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.

Use the Precautionary Principle

by Andrew Kimbrell

Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety
Posted: July 3, 2009 03:54 PM

I appreciate Eddie Gehman Kohan's passion for the Obama's Kitchen Garden and all that it represents, and I concur that it is a source of inspiration for people around the world. I specifically mention in my last piece the First Lady's good intentions and the excitement over the garden from those in the sustainable food community.

As someone who has devoted over twenty years to helping develop and defend organic standards and to fighting technologies that threaten food safety, seed biodiversity and farmer communities, I look forward to an Administration that promotes the organic rule and expands its ethic to cover more of America's food crops.

Where we strongly disagree is about the safety of using sewage sludge for growing crops. Let me repeat that the national organic rule for which so many of us fought for so many years specifically lists sewage sludge as a "prohibited method." So it is at least misleading to say as she does that the Obama garden is an inspiration for "organic sourcing" when, however unwittingly, it's plants have been grown in a manner prohibited under national organic standards. I specifically do not blame the Obamas for this; to the contrary, I wrote that they are the "victims" of a public relations stunt by a prior administration.

Read the full article at Huffington Post

The Obama Organic Family Garden: Swimming in Sludge?

When Michelle Obama created an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn earlier this year, the move was greeted with positive headlines and excitement among the food advocacy community. Here, we thought, was a First Lady who understood the importance of locally grown, whole and organic foods in her family's diet.

Unfortunately, something happened on the way to the realization of the First Lady's good intentions. Recently the National Park Service discovered that the White House lawn, where the garden was planted, contains highly elevated levels of lead -- 93 parts per million. It's enough lead for anyone planning to have children pick vegetables in that garden or eat produce from it to reconsider their plans: lead is highly toxic to children's developing organs and brain functions -- however, it's below the 400 ppm the EPA suggests is a threat to human health.

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State still lets Central Florida's sludge foul Everglades, critics say

Kevin Spear
Sentinel Staff Writer
June 29, 2009

The foul waters of Lake Okeechobee, the failing health of the Everglades and even sick dolphins along the South Florida coast might seem like troubles so distant they could hardly be the Orlando area's responsibility.

Yet a Florida law — which environmentalists say is being thwarted by state officials — says otherwise, banning a decades-old practice set in motion when a toilet is flushed or a kitchen sink is drained in Central Florida.

Treatment of that watery waste produces sludge, which local sewage utilities at least partly disinfect and dispose of as fertilizer. A lot of that fertilizer winds up on cattle ranches and citrus groves south of Orlando, where rain runoff and flooding can release chemicals that poison the wetlands and waterways from here to Florida Bay.

The Florida Legislature passed a law two years ago that environmental activists took as a victory that calls for an end to spreading of sludge within a vast area that drains into Osceola County's large lakes and then south to the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and the coastal estuaries of South Florida.

'Wreaking havoc'?

Now those environmentalists are accusing state officials of sidestepping the law, even as the Everglades watershed gets sicker by the day.

"There's a continued buildup of a pollutant that's wreaking havoc with the ecosystem," said Eric Draper, Audubon of Florida's policy director in Tallahassee. "It's going to be extremely expensive to clean up."

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'Humanure' Victory: Green Toilet Wins Austin City Approval

Composting commode is first to gain official stamp.

by Asher Price

It took more than four years of negotiations and construction, but this month an Austin Water Utility inspector gave final clearance to a glorified outhouse that is on the vanguard of down-and-dirty environmentalism.

Known as a composting toilet, the East Austin commode relies on the alchemy wrought by bacteria to transform human waste into a rich trove of soil. Specialists in so-called humanure have hailed the approval of the toilet as a watershed moment for common-sense environmentalism.

Monica Conyers pleads guilty in Synagro scandal

Paul Egan / The Detroit News

Detroit -- Detroit City Council Pro Tem Monica Conyers pleaded guilty to a five-year felony today in connection with the city sludge hauling scandal today.

Conyers, 44, spoke softly in federal court as she admitted taking bribes in connection with $1.2 billion Synagro Technologies Inc. contract the Detroit City Council awarded in 2007.

Did Sewage Sludge Lace the White House Veggie Garden With Lead?

In March, Michelle Obama delighted locavores when she planted an "organic" vegetable garden on the White House's South Lawn. For years, Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and other sustainable food activists had been pushing the idea as a way to reseed interest in do-it-yourself agriculture. Less than two months later, the National Park Service disclosed that the garden's soil was contaminated with toxic lead, and the plot's educational value took on a new flavor as the New York Times and other papers discussed how to make urban backyards that are laced with old lead-based paint safe for growing kale and cauliflower. But those stories might have fingered the wrong culprit.

