Toxic Sludge is Good for You: Bribery, Indentured Science & PR

* By Ronnie Cummins & Alexis Baden-Mayer
Organic Consumers Association, February 4, 2010

SEWAGE SLUDGE OR BIOSOLIDS? Is It A Toxic Hazardous Solid Waste or Safe Fertilizer? Ignorance, Confusion, and Lies

What you don’t know about sewage sludge, aka biosolids, could change your life and those of your family forever through exposure to its deadly coliform, bacteria, viruses, helminths, protozoa, fungi, organics, synthetic organics and inorganic heavy metals. Sewage sludge is the biological active aggregates (bacterial biofilms-pathogens-residual-organics-solids of the secondary biological sewage treatment process. In 1981, EPA, FDA
and USDA signed a Statement of Federal Policy and Guidance allowing sludge to be used as a fertilizer on fruits and vegetables. Most people, including medical doctors, those with Ph.D's, regulators, politicians, judges and especially farmers, have been convinced by EPA that sewage sludge is safe for use as a fertilizer. They are unaware there has never been a risk assessment for the dangerous toxic chemicals, pathogens, or metals in sludge.

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A Backlash After San Francisco Labels Sewage Sludge "Organic"


— By Josh Harkinson | Thu Mar. 4, 2010 3:45 PM PST

Activists wearing face masks and haz-mat suits dumped a pile of sewage sludge on the steps of San Francisco's city hall today to protest the city's practice of marketing the material to home gardeners as "organic compost." The US Department of Agriculture's organic standards explicity prohibit organic produce from being grown on sludge-treated land. "The City of San Francisco owes an apology to all of the food consumers in California who have been eating non-organic food grown on sewage sludge," said Ronnie Cummins, president of the Organic Consumers Association. He was wearing a haz-mat suit on which he'd written a message to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom: "Organic gardens aren't toxic waste dumps."

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Outrage in San Francisco: City Gives Residents 'Organic' Compost Containing Toxic Sewage Sludge

The city's actions are a wake-up call that the entire nation regularly consumes foods grown on fields fertilized with sludge.

March 4, 2010 | By Jill Richardson

When San Francisco, one of the greenest cities in America, offered its residents free compost, many were excited to take it. After all, purchasing enough compost for even a small 10 x 10-foot garden can cost over $50, and generating one's own compost in high enough quantities for such a garden takes a long time.

Few of the gardeners who lined up to receive the free compost at events like last September's Big Blue Bucket Eco-Fair suspected that the 20 tons of free bags labeled "organic biosolids compost" actually contained sewage sludge from nine California counties. On Thursday, March 4, angry San Franciscans returned the toxic sludge to the city, dumping it at Mayor Gavin Newsom's office in protest.

Sewage sludge is the end product of the treatment process for any human waste, hospital waste, industrial waste and -- in San Francisco -- stormwater that goes down the drain. The end goal is treated water (called effluent), which San Francisco dumps into the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. But the impurities and toxins removed from the water do not go away. With the water removed, the remaining byproduct is a highly concentrated toxic sludge containing anything that went down the drain but did not break down during the treatment process. That usually includes a number of heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pharmaceuticals, steroids, flame-retardants, bacteria (including antibiotic-resistant bacteria), fungi, parasites and viruses.

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What Sewage Sludge Toxins may be in Your ‘Natural’ Pet Food?


Sewage sludge contains all sorts of household and industrial toxins which are flushed down the toilet or private and industrial drains. How could this possibly impact the quality of your ‘natural’ pet food?

Just to remind you: the term ‘natural’ isn’t regulated and the best way to actually get a natural pet food when you want one is to buy a certified organic pet food, which among other things, wouldn’t contain sewage sludge-grown crops or animal ingredients. Verification by an independent party, an organic certification agency, is your guarantee that this is the case.

