SOUND SLUDGE SCIENCE Pages 1, 2, 3, 4
and the scheme to derail
EPA/WEF Rapid Incident Response to Health Complaints From Land Application of Biosolids
by Jim Bynum 5/20/2008
Help for Sewage Victims
Retired Safety Consultant
Government Smoke and Mirrors Project -- We want to Help -- But We can't -- Maybe Later
With epidemics/pandemics rampant in this country EPA can not afford to investigate complaints
EPA's first sludge complaint Incident Response team was created in 1994 and led by John Walker and Bob Bastian.
However, rather than getting their hands dirty, the job of debunking the sludge complaints (horror stories) was given to
the Water Environment Federation (WEF). The WEF accepted the job, and a lot of money, without regard to the
science, the truth or the human damage its actions would cause. The EPA/WEF went on the create the Water
Environment Research Foundation (WERF) to accept money directly from Congress and funnel it to pro-sludge
researchers. Then in 1999, EPA/WEF created the National Biosolids Partnership to create and "environmental
management system (EMS) that could be adopted by municipalities and their contractors to help assure responsible
management of biosolids." This was also funded by EPA and Congress.
These boys do love a good con game at the expense of the taxpayer. EPA/WEF/WERF/NBP using taxpayer funds are
designing a program that could be adopted by municipalities and their contractors certifying that they will follow the
laws and regulations and common decency. Oh yes, an outside third party contractor will certify that, "An
organization adopting an EMS pledges to comply with all applicable Federal, State, and local regulations
and to adopt and follow other practices to address issues such as traffic, odors, noise, and dust that are
not covered by EPA regulations." I could be wrong, but isn't that a part of the municipalities duty to the taxpayers?
As noted on Page 1, by 1997, EPA had an Incident Response Team lead by Bob Brobst to investigate sludge health
and environmental complaints. When sludge victims researcher Helane Shields requested copies of those complaints
she was amazed at the response, She said, "On October 30, 1997, Dr. Alan Rubin, author of the 40 CFR Part 503
sludge rules, called me on the telephone in response to my Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) and told me EPA
lawyers said he could charge me $42,000 for release of this information. He said $1500 of that amount would be for
Xeroxing 10,000 pages at 15 cents a page." Shields question was, " IF, as the EPA and waste industry claim,
there are "no sludge victims" -- what is contained in those 10,000 pages?"
On January 21, 2003, in testimony before The Solano County Board of Supervisors, "Dr. Rubin noted he would fully
expect for the public to see in the April 2, 2003 proposed response to the NRC report, a proposed action plan. It is
reasonable for the public, when they see this laid out for comment, to suggest to the EPA that in the interim perhaps
the EPA should consider some sort of additional interim requirements. I do not know how the EPA will respond to that,
but the public can bring that up and send comments into the EPA. The EPA will have to deal with that public comment.
Dr. Rubin suggested getting some activity going as soon as possible for somebody, either EPA, CDC, state health
agencies, or local health agencies getting out there and seriously beginning to document what is happening in
communities. I believe that the reports we are getting are real, in that people feel sick out there. I read 4-5
reports everyday, and I have a stack that is almost 2 feet tall. The EPA is taking the NRC recommendations very
seriously particularly in going back and looking and tracking incidents."
You have to wonder how serious?
In 1999, identified the "Incident Response Team (IRT): This is a team of Headquarters and Regional experts that can
react quickly to allegations of health, environmental, and other problems caused by biosolids. Sometimes the team
simply reviews existing data; on other occasions the team performs detailed field investigations."
Next we find the Incident Response Team leader Bob Brobst, and John Walker, getting their hands dirty in 1999,
involved in the University of Georgia study of cattle deaths -- in which the court found to contain fabricated data and
the ongoing lawsuit against the University, in which the court finds that [EPA] Defendants Walker and Brobst are not
entitled to qualified immunity."