Starting in the late 1980s and continuing for at least a decade, the South Lawn was fertilized by ComPRO, a compost made from a nearby wastewater plant's solid effluent, a.ka. sewage sludge. Sludge is controversial because it can contain traces of almost anything that gets poured down the drain, from Prozac flushed down toilets to lead hosed off factory floors. Spreading sludge at the White House was a way for the EPA to reassure the public that using it as a fertilizer for crops and yards (instead of dumping it in the ocean, as had been common practice) would be safe. "The Clintons are walking around on poo," the EPA's sludge chief quipped in 1998, "but it's very clean poo."

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Synagro official pleads guilty to bribing Detroit Council member

Monday, June 15, 2009
Paul Egan and Leonard N. Fleming / The Detroit News

Detroit --A Detroit businessman pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to paying more than $6,000 in bribes to an unnamed Detroit City Council member in a plea deal that promises the government will not bring charges against his brother.

"I conspired with others to provide money to elected officials in exchange for favorable votes before the City of Detroit," Rayford W. Jackson, 44, of Detroit told U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn.

The council member Jackson admitted to bribing is not identified in court documents, which use the term "Council Member A."

However, federal agents have electronic surveillance evidence linking City Councilwoman Monica Conyers to receiving alleged payments in connection with a $1.2 billion Synagro Technologies Inc. sewage contract, persons familiar with the investigation have told The Detroit News.

Fish from river tainted with contaminants from sewage sludges spread on farms

Fish from river may be tainted
Published: Saturday, June 13, 2009 at 6:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 12, 2009 at 11:40 p.m.

Numerous reports in the Decatur Daily recently about problems caused by Teflon by-products in sewage sludge that was spread on farmland in Morgan and Lawrence counties that polluted ponds, wells and soil and contaminated cattle living on the farms piqued my curiosity about what impact it might have had on fish in the Tennessee River.

Several industries in the Decatur area use the chemical PFOA or perfluoroonctanoic acid in their manufacturing process. When the industries discharge PFOA-tainted waste into the Deactur's sewer system, the sludge is contaminated. I suspected that the waste water from the sewage treatment plant that is discharged into the Tennessee River might also be contaminated.

IS SEWAGE SLUDGE REALLY FREE FERTILIZER TO THE FARMER?

Press Release
6/4/2009
Carolina Concerned Citizens
(919)563-3670 fg325@aol.com
For more information or scientific links and studies--contact Nancy Holt.

Sewage treatment plants were never designed to produce fertilizer. What is being spread on farmlands now and called biosolids or free fertilizer is the concentrated residuals of whatever comes into the sewage treatment plant from all sources: homes, businesses, industry, hospitals, laboratories, nursing homes, funeral homes, and street run-off. This thick viscous concentrated residual called sludge is what remains after the sewage water is treated to be discharged back into rivers or streams.

We are told that sewage sludge/biosolids are recycled organic human waste, which is true. What is not told is that from 80 to 100,000 chemicals are used in products for personal and home use, in industry, and medical and laboratory facilities. Any drugs or chemicals going down the drain into the sewer system may wind up on the land intact or as chemical mixtures never anticipated or tested for toxicity. The treated sludge also contains bacteria, viruses and intestinal worms and parasites. Class B sewage sludge can have 2 million fecal coliform indicator bacteria (thermotolerant E. coli) per gram (size of a sugar cube) which means there’s pathogenic bacteria in the sludge—but not what type or amount and this will be sprayed or spread on farm fields which will grow human and animal crops and grass for cattle. The waste water treatment plant has to follow EPA and state regulations for processing sewage sludge but this process does not remove the drugs, chemicals, toxic metals, or all of the bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

Fecal Coliform Test Puts Public Health at Risk: Sludge -- biosolids -- food -- water

Jim Bynum, VP, & Gail M. Bynum, Ph.D
Revised 5/27/2009
Help for Sewage Victims
Contact: bynjam@aol.com

Sludge Again A Problem In Raleigh Creek

Superbugs thriving in wastewater treatment plants

by Kate Melville

In the first study of its kind, University of Michigan researchers have established that wastewater treatment plants are providing a perfect environment for the emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that eventually end up in neighboring streams and lakes.

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