Non-certified organic pet foods contain so-called ‘conventional’ (i.e., non-certified organic) ingredients. Conventional agriculture routinely uses sewage sludge (also called ‘biosolids’) as ‘fertilizer.’ Every year more than half of the roughly 7 million metric tons of the biosolids produced in the United States are applied as fertilizer to farm fields.

The large amount of human waste processed in sewage plants means that sewage sludge contains high concentrations of phosphates and nitrates, which are desirable components of fertilizers. However, this sludge also contains highly toxic materials such as fluorides, industrial solvents, heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics, and even radioactive waste which may accumulate in the plants that are grown on sludge-fertilized farmland, as well as in the animals that are fed sludge-treated crops.

WHAT TOXINS ARE CONTAINED IN SEWAGE SLUDGE?

Here are just some of the many toxins that were detected by the EPA in sewage sludge from 74 randomly selected publicly owned water treatment/sewage sludge plants in 35 states (Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey Report, 2009).

For understandable reasons, the EPA study had to limit the analysis to relatively few toxins; it is likely that sewage sludge contains many more toxins that have not been included in the EPA study.

‘Class B biosolids,’ which are the principal type of biosolids applied to land, also contain a variety of enteric pathogens (e.g., E.coli, salmonella). These were also not included in the recent EPA study.

At the end of this page you can find information on some of these toxins (marked in the text with numbers in parenthesis) and the health problems with which they are known to be associated.

1. Metals

Twenty seven of the 28 metals analyzed were found in every sewage sludge sample. The most prevalent were barium(1), beryllium(2), manganese(3), molybdenum(4), and silver(5). The other metals included: aluminum, antimony, arsenic, boron, cadmium, cobalt, lead, mercury, selenium, thallium, tin, vanadium, yttrium, and zinc.

Remember that elemental metals often are very toxic while they are life-sustaining in the forms in which they occur naturally in foods.

2. “Organics”

Of the six organics analyzed, four were found in at least 72 samples, one was found in 63 samples, and one was found in 39 samples. The most prevalent ‘organics’ are: pyrene(1), fluoranthene(2), 4-Chloroaniline(3).

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Tell the "World's Greenest Mayor" to Stop Poisoning His City with Toxic Sludge!

In 2008, Organic Style Magazine called San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom the World's Greenest Mayor. Apparently, Organic Style wasn't aware that the "World's Greenest Mayor" is, in the guise of giving something valuable to its citizens, giving toxic sewage sludge to city gardeners touting it as "organic biosolids compost."

Board backs sludge ban

Belmont, N.Y.
By Harrison Haas
hhaas@citizen.com

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Belmont Planning Board voted in favor of placing the proposed zoning amendment to prohibit the land application of all biosolids in all zones on the town warrant.

During a workshop session on Monday evening, board members also unanimously voted to not recommend the petition warrant article looking to adopt the state regulations on biosolids and allowing certain types.

EPA Sludge Cover Up and Denial of Human Health Risks

The attached testimony by Dr. Caroline Snyder is worth reading and posting. The EPA also knew in 1982 that sewage treatment plants generated antibiotic resistant bacteria (see below). The author is an EPA scientist, the paper was peer reviewed, and after the EPA started promoting land applications of sewage sludge---the study was suppressed and no longer available at the EPA, DHHS or the CDC.

Tiny Elgin, QC sets legal precedent in blocking use of municipal sludge on its territory

Dateline: Monday, October 12, 2009

by Holly Dressel

In November of 2006, the tiny municipality of Elgin, Quebec, comprised of only a few hundred people, passed a by-law prohibiting the spreading, storage or transport of municipal or de-inking sludge on its territory.

The people living in Elgin, about 60 km southwest of Montreal, understood that Canada's water treatment systems are not able to remove many toxic elements intrinsic to sludge, such as:

* pathogens like H1N1 or E. coli;
* dangerous chemicals like flame retardants;
* medications;
* hormones; or,
* the heavy metals that get into sewage systems from small industries and the de-inking process of paper recycling mills.