On the other side of the coin, in 2002, we had EPA's David Lewis and University of Georgia researchers actually doing
serious sludge research on human health effects. In the study, Interactions of pathogens and irritant chemicals
in land-applied sewage sludges (biosolids) EPA's David L Lewis, et.al.[University of Georgia researchers], found,
"Affected residents lived within approximately 1 km of land application sites and generally complained of irritation (e.g.,
skin rashes and burning of the eyes, throat, and lungs) after exposure to winds blowing from treated fields. A
prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus infections of the skin and respiratory tract was found. Approximately 1 in 4 of 54
individuals were infected, including 2 mortalities (septicaemia, pneumonia). This result was consistent with the
prevalence of S. aureus infections accompanying diaper rashes in which the organism, which is commonly found in the
lower human colon, tends to invade irritated or inflamed tissue."
In 2004 testimony before Congress, Lewis outlined the scheme by EPA/WEF to discredit him and the above University
of Georgia study. He gave examples of how "EPA has corrupted the scientific peer-review process in order to support
certain political agendas and further the Agency's self-interests."
Here we use the part 503 Peer Review data from the 1998 book Deadly Deceit to illustrate the point. "The Peer
Review Committee, composed primarily of scientists who claimed to be experts on metals, recommended EPA exempt
the toxic organic chemicals to make it easier for the POTWs to accept the beneficial land disposal methods. If the
organic chemicals that were listed in the proposed Part 503 were regulated, it would require the POTWs to do costly
tests. The dioxin test alone would cost between $900 to $1200 a test."
Lewis said, "As part of my official EPA duties from 1996-2003, I researched the growing number of anecdotal reports
alleging illnesses and deaths from exposure to sewage sludge applied under EPA's guidance. To do this, I surveyed
the affected individuals, obtained their medical records, collaborated with some of their treating physicians, gathered
local government records on land application, and analyzed environmental samples and other relevant information. An
overview of these studies is published in a peer-reviewed Research Commentary in the current issue of the National
Institutes of Health journal, Environmental Health Perspectives. [http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2004/112-2/toc.html]"
"Based on these studies, he said, "I wrote a research paper co-authored with several University of Georgia scientists
and one of the physicians treating children exposed to sewage sludge. We concluded that the nature and timing of
these illnesses suggested that chemical irritants in sludge dusts, which irritated the skin, mucous membranes, sinuses,
and respiratory tract, rendered people susceptible to infection. This was the first study linking illness to land applied
sewage sludge and it revealed an important exposure pathway - airborne dusts - which EPA had overlooked."
Lewis stated, "EPA's corruption of the scientific peer-review process with respect to the 503 Rule has already led to
disastrous consequences. It clearly threatens public health and the environment, including our energy and mineral
resources. Hundreds of people working at or living near reclaimed mines and other sites have reported serious, even
life-threatening, illnesses where tons per acre of sewage sludge have been applied under this Rule. Several
otherwise healthy children have suddenly died after being exposed to sludge, including 8-year-old Tony Behun who
rode a four-wheeler across a coal mine covered with sludge in Pennsylvania."
EPA/WEF's failure to protect the public from pathogens and chemicals in sludge/biosolids, reclaimed sewage effluent
water and drinking water is not only reckless endangerment of public health, but very costly. Consumer Reports
National Research Center found that, "In 2007, Americans spent $287 billion on prescription drugs, about five times as
much as in 1993 but only about half the amount forecast for 2017. Sixty-five percent of prescription-drug buys we
asked about in 2002 were mostly or entirely covered by insurance, vs. 33 percent this time. Five percent of purchases
weren't covered at all."
