National Sludge Alliance Fact Sheets

Public Facts #117



* Who could have believed it would be so simple to destroy the strongest nation on earth. It was the Russian Communist
boast during the cold war that America would be destroyed - not by any outside force - but from within its own borders.

Some thirty years later through the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has been promoting
the uncontrolled dumping of hazardous and very toxic pathogen contaminated sewage sludge and other wastes as a
safe fertilizer for lawns, gardens, food crop production land, parks and forest, this boast is on its way to becoming a

* CNN brought this serious sewage sludge problem to national attention on its three part expose "HAZARDOUS
HARVEST" aired on June 25, 26, 27. Part of the June 25th report concerned the EPA's approval of the Lowry
Superfund site clean up by piping the hazardous materials (toxic chemicals, plutonium, and other radioactive
substance) into the Denver-Metro sewage treatment plant, where it would be sold to the public or used on city owned
food crop production land as a fertilizer. Marc Herman, EPA Administrator, Region 8 (Denver Colorado) said this is not
precedent-setting - "It is being done at Superfund sites across the country."

* There is an exclusion in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act which does technically allow hazardous waste
to enter treatment plants, but it is for domestic sewage, which is the wastes stream from residences. However, in 1983,
EPA arbitrarily decided heat-dried recycled hazardous wastes used in fertilizer would not be labeled as a hazardous
waste and called it a "regulated recyclable material" and in 1985 the "regulated recyclable materials" was shortened to
"recyclable materials". Not only that but "-commercial hazardous waste derived fertilizers would not have to undergo
chemical bonding to be exempt" from the environmental laws. In 1993, EPA decided the exemption could be applied to
wet sewage sludge as long as it was called a biosolids fertilizer. (Public Facts #100, #104, #106)

* The Seattle Times recently reported that "Use of industrial waste as a fertilizer ingredient is a growing national
phenomenon." "In Gore, Okla., a Uranium- processing plant gets rid of low-level radioactive waste by licensing it as a
liquid fertilizer and spraying it over 9,000 acres of grazing land." "In Moxie City, Washington, dark powder from two
Oregon steel mills is poured from rail cars into silos at Bay Zinc Co. under a federal hazardous waste storage permit,
Then it is emptied from the silos for use as a fertilizer.---" "When it goes into the silo, it's a hazardous waste," said Bay
Zinc's president, Dick Camp. "When it comes  out of the silo, it is no longer regulated. The exact same material."
(Report: Toxics Recycled into fertilizers. THE UNION LEADER, Manchester, N.H., July 7, 1997)

* Through its biosolids program, EPA has promoted the disposal of hazardous and toxic sewage sludge on food crop
production land, funded a massive public relations campaign to convince farmers, scientists and the public that sewage
sludge is a safe fertilizer, and loaned at least one of its people (Alan Rubin, Ph.D.) to the industry organization (Water
Environment Federation (WEF)) it is suppose to regulate.

* Rubin supervised the development of the part 503 sewage sludge regulation and it is his contention, that anyone who
claims their health or their animals' health has been harmed by the toxic pollutants in sewage sludge are lying. Rubin
has always claimed the sewage sludge regulation was a scientific based document and it is supported by the 1996
National Research Council Report, which found that sludge was safe for use on food crop production land. It is also
Rubin's contention that manure is "worse than biosolids sewage sludge." However, Rubin claims he "fully supports
getting to the truth."

* The fact is, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found (Dec. 1994) that the 503 Regulation
was not scientifically risked based as claimed by the EPA in the Leather Industries Suit. The suit was brought before the
Court by, Leather Industries of America, Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA, Milwaukee
Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and Pueblo, Colorado. The Court noted that, "while EPA "may `err' on the side
of overprotection," it "may not engage in sheer guesswork (p.408)." . Furthermore, according to the Court, EPA could
not document whether it had actually performed sampling and analysis at 208 or 180 of the 479 treatment plants in the
survey (both numbers were given) -out of a national total of 11,407 (p.395).

* The Leather Industries of America challenged EPA's National Sewage Sludge Survey because it didn't include any
treatment plants where tanner waste chromium is received in excess of 30,000 mg/kg. Whereas, the highest level of
chromium reported in the EPA survey was 3,750 mg/kg (p.401).

* Primarily, the Court ruling only concerned Chromium in heat-dried sludge (Milorganite), a product of the Milwaukee
Metropolitan Sewerage District. The Court noted that there are two forms of Chromium (toxic-hexavalent and
nontoxic-trivalent) and that EPA had "delisted' chromium in the tanning industry because this chromium is in the
trivalent form." (p.406) (why would the tanning industry sue?) However, the Court did note, "there are several studies
cited in the record showing that trivalent chromium can oxidize to hexavalent chromium." (p.406) According to the Court,
due to, "(4) the lack of data to support the risked-based cap on chromium (3,000 ppm), we remand those parts of the
regulation to the EPA for modification or additional justification." (p.394)

* According to Rubin, "you just couldn't defend it." So in 1996, EPA removed Chromium limits from the beneficial use
section of the 503 regulation. The amazing part of this suit was that no one questioned the 600 ppm chromium limit
allowed on sludge only surface disposal sites, which is still in the 503 regulation. What they did challenge was the
classification of "dedicated use" sludge surface disposal sites as "land disposal". Surface disposal sites accept multiple
applications of sludge . But then, so do benefitical sludge fertilizer sites. The Court decided not to get into the EPA's
hairsplitting. That would appear to be the real reason EPA could not defend the Chromium levels in its beneficial
sewage sludge fertilizer, because it couldn't beput in a sludge only surface disposal site which is highly regulated.

