National Sludge Alliance Fact Sheets

Public Facts #120

8-17-1997

American farmland vs Ocean dumping


* American farmland has become the preferred dumping ground for toxic wastes (biosolids/sewage sludge), because:1)
municipal landfills are highly regulated, expensive and no one wants one in their neighborhood; 2) unregulated
dumping appears to be inexpensive; 3) and there are very few people in the area to complain about human health and
environmental damages; 4) county, state and the federal health departments do not have the authority to investigate
any health damage complaints at the unregulated dump sites, and 5) EPA will not investigate any damage claims, in
fact, it has paid the Water Environment Federation (WEF) to write fact sheets debunking the claims.

* Local officials and citizens across the country are becoming very concerned when outsiders get state approval to
dump toxic sewage sludge on farmland in their area as a fertilizer. They are becoming even more concerned when they
discover the state does not regulate the dumping. Some are outraged to find that under the sludge regulation, there
are no laws to prevent human health and environmental damages when sludge is managed outside a landfill.
Therefore, some counties and cities have accepted their responsibility under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and taken
action to protect their farmland, water ways, and the public health by banning the  use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer
under section 405(e) of the CWA.

* For the most part, states have adopted the 1984 EPA sludge dumping policy, while EPA assumed total control and
promotes the dumping of toxic disease contaminated sewage sludge on food-chain production land under its
self-permitting sludge regulation's (40 CFR 503) beneficial use section, which claims to supersede federal
anti-dumping law, if sludge is simply considered to be a fertilizer. However, some county and city officials have been
shocked when they found the so called fertilizer was too contaminated to be disposed of in a part 503 regulated landfill.

* It does not take an environmental scientist to realize there are major problems with uncontrolled dumping of disease
contaminated sludge loaded with industrial chemicals and other poisons, when it is dumped on food-chain production
land, where it can run off into the water ways. The primary short term concerns are diseases such as E. coli and
salmonella which have the greatest effect on the very young and the older generation. The diseases are carried home
on contaminate vegetables as well as meat from animals who have grazed on contaminated pastures. Not only that, but
there is a serious concern where the diseases and poisons leach into the ground water or wash off the land into the
surface water where swimmers get the diseases.

* Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), sludge is a solid waste which must be disposed of in a
highly regulated landfill to protect the public health as well as the environment. The landfill could be either a municipal
landfill (40 CFR parts 257/258) or a landfill classified as a sludge only surface disposal site (40 CFR part 503). Both
types of landfills must contain all toxic and hazardous substances within the boundary of the sites. Food crops, feed
crops and fiber crops can not be grown on the sludge only  landfill, unless it can be demonstrated that "public health
and the environment are protected from any reasonably anticipated adverse effects of pollutants in sewage sludge
when crops are grown." (503.24(k))

* The question is, what are the reasonably anticipated adverse effects of low levels of pollutants in sewage sludge
when crops are grown on the highly restricted landfill site? According to the preamble to part 503, "--if sewage sludge
containing high levels of pathogenic organisms (e.g., viruses, bacteria) or high concentrations of pollutants is
improperly handled, the sludge could contaminate the soil, water, crops, livestock, fish and shellfish." (FR. 58, p. 9258)
According to the regulation the adverse effects can be extreme, particularly in the food-chain, where a "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 (human or
animal) either directly from the environment or indirectly 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 deformation in either organisms or
offspring (children) of the organisms." (503.9(t)) Yes, scientifically, we humans are just another organism in the eyes of
the EPA. (Public Facts #118)

* While EPA only addresses 3 of the toxic heavy metals (poisons) in the 503 landfill section which could kill you, it notes
in the preamble to part 503, "Sewage sludge with high concentrations of certain organic and metal pollutants may pose
human health problems when disposed of in sludge-only landfills (often referred to as monofills) or simply left on the
land surface, if the pollutants leach into the ground water. Therefore the pollutant concentration may need to be limited
or other measures such as impermeable liners must be taken to ensure that ground water is not contaminated." (FR.
58, p. 9259) Therefore, sludge only landfills limit toxic hazardous substances such as; arsenic to 30 ppm, chromium to
200 ppm and nickel to 210 ppm within 25 meters of the boundary to protect public health and the environment. (part
503.23 -Table 2) Furthermore, the landfill section of the regulation prevents contamination from running off the site into
the water ways and all federal laws do apply.

* Since we are only another minor organisms in the eyes of the EPA, it claims sludge is safe for use on food-chain
production land if toxic sludge is considered to be a fertilizer under part 503. Not only that, but under the beneficial use
section of part 503, disease contaminated sludge at 98% liquid can be applied within 10 meters of any water way at
much higher contamination levels; arsenic- 75 ppm, chromium - unlimited, and nickel - 420 ppm, where it can
contaminate the water ways. There are no restrictions on applying EPA's so called exceptional quality sludge when;
arsenic is 41 ppm, chromium is unlimited and nickel is 420 ppm. (40 CFR 503.13)

* What does EPA's top sludge scientist, Dr. Alan Rubin, have to say about citizen opposition to beneficial sludge use? "I
have spent many hours trying to convince these people that their fears of these projects are unwarranted. There
remains strong opposition in many areas of the country to beneficial utilization projects. Examples follow: the
municipality of Seattle, Washington developed an excellent program of applying sewage sludge on forest lands, both
private and public. Their management plans and the quality of the sludge was sufficient to assure that public health
and the environment was protected." (letter to Honorable Thomas J. Manton, September 3, 1992, p. 3) However, 2
years later, while Rubin was on loan to the WEF as its super sludge salesman, EPA scientists, John Walker and Bob
Bastin, wrote a memo to WEF suggesting it hire a writer to debunk 19 "horror" stories, including: "Tree kill in
Washington State with King Co. Metro (Seattle) biosolids (sludge) on  Weyerhouser land." (EPA Memo - CANDIDATES
FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, 12-29-1994) What went wrong with the management plan and the quality  of the
sludge fertilizer? The regulation warned this could happen.