And the corrupted scientific con game continues
Remember, EPA has had a sludge Incident Response team since 1997 and yet, never investigated one environmental
health complaint associated with sludge use. EPA's David Lewis got fired for investigating sludge health issues. But
EPA and WEF are going to create a Methodology for Implementing a Rapid Response Mechanism, "WEF
HIGHLIGHTS, June 2004, WERF has allocated $200,000 to the project ranked highest by summit participants:
Methodology for Implementing a Rapid Incident Response Mechanism. Project researchers are expected to create a
system for investigating claims of health problems related to land-applied biosolids. At press time, WERF and EPA had
begun by planning a workshop in which diverse stakeholders would draft the scope of the work for an acceptable pilot
In November, 2004, Dr. Steve Wing, Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina, had problems with the
conflicts of interest surrounding the issue and resigned from the WERF Committee. In his letter of resignation he
stated, "As I have indicated to you and other members of the WERF PSC nominating committee by email and phone,
financial conflicts of interest undermine trust in scientific research. Concerns about this problem are widespread in the
scientific and public interest communities as evidenced by conflict of interest disclosure policies of prominent peer-
reviewed journals, articles in leading scientific publications, congressional hearings, and the growing literature on
scientific research ethics. Involvement of people and institutions with financial interests in planning research into
health and environmental impacts of land-applied sludge constitutes a clear conflict of interest because the design,
analysis and results of these studies could have important financial repercussions for sludge appliers."
He points out the obvious, "Environmental and occupational health research has a long history of being distorted by
financial conflicts of interest. Cases of the tobacco, lead, asbestos, pharmaceutical and chemical industries are widely
known. During a historical period when the public is increasingly aware of these problems and distrustful of science
and medicine, it is unwise to build a research program on a foundation, your PSC nominating committee, that has
failed to address obvious conflicts of interest. You will produce more reliable and trustworthy research by adopting a
strong conflict of interest policy at all stages of the process of developing and reviewing requests for proposals and
managing funded research. To the extent that WERF as an organization is unable to do this, it will be necessary to
ask other institutions to manage the process. Given these problems and your unwillingness to address them, I must
resign from the PSC nominating committee. I hope you will seriously consider my concerns."
During the January 2005 "Water Environment Research Foundation Workshop on the Methodology for
Implementing a Timely Incident Response Mechanism", "Mr. Reinhart noted that the current focus of the
biosolids work is to create a scientifically defensible protocol for identifying incidences of reported adverse effects of
land application of biosolids, including a strategy and administrative function to allow for centralized data collection to
help determine what and where problems are." It would appear the major Symptoms/Effects issue was: "Some of
largest issues health officials deal with relate to mental health, in addition to physical health. These mental health
impacts should not be ignored nor downplayed."
The result of the workshop was: "The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) is issuing this request for
proposals (RFP) for Protocols for the Timely Investigation of Potential Health Incidents Associated with Biosolids Land
Application as a complete research program that will include development of a protocol (Phase 1), the pilot testing and
refinement of the protocol (Phase 2), and creation of a methodology for its implementation and use by the appropriate
agencies (Phase 3). Amount: $150,000.
EPA has its hands in the pot again, SMITH, J. E. RAPID INCIDENT RESPONSE FRAMEWORK. Presented at 8th
Annual National Biosolids Conference Workshop, Bolger Center for Leadership Development, Potomac, MD, June 26,
2006 - June 26, 2009. RAPID INCIDENT RESPONSE FRAMEWORK:
"Will discuss WERF Contract (RFP# 03-HHE-5PP), Protocols for the Timely Investigation of Potential Health Incidents
Associated with Biosolids Land Application, as a member of the project advisory committee. The contractor, University
of North Carolina, started work in early June, 2006 and will develop a protocol for epidemiologic surveillance, outbreak
investigation, and etiologic investigation of the potential health impacts of land application of biosolids in neighboring
populations. Included in this project will be a plan for communicating and disseminating the protocol to the public,
government agencies, medical service providers, and biosolids professionals. The protocol and communication
strategies will be developed based on completion of the following specific tasks:
- 1.Generate a list of local/state/federal agencies and biosolids generators/appliers to contact regarding their
level of interest, capacity, and involvements.
- 2.Contact agency personnel and biosolids professionals identified in task one to evaluate the interest, capacity
and feasibility of their involvement in gathering and maintaining epidemiologic surveillance data and conducting
etiologic investigation of acute health impacts of biosolids application.