Farmers in the area were particularly worried about the heavy metals in de-inking sludges, which can sterilize soils, rendering the soil useless and in fact dangerous for crop production in a relatively short period of time. Such material can be trucked in from distant, large cities and cannot be traced.

Elgin's by-law was passed in order to "protect public health and the environment."

"... Lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation."

The local farm wishing to spread the sludge took the village to court, on the grounds that the process is not only legal in Quebec and across Canada but encouraged by provincial regulations. They were backed by a huge multinational waste management company, GSI, which makes its money by taking human and de-inking sludge off the hands of overwhelmed municipalities, calling it a crop fertilizer, and selling it to farmers at much cheaper rates than regular chemical fertilizers.

On October 1, 2009, to the surprise of many, Quebec's Superior court upheld the town's bylaw. Judge Steve J. Reimnitz invoked the well-known Supreme Court ruling in the case of Hudson, Quebec's similar ban on cosmetic pesticides.

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Public opinion important to future of agriculture

Farming is a global business these days — what happens on the far side of the world often impacts what farmers in the Southeast plant and how they market their crops.

Farming is also a local business and how the public perceives agriculture goes a long way toward influencing state and federal elected officials, who make the laws that govern agriculture. For the most part our elected officials don’t really understand what farming is all about and don’t have unified voice to explain it to them.

Food safety is a big public issue, yet the estimated 6-7 million tons of potentially toxic municipal waste that goes on farm land each year is not a public issue — at least not yet.

In Virginia, for example, there are about 8.5 million acres of farmland, but only 55,000 acres are treated with biosolids, a legal, but euphemistic term for municipal sludge.

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Judge compels deposition of EPA official

U.S. District Judge Clay Land, of Athens, Georgia, issued an order yesterday compelling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide their employee Madolyn Dominy for deposition in a whistleblower's scientific fraud case. Madolyn Dominy was the EPA's Regional Biosolids Coordinator from 1998 to 2004. In his whistleblower lawsuit, Dr. David L. Lewis (pictured) and dairy farmers Andy McElmurray and William Boyce claim that researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) conspired with EPA employees to make false statements as part of a grant application to justify land application of sewage sludge. The law firm of Hallman & Wingate of Marietta, Georgia, represents Dr. Lewis, McElmurray and Boyce in this case. The EPA tried to use is "Touhy" regulation to prevent Hallman & Wingate from deposing Dominy. Yesterday, Judge Land rejected this attempt, and ordered that EPA make Dominy available for deposition by September 11, 2009. A copy of the order is available at this link.

Dr. Lewis and the dairy farmers filed their lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act. They initially asked the government to intervene to recover money the researchers obtained under false pretenses. The government declined, so they are pursuing discovery to prove that the researchers' "Gaskin Study" containing false, unreliable and fabricated scientific data regarding the effects of sewage sludge on animal health and land. Dr. Lewis and the farmers also claim that the researchers cited the Gaskin Study in additional grant applications, thus violating the False Claims Act again. The lawsuit arises from the EPA's efforts to justify its "Sludge Rule" that allows sewage sludge to be spread on certain open lands. The Sludge Rule is at 40 C.F.R. Part 503. Dr. Lewis has determined that the EPA's rule lacks the scientific basis needed to assure its safety.

The Gaskin Study related to sewage sludge that was processed by an Augusta, Georgia wastewater treatment plant and applied as fertilizer to various parcels of land, including the farms of Boyce and McElmurray. During the late 1990s, Boyce and McElmurray claim that the sewage sludge contained hazardous wastes which ultimately poisoned and killed their dairy cows. Together with Dr. Lewis, they claim that the UGA researchers and EPA employees worked together on studies of the Augusta sewage sludge land application project with an agenda of promoting land application of sewage sludge as safe and beneficial and discrediting any allegations to the contrary.

