remember this is MS Awareness Week.

Debbie L. Nichols
Chapel Hill

Is sewage sludge safe on crops?

Guest Column:
Published: Mar 16, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Mar 15, 2011 05:43 PM

Is sewage sludge safe on crops?

by Betty Cross

A recent article in The Cary News highlighted a new dewatering device at the Cary wastewater treatment plant. The new equipment will separate liquid from solids resulting in dewatered sewage sludge, which can then be labeled as "fertilizer." There is much more to know about the composition of sewage sludge than is revealed in the story. Wastewater treatment plants were never designed to produce fertilizer. Wastewater treatment plants were designed to clean the water discharged from the plant.

Though sewage sludge contains nitrogen and phosphorous beneficial to crops, it also contains myriad other chemicals, heavy metals and pathogens harmful to the environment and human health. The Environmental Protection Agency sets limits for only nine heavy metals (out of 28) and certain pathogenic bacteria. Only a few organic chemicals are measured out of thousands in use. Because our waste streams have been channeled into centralized wastewater treatment plants, everything sent down the drain from homes, hospitals and businesses, along with stormwater runoff and landfill leachate, winds up concentrated in sewage sludge.

Two examples of chemicals harmful to humans, and for which limits in sludge have not been set, are the antibacterials triclocarban and triclosan. These endocrine disruptors are found in many consumer products and concentrate in sewage sludge. A study at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health determined that approximately 75 percent of the ingredients washed down the drain by consumers persist during wastewater treatment and accumulate in sewage sludge. In the EPA's Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey, triclocarbon was found in 100 percent of the samples taken and triclosan was found in 94 percent. These two chemicals interfere with hormones needed for proper brain and reproductive system development in children. A recent study at Ohio State University shows that both chemicals can enter the food chain through sewage sludge used as fertilizer on agricultural fields. There is nothing in the dewatering process that removes triclocarban or triclosan from sewage sludge.

Another disturbing finding from the Water and Environment Research Foundation (WERF) is that dormant bacteria in dewatered sewage sludge can reactivate when exposed to air and water. The researchers suspect that anaerobic digestion and high centrifuge separation renders some bacteria viable but nonculturable, therefore non-measurable. Once the bacteria leave the treatment process, they can multiply exponentially. It seems there is no way to assure consumers that dewatered sewage sludge is free of pathogenic bacteria.

If shopping for compost or fertilizer this spring, whether in bags or in bulk, ask what's in it. If the answer is sewage sludge, please be aware, no one really knows what it contains or if it is safe to use. It hasn't been tested.

Cross is the co-chairwoman of the Sewage Sludge Action Network.

H.R.254 - The Sewage Sludge in Food Production Consumer Notification Act

Stop Toxic Sludge Dumping on Farmland and Pastures!

Toxic sewage sludge used to be dumped into the oceans, killing fish and marine life. After public pressure put an end to ocean-dumping, toxic sludge began to be spread on farmland, touted as natural "fertilizer." In 1998 the sludge industry tried to get the USDA to allow toxic sewage sludge to be used as a fertilizer on organic farms, but the OCA's Save Organic Standards campaign and an aroused organic community stopped this insidious effort. Today millions of pounds of sludge are dumped on Monsanto's crops, including cotton, corn, and soy grown for animal feed and fuel. This toxic sludge is, by law, allowed to contain dangerous levels of pathogens, viruses and bacteria. The sludge pathogens that survive sewage "treatment" are the hardiest superbugs, bacteria that have developed a resistance to antimicrobials and antibiotics.

Toxic sludge used on food crops must be processed to reduce pathogen contamination, but is still rife with heavy metals and all manner of industrial chemicals from flame retardants to metal plating compounds.

If it isn't safe to dump in the oceans, it isn't safe to spread on farmland and pasture land!