- 3. Evaluate existing designs for surveillance, case investigation, etiologic studies of acute symptoms related to
- 4. Develop a catalogue of symptoms potentially related to biosolids exposures as well as a group of control
symptoms not associated with such exposures.
- 5. Develop methods for assessing potential local human exposure to pollutants from land-applied biosolids as
well as methods for assessing personal and other environmental exposures that can cause symptoms of interest.
- 6. Develop interview and focus group guides for assessing knowledge and awareness of biosolids land
application among the public, medical service providers and government personnel and for developing
strategies to communicate about the protocol to these groups and the biosolids industry.
- 7. Identify interviewees and focus group participants.
- 8. Schedule/conduct interviews and focus groups for the assessment phase of developing outreach
- 9. Produce survey instruments to evaluate potentially biosolids-related symptoms, other (control) symptoms,
health-related quality of life, medical history, sociodemographic, behavioral and mood variables, exposure
variables, application practices, and other conditions and exposures that could confound or modify associations
between biosolids and symptoms.
- 10. Create a guide for investigating health events potentially related to biosolids application that could be
implemented by government agencies or research institutions.
- 11. Design a database for maintaining information collected during investigations of symptom reports and
biosolids land application practices.
- 12.Analyze assessment data and develop outreach communication strategies and materials
- 13. Develop a plan for further work"
The University of North Carolina published the Protocol for documenting and investigating symptoms reported
near Biosolids land application sites on its website in November 2007. The statement of purpose:
Links are given to download the document.
- "This protocol was designed with funding from the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) to assist
environmental and public health officials in responding to residents who report symptoms that residents attribute
to land application of biosolids. Community members may wish to recommend the protocol to their state and
local environmental and public health officials to consider using as a systematic way of responding to and
investigating reports of symptoms near biosolids land application sites."
Perhaps the most interesting part of this is that Dr. Steve Wing who accused the WERF of having a conflict of interest
was given credit by WERF as the lead author of the document, even though his name appeared last on the credits.
What is more unusual is that the University of North Carolina was able to published the document on its website. It is
an excellent document and my hats off to Dr. Wing and the University of North Carolina. However, if EPA, WEF, WERF
and NBP (they are all the same people) have their way this is a simple exercise in futility. First, they will find fault with
the protocol; second, health departments who have been issuing sludge dumping permits will not be interested, third,
health departments not involved in issuing permits will not have the authority to use the protocol, unless invited to do
so by the state environmental department which has more statutory authority, fourth, that is not going to happen, and
fifth, if someone in the state wanted to do so, they are not going to have the money.
Ten years after EPA documented it had a Sludge Incident Response Team it is going to consult with the
states about investigating the complaints -- give them guidance -- refine the protocol after pilot testing --
tell WERF how to roll out the protocol --develop a data base of sludge related investigation at some
distant time in the future. This was outlined in the:
"Proceedings of the Biosolids Exposure Measurement Workshop (2007) EPA/600/R-07/055 September 2007"
Protocols for the Timely Investigation of Potential Health Incidents Associated with Biosolids Land Application
Alfred P. Dufour: Dr. Dufour, with USEPA’s NERL, discussed a December, 2004 WERF workshop on rapid incident
response to health complaints from land application of biosolids. Participants in the meeting developed a request for
proposal (RFP), based on input about previous cases of reported health effects from the perspective of those affected.
The objectives of the RFP will be addressed in three phases.
- Phase 1 will involve the development of a protocol for rapid incident response. This will be achieved by:
reviewing previous incidents, collecting information on all adverse environmental outcomes, developing a data
collection/investigative instrument, consulting with states about conducting investigations, providing investigation
guidance, and communicating with health practitioners.
- In Phase 2, the protocol will be refined after pilot testing at three localities. After the protocol is optimized,
recommendations will be made to WERF on how to roll out the protocol nationwide.
- In Phase 3, a database of biosolids-related investigations will be developed. In addition, guidance will be
provided on the communication of the protocol to the public through community dialogs and other mechanisms.