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Spreading Sewage Sludge on U.S. Fields, Hidden Cause of Food Safety Problems


Giving FDA More Power and More Money is NOT the Answer, Changing National Sewage Policy Is

by Guest Blogger, Jim Bynum, Vice President of Help for Sewage Victims

The House recently passed a new food safety bill (HR2749) giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new power and more money. According to recently discovered documents, this will do nothing to protect our food. Since 1980 it has been the official national policy to dispose of sewage waste on grazing land, fruits and vegetables, parks school grounds and home lawns. The policy was signed by EPA, FDA and USDA based on the premise that EPA had a mandate from Congress under Public Law 92-500 (Clean Water Act) to prevent sewage effluents (water and sludge) from being released into surface water. At that time there were more that 3,000 municipal sewage treatment land application sites in operation. However, most states balked at using land treatment systems without additional secondary treatment and EPA refused to fund those treatment systems.

Sewage Treatment Plants Mass Produce Bad Bacteria

Shortly after the national policy was created in 1980, EPA studies documented that sewage treatment plants were creating antibiotic resistant bacteria. According to EPA in 1982, “present-day conventional waste water treatment — “poisons the rivers and streams” Not only that, but drinking water treatment plants were picking up the antibiotic resistant bacteria and adding chlorine resistance to their armor. Furthermore, Milwaukee’s Milorganite and Chicago Metropolitan Sewage District’s sludge as well as 50% of the other municipalities could not meet the national policy requirement.

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Farmacology: Johns Hopkins researchers are investigating a troubling potential source of resistant pathogens: the American farm

By Dale Keiger

Ellen Silbergeld, Eng '72 (PhD), recalls that she did not want to go to the seminar. She was a professor of epidemiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1999 when her department's chairman needed an audience for the seminar's presenter, a candidate for a faculty position. Silbergeld recalls the chairman saying, "Please, just sit in the room. You can come to lunch." So she sat in the room, and something caught her attention. The seminar was on hospital-acquired infections, but the presenter mentioned in passing that some drug-resistant infections came from food. That seemed odd. Silbergeld knew you could pick up Salmonella from, say, tainted chicken salad. But how would that Salmonella have become resistant to antibiotics? She turned to a colleague and asked. Because, he said, factory chicken farms routinely feed antibiotics to their flocks, to accelerate growth, and the drugs generate resistance.

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How about Meth, Cocaine and Ecstasy in sewage sludge runoff into ground and surface waters?

Testing at 96 Oregon sewage plants shows meth, cocaine and ecstasy
by Scott Learn, The Oregonian
Friday July 24, 2009, 7:00 PM


As Tour de France riders can attest, one way to figure out whether someone is using illegal drugs is to do a urinalysis.

That isn't possible, of course, at the level of whole cities or towns.

Or maybe it is.

Last year, researchers at Oregon State University, the University of Washington and McGill University took one-day samples from 96 Oregon sewage treatment plants that volunteered to participate. They tested for the presence of chemicals indicating methamphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy or MDMA. Then they estimated the daily drug load per person for each community.

Cocaine showed up in 80 percent of the communities tested. Ecstasy, the one-time party drug now spreading to other venues, in about 40 percent. And meth appeared in every test, from Oregon's smallest towns to its biggest cities.

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Sludge On Farm Causing "Stink" With County Officials

John Pless
2009-07-21 17:49:58

A Meigs County farmer is facing a very expensive proposition -- plowing up his cornfields and removing the soil.

It's all because of the fertilizer he used earlier this year.

"A citizen's complaint came into my office," Meigs County Mayor Ken Jones said.

The complaint came to Jones back in the winter and centers around tons of sludge from Knoxville's sewage treatment plant being dumped on David Stewart's farm north of Decatur. It was tilled in the soil months before the current corn crop was planted.

A company called Synagro contracts with Knoxville's Utilities Board to remove what's left over in the sewage treatment process, called biosolids, and then dumps the treated material somewhere else. Often times it's dumped on farms and forests.

The problem is biosolids aren't allowed in Meigs County.

"Meigs County has a zoning regulation that prohibits any land in Meigs County from being used for the disposal of commercial waste," Jones explained.

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