Stop toxic sewage sludge from being dumped on farmland! Ask your Member of Congress to cosponsor H.R.254 - The Sewage Sludge in Food Production Consumer Notification Act

Take Action

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Sewage Sludge Action Network Reorganizes

The Sewage Sludge Action Network (SSAN) has announced that it has reorganized as a project of The Center for Community Alternatives, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization headquartered in North Carolina.

SSAN is comprised of residents of Alamance, Orange and Chatham counties, and says it will continue to focus on educating the public about the risks to public health and the environment from the spreading of sewage sludge from wastewater treatment plants on farmlands.

Each year hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage sludge are spread on farmlands in over 70 counties in North Carolina. Farmers are given sludge free of charge to be used as a fertilizer and are not informed about the vast amounts of unregulated, untested toxic chemicals that concentrate in sewage sludge.

Betty Cross, SSAN Co-Chair, said that antibacterials found in sewage sludge are a special concern. “Triclosan and triclocarban are endocrine disrupting chemicals that concentrate in sewage sludge. These two chemicals interfere with hormones needed for proper brain and reproductive system development in children. Studies show that both chemicals can enter the food chain through the use of sewage sludge used as fertilizer on agricultural fields.”

SSAN is working at a grassroots level on a number of projects that include:

  • Developing a farmer education program on the risks of using sewage sludge as a fertilizer;
  • Increasing buffers on sludge spreading near schools, day care centers and other public places;
  • Protecting drinking water supplies by removing sludge fields permitted in critical watersheds;
  • Advocating for stricter enforcement and regulation of sludge spreading;
  • Partnering with other organizations dedicated to protecting NC’s surface waters, drinking water supplies, farmlands, and public health; and,
  • Producing a local documentary that includes interviews with local residents about their opinions and experiences with sewage sludge.

"The mission of SSAN is to educate the public about the practice of spreading toxic sewage sludge on farm and forest land. In addition to poisoning farmland, sewage sludge contaminates groundwater, surface waters, the air we breathe and the food we eat,” said Myra Dotson, Chair of SSAN. “For 30-years this practice, disguised as “free fertilizer,” has turned farmland into toxic waste dumps, and has been largely unknown to citizens. The public has a right to know.”

The next SSAN meeting will take place on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Orange Grove Volunteer Fire Department, 6800 Orange Grove Rd., Hillsborough, NC 27278. Interested members of the public are invited and encouraged to attend.

For more information contact Myra Dotson, Chair, SSAN at (919)270-7534 or mdotson at

Crops Absorb Pharmaceuticals From Treated Sewage

Each year, U.S. farmers fertilize their fields with millions of tons of treated sewage and irrigate with billions of gallons of recycled water. Through this treated waste, an array of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) make their way unregulated from consumers' homes into farm fields. Now researchers find that at least one crop, soybeans, can readily absorb these chemicals, which raises concerns about the possible effects on people and animals that consume the PPCP-containing plants (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es1011115).

Researchers have previously shown that food crops take up veterinary medicines from manure fertilizer and some cabbage species absorb human pharmaceuticals when grown in hydroponic conditions. But environmental scientist Chenxi Wu and colleagues at the University of Toledo in Ohio wanted to determine if a major food crop could absorb common PPCPs under more realistic agricultural conditions, such as plants grown in soil. If the chemicals do find their way into the crops under real-life conditions, they could be toxic to the plants, Wu says. "Or they could accumulate through the food chain, and eventually end up in human consumers," he adds.

In a greenhouse experiment, the scientists focused on soybeans, the second most-widely grown crop in the U.S. Half the plants grew in PPCP-tainted soil, to simulate fertilization with treated solid waste, while the researchers irrigated the other half with chemical-spiked water, to replicate wastewater irrigation. They laced water and soil with three pharmaceuticals—carbamazepine, diphenhydramine, and fluoxetine—and two antimicrobial compounds found in personal care products—triclosan and triclocarban.