The WERF puts a little different spin on Dr. Wing's Protocol. Now it is titled:
Epidemiologic Surveillance and Investigation of Symptoms of Illness Reported by Neighbors of Biosolids
Land Application Site
Wastewaters from homes, businesses, and public facilities require treatment to protect human and environmental
health. In the process of cleaning water for release to the environment, treatment plants separate solids (sludges),
which contain nutrients useful in agriculture as well as microbes and chemicals from the wastewater stream. In recent
years, the term "biosolids" has been used to refer to treated sewage sludges. A majority of biosolids produced in the
United States are applied to agricultural land as a fertilizer or soil amendment. While this practice is regulated by the
United States Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies, some members of the public have expressed
concerns about its potential effects on human health, and the National Academy of Sciences has recommended
establishing a framework for human health investigations.
The primary goal of this project is to develop an investigation protocol to assist environmental and public health
officials in responding to citizens and medical providers who report symptoms that they attribute to land application of
biosolids. This protocol will undergo pilot testing. In future phases of this effort, data resulting from citizen and
provider reports and subsequent investigations are to be compiled into a database that can be used to
advance research into the potential impacts of current biosolids land application practices on neighbors'
* Guides and standardizes timely responses to reports of symptoms from neighbors of biosolids land application
* Facilitates collaboration among national, state and local environmental and health agencies, wastewater treatment
facilities, and companies that land-apply biosolids, to respond to public health concerns about biosolids;
* Monitors trends in symptoms that citizens associate with biosolids land application through creation of a
* Evaluates whether changes in biosolids treatment and land application practices are associated with changes in
reports of symptoms;
* Guides the planning, implementation, and evaluation of biosolids land application programs to prevent or reduce
reports of symptoms;
* Provides a basis for designing epidemiologic research on potential health effects associated with biosolids land
According to the Virginia BIOSOLIDS EXPERT PANEL Meeting Minutes, November 16, 2007, it was noted:
"Chris Peot [ Blue Plains Treatment Plant D.C.] noted that two approaches to investigating citizen health complaints
had been recently introduced to the panel. He stated that Dr. Vance [Virginia Commonwealth University School of
Medicine] had sent a draft questionnaire for panel review that he planned to use with his students as part of a class
"Chris had received permission from WERF to release a copy of the “Incident Investigative Protocol” for evaluating
citizen health complaints related to biosolids land application. He sent this information to Neil Zahradka and it was
forwarded to the panel."
"Alan Rubin ["citizens representative?"- Retired EPA, part 503 author - Consultant (Principal, Envirostrategies, LLC)]
noted he did not object to Dr. Allen [University of Virginia School of Medicine] moving forward with his questionnaire.
He noted that it will take a long time to implement the WERF protocol. He felt that a priority item needs to be a
complete evaluation or validation of the health issues that have been presented by Virginia citizens, and he did not
have a problem with collecting additional information. He did not feel, however, that Dr. Allen’s exercise should replace
a more comprehensive evaluation."
You have to wonder what Rubin is doing on this Biosolids Expert Panel as a citizens representative when he has such
a conflict of interest. He claims he is/was the "Leading Staff Regulator and Policy Advisor for Biosolids in the U.S" and
a "Consultant and Expert Witness on Biosolids Issues." In Rubin's presentation "Trace Constituents: Red Herring
Hysteria", He falsely claims: 1) No public health risk exists, but hype still does; 2) Biosolids don’t release pollutants into
the soil; 3) All biosolid management techniques are safe; and 4) EPA assumes maximum exposure in its risk
assessment models. The truth: 1) Please review Rubin's remarks in Paragraph 3 & 4, Part 503.9(t) and www.
sludgevictims.com; 2) On Kansas City's biosolids site, monitoring wells show metals did go to groundwater and
pathogens ran off on neighboring farmland; 3) In reviewing Part 503.13 land application and 503.23 surface disposal,
we find that maximum levels of pollutants for land application can not be put on a surface disposal site; and 4) for
sludge/biosolids, EPA's risk assessment assumed none of the cancer causing agents would cause cancer nor would
they become bioaerosols. It doesn't appear that Dr. Rubin is really the expert on biosolids.
