Biosolids--collateral damage -- Ocean to farm and lawn
National Sludge Alliance
Fact Sheet #135
Biosolids--collateral damage -- Ocean to farm and lawn
A recent editorial (Sludge bill would have empowered town residents, 3-15-03) in the Kennebec Journal, Morning
Sentinel states, "These professionals — many of whom are engineers, scientists and environmentalists — make a
strong case that sludge spreading isn't merely an inexpensive approach to disposal, but one that leads to cleaner
water, a cleaner environment and an important source of income and fertilizer for farmers."
On the other hand, Lori Burkhammer of the Water Environment Federation (WEF,week of 3-3-03 Biosolids update ),
blamed the continued use of sludge as a fertilizer on farmers when she posted the following statement on the National
Biosolids Policy web site, "Some call it "sludge," others call it "biosolids fertilizer," and a number of people in Franklin
County are calling for action. They are up in arms over a fertilizer manufactured from human waste, despite farmers
insistence that's it's harmless."
However, dairy farmers who have had their farms and livelihoods destroyed by biosolds/sludge, Rune of Vermont,
McElmurray of Georgia, Roller of Missouri,and Zander of Washington would disagree. Rune and McElmurry believed
the EPA/WEF public relations (PR) statements that biosolids/sludge was safe. While Roller and Zander were part of
the collateral damage from sludge site runoff. Arthritis, abortions, muscular problems started showing up in cattle
following applications of sludge to land.
The EPA/WEF PR campaign to fool farmers and the public has not only infected dairy farms, it has infected the
National Academy of Science in its two literature reviews of EPA furnished documents. It has also infected
environmental science writers. As an example, the Eighth Edition of"Environmental Science" states that "Biosolids [is]
organic material removed from sewage effluent in the course of treatment." It further confuses the issue when the
writers also state, that biosolids was "Formerly referred to as sludge"
The EPA/WEF PR term, Biosolids, is used whether the sludge is 98% liquid, composted or heat dried. Furthermore,
this scientific definition of "Biosolids" can not be reconciled with the part 503 which lists 9 toxic heavy metals.
The "Environmental Science" writers explain that a "Heavy metal [is] any ofthe high atomic-weight metals, such as lead,
mercury, cadmium and zinc. All may be serious pollutants in water or soil because they are toxic in relatively low
concentrations and they tend to bioaccumalate." In effect, they are a "Hazard [which is] anything that can cause (1)
injury, disease, or death to humans, (2) damage to property, or (3) degradation of the environment."
How safe is this product of EPA/WEF's imagination known as biosolids? What treatment process removes all of the
chemicals, including heavy metals, as well as the pathogenic disease causing agents?
By law, ocean dumping of toxic biosludge/sludge should have ceased December 31, 1981 in order to protect public
health. Yet, ocean dumping continued for another nine years in the United States. When ocean dumping was stopped,
the environmental laws required that sludge be properly disposed of in a sanitary landfill to protect public health.
Only very limited research to stop ocean dumping was completed at New York City dumping sites. Still, according to
Senate Report No. 199-431, there were serious problems with ocean dumping of sludge at the 12 mile site off New
York City and the same problems occurred when ocean dumping was moved to the 106 mile site. The adverse impacts
at the site the report documented were: Bacterial contamination and closure of shellfish areas; elevated levels of toxic
metals and organohalogens in bottom sediments in and near the site including known fishing areas and within five
nautical miles of coastal beaches; community changes (decreases) in relative abundance and diversity of species;
sublethal toxicity effects in economically valuable species; bioaccumulation of certain metals and organohalogens 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. According to the Senate Report, "Scientists are just beginning to
explore the impacts that sludge dumping may be having on marine resources in the area potentially effected by sludge
dumping at the 12 mile site."
Ten years ago EPA outlined what we could expect as a result of ocean disposal. EPA wrote that, "In ocean disposal,
certain pollutants often associated with municipal sludge, including mercury, cadmium, and polychlorinated biphenyls,
can bioaccumulate. High levels of these pollutants can interfere with the reproductive systems of certain marine
organisms, may produce toxic effects in aquatic life, or may present public health problems if individuals eat
contaminated fish and shellfish." (FR. 58, 9259)
Mercury, Cadmium and PCBs as well as the rest of the heavy metals are listed by NIOSH as poisons as well as cancer
causing chemicals. Mercury and Cadmium as well as the rest of the heavy metals listed in part 503 also causes
genetic mutations. PCBs have also been shown to cause a number of serious non-cancer health effects in humans
and animals, including effects on the nervous system of the developing fetus, the immune system, and the
reproductive system. Results of exposure may include developmental abnormalities.