* Rubin's letter also contained, "A second example: New York City sludge is being applied on Texas farmland.
Considerable opposition to this project has developed in Texas. The Texas Attorney General is attempting to stop this
project through legal action (p. 3). This project turned up as number 9 on the EPA's Candidates for the rest of the
Story memo as "Pathogen regrowth during shipment --- Merco." While the project wasn't stopped, the WEF/EPA did
produce a debunking "Biosolids Fact Sheet 1, Biosolids Recycling in West Texas". The Biosolids Fact Sheet sent out to
WEF spokespeople by Rubin and WEF was an eye opener. According to the EPA/WEF fact sheet, At least nine rail
cars of sludge were not sufficiently treated for pathogens in New York City, went through the required monitoring
process, and were still applied to the land before the mistake was caught. (p.3) "The pathogen (disease)
concentrations in the measured biosolids were less than 2 million parts per gram -- a level that proper PSRP is
designed to achieve." (p. 3)

* According to the WEF/EPA fact sheet, "In Texas, the regular testing for the presence of pathogen indicators has
occasionally revealed varying levels above the federal and state regulatory limits." However, scientifically (independent
source), it was "determined that the variations were most likely caused by inconsistencies in sampling and analytical
methods at five separate labs conducting the analysis." (p. 3) One of the problems might be the type of test used for
the fact sheet analysis. "According to the EPA, the NYCDEP, and TNRCC, the biosolids are analyzed and tested
routinely for pollutants and disease causing organisms using Toxicity Characteristic Leachate Procedure (TCLP) tests."
(p. 5) In reality, scientists at EPA/WEF as well as NYCDEP and TNRCC are well aware the TCLP test has nothing to do
with testing for pathogens and there is no relationship between the TCLP test results and the part 503 metals limits. *
However, the TCLP test results do look extremely good when they are falsely compared to the part 503 limits in
theWEF/EPA Biosolids Fact Sheet 1. The TCLP results at a ratio of 20 to 1 make the sludge appear to be extremely
Exception Quality, in Texas. As an example, 503 limits for Exceptional Quality sludge are: arsenic 41 ppm, (TCLP
results 4 ppm); lead 300 ppm, (TCLP results 193 ppm); nickel 420 ppm, (TCLP results 28 ppm) (p. 4). Yet, the sludge
is still too contaminated to be disposed of in New York State under the part 503 regulations. Furthermore, you have to
remember, this is the same sludge that was banned from the ocean. * One other aspect in Rubin's September 23, 1992
letter to the Honorable Manton needs to be addressed. Rubin states, "I believe that Congress acted in a precipitous
matter (manner?) in ending ocean disposal based on a reaction to incidents when medical waste washed up on shore."
(p. 4)

* There appears to be a scientific problem with Rubin's concept of why ocean dumping was banned by Congress. He
did not read his own research, as noted in the preamble to part 503 (FR. 58, p. 9259), on ocean dumping. Instead he
quotes from a June 29, 1992 New York Times article which made the connection to medical waste washing up on
shore, "New York ending ocean dumping, but not problems". EPA actually tried to stop ocean dumping in 1981.
However, New York City argued that ocean dumping was safer than land disposal and the Court found that sludge
dumping by New York City had not "unreasonably degraded or endangered human health --" and ruled against EPA.
Congress and the Senate reversed the Court ruling in 1986 and New York was forced to move its sludge dumping from
the 12-mile site to the 106 mile site. (Report to National Sludge Roundtable, Laredo Safety Institute, 1996, pp. 23-24)

* Moreover, according to a Senate Report, "Adverse impacts at the site at least in part contributed by sludge dumping
include: bacterial contamination and closure of shellfish areas; elevated levels of toxic metals and organohalons in
bottom sediments in and near the site including known fishing areas and within five nautical miles of coastal beaches;
community changes in relative abundance and diversity of species; sublethal toxicity effects in economically valuable
species; bioaccumulation of certain metals and organohalons in fish and shellfish." Furthermore, according to the
Senate Report, "With the onset of large scale dumping of sewage sludge at the 106 mile site in 1987, fishermen began
to complain of significant decreases in catches and incidences of diseased fish which were previously not found at
these depths. Some of the diseased fish have a shell disease which is associated with sewage sludge and pollution in
coastal waters. This disease was found around the 12-mile site." (Senate Report No. 199-431)

* Scientists at EPA are misleading everyone when they claim sludge use is safe even though it can not be put in a
sludge only landfill. The regulation warns that the pollutants in sludge may kill us through the food-chain. Yet, EPA
claims that health and environmental damages caused by sludge are not covered by federal law. A county by county
ban may be the only way to save our world as we know it. -LSI-