The scientists analyzed plant tissue samples by mass spectrometry at two life stages: just before the soybeans flowered and after they sprouted beans. Wu and colleagues found that carbamazepine, triclosan, and triclocarban concentrated in root tissues, eventually moving into the stems and leaves. The antimicrobial compounds triclosan and triclocarban also accumulated in the beans themselves. But the soybean plants barely absorbed diphenhydramine and fluoxetine—the chemicals only appeared at low concentrations in the roots. Overall, the plants absorbed the chemicals more efficiently by irrigation than through the soil. The researchers are still trying to determine why.

Environmental chemist Chad Kinney of Colorado State University, Pueblo, says the study underscores the need for further research into how PPCPs behave in agricultural settings. "The first thing you have to consider with human exposure through agriculture is whether it's even possible," Kinney says. "That's what was answered by this study."

Wu thinks that more toxicology studies should come next: "If you find those compounds in the plant, what are they going to do to the plants or to animals that eat the plants?"

Long-Lasting Chemicals Threaten the Environment and Human Health

ScienceDaily (Dec. 21, 2010) — Every hour, an enormous quantity and variety of human-made chemicals, having reached the end of their useful lifespan, flood into wastewater treatment plants. These large-scale processing facilities, however, are designed only to remove nutrients, turbidity and oxygen-depleting human waste, and not the multitude of chemicals put to residential, institutional, commercial and industrial use.

So what happens to these chemicals, some of which may be toxic to humans and the environment? Do they get destroyed during wastewater treatment or do they wind up in the environment with unknown consequences?

New research by Rolf Halden and colleagues at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University seeks to address such questions. The group's results, reported recently in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring, suggest that a number of high production volume (HPV) chemicals -- that is, those used in the U.S. at rates exceeding 1 million pounds per year, are likely to become sequestered in post-treatment sludge and from there, enter the environment when these so-called biosolids are deposited on land.

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When Research Turns to Sludge

It’s not just corporate funding that creates conflicts of interest. Even government and nonprofit funding can have strings attached.

By Steve Wing

Environmental epidemiologists sometimes hear from people dealing with pollutants and sickness. So I wasn’t surprised when Nancy Holt contacted me about the millions of gallons of municipal sewage sludge being spread on fields near her home in Orange County, North Carolina. Sometimes, she said, the stench was so awful that she and her husband had to cover their faces when they went outside. They had trouble breathing. Sores broke out on her grandchildren’s bodies after they played in a nearby creek. She had her well tested. It was contaminated with bacteria and chemicals. Droplets of wet sludge covered her mailbox.

By the time she called me at my office at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Nancy was fed up with the runaround from local, state, and federal agencies. Government employees had tried to reassure her that sewage sludge is safe, that existing rules protect public health, and that there is no evidence sludge ever harmed anyone. When she learned that our research group had been studying the effects of industrial hog operations on neighbors’ health and quality of life, she thought we might be able to evaluate the impacts of sewage sludge.

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Why Would EPA Imply These Pathogens Are Not Disease Causing Organisms?
Part 503 list -1989
Why did EPA refuse to make this list public and removed it from the final 1993 Part 503?

THERE IS NO FEDERAL STANDARD FOR PATHOGENS. EPA Office of Water refers to pathogens in the Clean Water Act as Fecal coliform in Part 401.16. E. coli, Salmonella and Salmonella are members of a group of 12 bacteria that make a coliform under the Public Health Service STANDARD. They all create a virtually identical signature during a fecal coliform contamination lab test.

EPA Office of Water does not consider pathogens to be hazardous to the environment or human health because the Office of Hazardous Waste has never developed a list of disease organisms referred to as Etiologic Agents under part 261 Appendix VI. EPA also does not consider bacteria in the viable, but nonculturable state to be a hazards to you health when they regain the viable state.

As we all know from the media stories, at least E. coli and Salmonella will cause death, But the EPA document implies that the worse that can happen is that you get a case of gastroenteritis, rather than any actual organ damage. As you can guess, these are not the only pathogens in sludge - biosolids that could kill you. Click here for index to deadly disease bacteria and viruses EPA doesn't want to talk about.

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