The damage to our oceans reflect what we can expect to continue on land over the next 10 to 15 years even if we
stopped biosolids/sludge dumping today. As the toxic pollutants continue to build up on our farmland as well as on our
lawns and gardens, the epidemic of plagues will expand dramatically.
Recent published research reported by the Environmental News Service (ENS) show that all North Atlantic coastal
shark populations have declined by 50 percent in the last 15 years. The greatest loss was for hammerheads, 89
percent have disappeared.
In 2003, New Jersey issued an advisory that "Infants, children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and women of
childbearing age are considered to be at higher risk from contaminants in fish than members of the general public."
The advisory warned that most fish in New Jersey should not be eaten at all by this high risk group and the general
public should only eat one meal containing fish per year.
It's not any better on the west coast. The Environmental News Service recently reported that "California's attorney
general has filed a lawsuit against five grocery store chains, aiming to require the stores to post warnings about the
dangers of methyl mercury in fish" Attorney General Bill Lockyer said. "But consumers deserve to know when they are
being exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm." "Dangerous levels of Methyl
mercury have been found in swordfish, tile fish,shark or mackerel. Methyl mercury also causes nerve, heart and
neurological systems damage and can lead to death."
EPA, USDA, CDC and FDA started promoting toxic heat dried sludge (which made some pathogens nondetectable) as
a fertilizer on food crops over 20 years ago as Congress was enacting laws to protect us from the chemicals and
disease causing organisms. This was a quick cheap fix for big cities who had to stop ocean dumping.. EPA wasn't
worried about chemical contamination of farmers and the public. According to a recent quote by, "Bernard Goldstein,
dean of the University Pittsburgh's Public Health School and former research chief for the Environmental Protection
Agency in the 1980s. "It's a chemical era that we live in and there are trade-offs."
Tracing the cause and effect of health effects from toxic pollutants, especially chemicals and disease agents, spread
through food, air and water can be almost impossible and a very expensive situation for the medical and scientific
community. For many toxic pollutants there are no testing procedures and no safe levels. It would appear that the
medical community has attempted to forestall a panic. Why else would "Abraham Mongantaler ------ associate clinical
professor at Harvard Medical School and director of men's health clinic in Boston --- (state) "Cancer is natural. Heart
disease is natural. Arthritis is natural."
Congress enacted the environmental laws because these diseases caused by chemicals and pathogens were not
natural. Yet, in 1985 EPA decided to take toxic levels of hazardous waste out from under the law and allow it to be
spread on farmland as a fertilizer without warning farmers. That worked so well that by 1993, EPA allowed companies
to dump toxic levels of hazardous substances into sewers, then promoted the use of this toxic soup generated by
treatment plants as a safe, cheap fertilizer for farmers. EPA also promoted the marketing of this toxic soup as a
fertilizer for lawns and gardens.
In 1989, due to the extreme amount of sludge generated, EPA specifically targeted farmers as hosts for the toxic
pollutant contaminated waste (biosolids/sewage sludge) that had been destroying the ocean environment. Once EPA
started promoting the use of composted and wet sludge as fertilizer, food poisoning incidents quickly reached 6.5
million cases annually in 1990. Still, at that time only about 4 percent of the dairy herds were contaminated with
Salmonella. E.coli was not even an imagined threat.
Government agencies like EPA and USDA play the courts like a fine instrument. When the agencies want to continue a
policy that is detrimental to your health, they tend to lose critical lawsuits, which result in strange opinions that puts
your life in jeopardy. As an example, that wonderful Mouth of the South, Molly Ivins, says, "Unless you have reason to
suspect that your nearest and dearest are putting arsenic in your food, your bad stomach was likely caused by tainted
meat." She said, "In December 2001, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the industry in a case that gutted
meat and poultry inspection laws. In the Supreme Beef (I'm not responsible for the irony), the court ruled "because
cooking kills Salmonella organisms, the presence in meat products does not render them injurious to health." Ivins
says, "Industry officials have argued for years that food poisoning bacteria are natural constituents of raw meat and
poultry and that they have no obligation to control them."