* There is more to this story than meets the eye. According to researchers at Cornell, a comparison of the trace metal
content of fertilizer, manure, and sewage sludge revealed that in 1994 Milwaukee's Milorganite sludge fertilizer had
2,940 ppm of chromium in it. In effect, Milorganite fertilizer could not be placed on a part 503 controlled sludge only
surface disposal where chromium is restricted to 600 ppm. Nor could it be used as a beneficial use sludge in New York,
Vermont, Massachusetts, or Maine where chromium in sludge was restricted to 1,000 ppm. Dairy manure in contrast,
had no chromium in it.

* According to the New Jersey Department of Health and AQUIRE Database, ERL-Duluth, U.S.EPA, chromium is a
cancer causing agent and a mutagen. "It has been shown to cause lung and throat cancer." Yet, according to WEF, 46
of the 50 states are allowing the uncontrolled dumping of biosolids sewage sludge as a fertilizer under part 503, which
means that there is no limit on the amount of chromium that is disposed of on food crops.

* The National Institute on Occupational Safety and health lists Chromium as a poison and it is also on the "Special
Health Hazard Substance list, as well as #15 and #72 on the 1995 CERCLA/EPA Priority List of Hazardous substances
found in landfills.

* "Chromium (III) and chromium ((VI) both have high chronic toxicity to aquatic life. No data are available on the
long-term effects of chromium to plants, birds, or land animals (humans)." However, "Acute (short-term) toxic effects
may include the death of animals, birds, or fish, and death or low growth rate in plants. Acute effects are seen two to
four days after animals or plants come in contact with a toxic chemical substance." "--chronic (long term) health effects
can occur at some time after exposure to chromium and can last for months or years." "Chronic toxic effects may
include shortened lifespan, reproductive problems, lower fertility and changes in appearance or behavior." (Aquire
Database - EPA)

* It was also noted in relationship to chromium, "Some substances increase in concentration, or bioaccumulate, in living
organisms as they breath contaminated air, drink contaminated water, or eat contaminated food. These chemicals can
become concentrated in the tissues and internal organs of animals and humans." (Aquire Database-EPA)

* There has never been any scientific question about the potential long term health effects associated with toxic
pollutants in sewage sludge. After all, the 503 regulation definition of a pollutant, states that the Administrator has
information available which shows that either direct exposure or indirect exposure through the food chain to the
pollutants (pathogens, organic or inorganic substances or a combination of them) may cause disease, cancer, death,
physical or mental problems and genetic defects. (503.9(t))

* A series of Milwaukee Journal articles from January and February, 1987 focused on the connection between three
San Francisco 49ers playing on fields spread with Milorganite sludge fertilizer who contracted Lou Gehrig's disease and
two MMSD milorganite plant employees who died of the disease. By February 10, 1987, 39 ALS patients had been
found who had some exposure to milorganite. According to the articles, as many as 115 PEOPLE had died from ALS in
the past eight years, the ALS death rate for Milwaukee County was 1.6 %, one percent higher than the state average.
Two out of the 155 documented MMSD employee deaths were caused by ALS, Whereas, the normal rate is about 2 in
100,000. According to the son of one of the ALS victims, "The son said that the father knew of "four or five" ALS cases
at the plant over the last 25 to 30 years."

* According to the Milwaukee Journal article titled "EPA LAUNCHES  MILORGANITE PROBE, dated February 12, 1987,
the EPA planned a scientific investigation into a possible link between Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) and the cadmium,
chromium or other substances in MMSD's Milorganite fertilizer. , In the article Rubin "conceded that there were not
many studies about the possible health hazards of sludge and sludge products." So where is the science that proves
sludge issafe?

* While EPA claimed it would start a scientific investigation between the connection of Lou Gehrig's disease and
milorganite in 1987, this did not happen. In fact, it later gave the WEF a public relations grant and EPA's John Walker
found a writer WEF could hire to try to debunk the story . (Public Facts #101)

* In the same 1987 article Donald Lisk, Director of the toxic chemical laboratory at Cornell University , reported the
results of his studies of sludge in Milwaukee and forty- nine other cities "in which he concluded that municipal sludge,
which contains industrial pollutants, was too toxic to be used for agricultural purposes." "He said in one experiment,
worms were raised in Milorganite and then fed to birds. He said the birds had high levels of cadmium, and industrial
pollutants." "In other tests, Lisk fed animals on a variety of crops raised on sludge fertilizer soil. He said the cadmium
levels were found to be 2 to 10 times higher than normal in kidney and liver tissues." According to Lisk, "We have found
that there is no such thing as clean sludge." -LSI-