"Russ Baxter [Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation] asked how a “human investigation” is defined.
Ralph Allen [University of Virginia School of Medicine] explained that in the context of UVA research, any study that
systematically studies humans must be reviewed by the board so that appropriate precautions are taken
so that information is not misused. In addition, loss of public funding could occur if the rules are violated. The
questionnaire was modified so that it was much more general, and served more as a registry of health issues rather
than a tool for full evaluation. He also stated that the one and a half page tool would be easier to fill out than the 50
page WERF document."
"Mark Levine [Virginia Department of Health] commented that it would be wonderful to do a full study, but we don’t
have the resources. He noted that there are physicians who have stated further exposure to biosolids should be
avoided. He stated that a question before the panel is how much adverse health information does the panel need
before you recommend policy change or some alternate course of action. He noted that we are all saying we need
more data, but at what point would we have enough data to make some decisions."
It might help if the Biosolids Expert Panel reviewed the sludge victims website and read Part 503.9(t)" Pollutant is an
organic substance, an inorganic substance, a combination of organic and inorganic substances, or a pathogenic
organism that, after discharge and upon exposure, ingestion, inhalation, or assimilation into an organism either directly
from the environment or indirectly by ingestion through the food chain, could, on the basis of information available to
the Administrator of EPA, cause death, disease, behavioral abnormalities, cancer, genetic mutations, physiological
malfunctions (including malfunction in reproduction), or physical deformations in either organisms (humans) or
offspring (children) of the organisms."
Lets see: it has taken six years to get a investigation protocol ready, just to ask a few simple health questions, it is
going to take a long time to implement the protocol, this is going to turn into a human investigation, which indicates a
University is going to be involved and special approval and protocols will be needed, the Virginia Department of
Health, who has been permitting these sites, thinks it would be wonderful to do a full study, but the Department does
not have the resources. The resources they don't have is an interest to protect public health.
In the mean time we have to contend with people who are afraid to speak out because they don't have answers and
could get sued. This mother who lives closed to a Class B sludge disposal site refuses to have her name used but her
story must be told so these experts can see what they are doing to people. She said:
- "I have 2 kids that have daily issues and my third one is scheduled to see the specialists because he has had
symptoms but just not as bad. He was actually the first one diagnosed with reflux 2 years ago. He has been
affected with trips to the ER with respiratory, nose bleeds, GI and etc as well. So that makes all my kids with an
extensive health record since moving to that area as others residents."
- "However, I am exhausted emotionally, physically, and only have bits and pieces to all this environmental
relationship. It seems to be impossible to get definite answer from the DEP and EPA. I want more than anything
to find the cause to my children's inflammation in their GI tract and have a 3, 5 year old with esophagitis is
RIDICULOUS. The biopsies show this as well as other inflammation and this is environmental and I do not have
an answer yet. If I could find the water contamination then that would be the biggest help to this whole thing
because my daughter stopped vomiting as soon as we put her on bottled water. It seems impossible to find a
lab to test for everything that I need to have tested and be affordable. The longer I go without a definite answer
the more tests and damage my children deal with. This is heart wrenching as a mother and I have felt so lost for
the last 3 years trying to figure out what was happening to my kids immune system."
Acid reflux is a pandemic now and the medicine for those without drug insurance runs between $120 and $200 dollars
a month. After 20 years of watching this nonsensical assault on the environmental and people like this young mother
and her children, I can foresee another 10 years of discussing Dr. Wing's protocol and how they ought to have
someone, in some department take an interest in the dead and dying folks with mental problems, who keep making
these strange allegations about biosolids and their health. We know these biosolids experts are all smart highly
educated people -- who would have us think they have absolutely no common sense, no scientific background and no
responsibility in protecting human health or the same environment they have to exist in.