The reality is that cooking does not kill all pathogens or destroy the toxins they create which can cause your death.
The numbers are not good. Out of approximately 180 million people in the United States, CDC says there are now 76
million cases of food poisoning annually, 325 thousand hospitalizations, and 5 thousand deaths annually from
contaminated food. The 5,000 deaths annually are probably an extremely low estimate because CDC does not want to
start a panic.
Salmonella is not the major problem anymore. In September 2002, the USDA research showed that 28 percent of the
beef entering slaughterhouses is now contaminated with the untreatable deadly E. coli 157. That is an epidemic
producing plague in anyone's book. But it gets worse. When doctors use antibiotics to kill E.coli, an even more deadly
toxin is created. The treatment is a success, but the patient may die from E. coli produced toxins.
Writer Michael Weiss found meat is not the major culprit in food poisoning, He said, "A recent congressional study by
the General Accounting Office (GAO) found that food poisonings in schools were growing at about 10 percent a year."
Not only that, but "--- an estimated 85 percent of food poisoning comes from fruits, vegetables, seafood and cheese,
according to the GAO."
According to Dr. David Swerdlow, a CDC epidemiologist, there were 15 reported deaths from E. coli between 1982 and
1992. By 1997, that figure had climbed to an estimated 200 to 250 deaths; 20,000 cases of E. coli-induced disease
are reported every year in the United States. "It's one of the leading causes of kidney failure in kids," says Swerdlow."
In 1993, EPA pointed out that "Sludge disposed of in a sanitary landfill will not harm anyone, nor will it contaminate the
food or water supply." (Federal Register (FR.) 58, 32, p. 9375).
Furthermore, EPA knew that when drugs, hormones, toxic chemicals, bacteria, viruses, parasitic worms and fungi are
mixed and run through a treatment plant you get a deadly condensed soup known as sludge. You also get non-
detectable drug resistant germs such as heat-resistant Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli spores in the treatment plant
water and condensed residue (sludge) leaving the plant. Now Staph and Strep need to be considered.
In 1973, EPA was warned by USDA's John Walker that in the field, it takes about 30 days for the bacterial spores to
dissolve and the germs become active again. There is no way to keep this toxic soup spread on crops out of our food
chain. Even if corn was the only crop grown and it was used for ethanol production-- gluten is a byproduct of ethanol
used in animal feed and human food.
Yet, EPA's Office of Water used the Clean Water Act (CWA) to put farmers and consumers health at risk under a
policy for land disposal even though "The jurisdictional scope of the CWA is ``navigable waters," At EPA Office of
Water's insistence, many states changed their solid waste laws to conform to the EPA's open dumping policy. This
effectively transferred liability to the states because '' Congress recognized ``the primary responsibilities and rights of
States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution, to plan the development and use (including restoration,
preservation, and enhancement) of land and water resources " In effect, the EPA has encouraged the states to
change their laws to promote food and waterborne epidemics through pollution.-LSI-
Burkhammer, Lori, week of 3-3-03 Biosolids update (WORD):
Environment Science, Eighth Edition, Wright, Richard T. , Nebel, Bernard J.,
2002, Prentice Hall
ENS, Lawsuit Warns of Methylmercury in Fish, Environmental News Service,
January 27, 2003,
ENS, Engineered Corn Blamed for Pig Problems, Environmental News Service
ENS, Shark Fishing Quota Increases Called Illegal, Environmental News
Service, January 27, 2003,
Ivins, Molly, Chicken about bad meat, The Kansas City Star, October 19,
2002, (p. B7) Opinion
Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel
Lazaroff, Cat , Shark Populations Plunge in North Atlantic, Environmental
News Service, January 21, 2003,
National Sludge Alliance Fact Sheets.
USDA, E. coli in meat, http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/background/ec0902.htm
Weiss, Michael J., The new danger in the grocery aisle, Ladies Home Journal,
November 2002, (p. 112--)