Wrong Focus by Scientists Should Be Next Inquiry!
By Jim Bynum, VP and Gail Bynum, Ph.D
Help for Sewage Victims
In the September 11, 2009 article on the 2006 spinach outbreak, "Wild Boar or
Waste Water? Who Slimed the Spinach?", the question was "Can Wildlife Really
be Blamed when U.S. is Using Contaminated Water to Irrigate our Fields?". The
article traced the roots of antibiotic resistant E. coli 0157:H7 from the Naval
Biosciences Laboratory at University of California, Oakland in 1975 to the first
documented wild boar infection in 2006. While the source of the contamination
was never fully determined by CDC, the same strain of E. coli 0157:H7 was found
in San Benita River water as well as cattle and wild pigs. The most disturbing part
of the CDC study was a remark that they also found E. coli 0157:H7 in the river
and on the ranch that did not match the outbreak strain. This is a clear indication
that this deadly E. coli 0157:H7 mutant clone is still swapping genetic material as it
moves through wastewater treatment plants into the environment. As of
September 2006, CDC had documented 3,520 unique strains of E. coli O157:H7.
In an earlier study, E. coli 0157 was only found in a creek with low flow within 135
meters of a point source sewage treatment plant. However, it was also found up to
32 km downstream during periods of higher water flow associated with flooding.
EPA first documented the potential for gene transfer in wastewater treatment
plants in a 1982 study. EPA's Mark Meckes discovered that a higher percentage
of antibiotic resistant bacteria was actually released from the treatment plant than
entered the in raw sewage.
On May 24th, 2010 the University of California at Davis (UC) released the results
of a one year study to determine the extent of E. coli 0157:H7 in wildlife in the
counties that compose the California "salad bowl". Out of "1,133 fecal samples
from wild birds and mammals on 38 private properties" in three counties only 20
samples were positive for some strains of E. coli 0157:H7: "two cowbirds, two
coyotes, five crows, one deer mouse and 10 feral pigs." The press release does
not indicate that any of the samples matches the original outbreak strain. Plus, no
strains were found in "deer, opossums, raccoons, skunks, ground squirrels and
other bird and mouse species."
In fact, Robert Mandrell, principle investigator and research leader from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service said, "We have no
evidence that the concentration of the pathogen was high in the feces of the
animals that tested positive, so the significance of wildlife as a source of direct
contamination associated with outbreaks remains unclear."
Since 1981 EPA, FDA and USDA have had a policy to promote the release of
bacteria and other pathogens to the environment through sewage effluent,
reclaimed sewage water and sewage sludge. The purpose of the policy was to
remove contaminated sewage sludge and sewage effluent from the nations
waters. This was followed up by formalizing the policy as the Part 257 et al (503)
regulation in 1993 and the National Academy of Science's (NAS) 1996 science
review for EPA, "Use of Reclaimed Water and Sludge in Food Crop Production"
The current study by UC scientists would appear to leave sewage sludge and
reclaimed sewage water used for irrigation as the primary culprit for contamination
of animals and vegetables. The numbers would appear comparable to the number
of contaminated vegetable outbreaks from the area.
While there may not appear to be a connection, Herbert W. Boyer, professor
emeritus of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, was the
first to create mutant recombinant bacteria. In 1973, Boyer and Stanley Cohen
transferred antibiotic resistant genes from salmonella and staphylococcus
bacteria to E. coli, thereby creating a new bacteria strain never before seen in
nature. There was little concern about safety during those early years of genetic
research. Boyer said, "When I was a graduate student, postdoc, I used to grow ten
liters of bacteria and put the effluent down the drain. And you would sonicate
bacteria in the laboratory without even taking great precautions ." He said the
scientific community was concerned about the "hazards" of this type of research,
especially, "if we carried out recombination between a bacterial plasmid and an
animal virus that caused cancers in various laboratory animals , they worried that
we might end up with a sewer full of bacteria carrying genes that would cause
cancer, and that sort of thing." Boyer rejected the scientific concern when he said,
"There were some microbiologists who probably were overly concerned about
putting E. coli into the sewer, which would be like peeing in the ocean, as
some say." At that time, few scientists could conceive that sewage treatment
plants would become swap meets for bacteria to collect new genes, including
genes for antibiotic resistance.
Thirty-seven years later we are seeing the results. Antibiotic resistant
staphylococcus (MRSA) kills more people than AIDS. More than 76 million people
(1999 CDC numbers) suffer foodborne illnesses. E. coli is now overruning our
surface waters from sewage effluent and sludge biosolids runoff, and regulators
are using fecal coliform tests, which only give us a glimpse of the tip of this
bacterial iceberg. A 1979 study at the Canadian National Water Research Institute
found that after incubation at the following temperatures; 35°, 41.5°, 43°, 44.5°,
"Results indicated that 44.5°C incubation produces the lowest population estimate
[5%] and that the application of the membrane filtration technique also reduced
the potential population."
It is interesting that UC California scientists acknowledge the tests used to assure
safety are not science based. Current sludge standards are based on a generic
high temperature fecal coliform test for certain gram negative Enterobacteriaceae,
whereas the standard for drinking and irrigation water is based on a generic
normal temperature coliform test for the same bacteria. According to the
University of Maryland's Pathogenic Microbiology site, "Most members of the
Enterobacteriaceae are opportunistic or cause secondary infections of wounds,
the urinary and respiratory tracts, and the circulatory system."
As a part of the agricultural good practices recommendation the University of
California scientists wants farmers to eliminate the term fecal coliform from their
fruit and vegetable vocabulary because the term is not supported by science. The
UC scientists state, "Whether talking about Good Agricultural Practices or TMDL's
(Total Maximum Daily Loads) in ag-runoff water, developing fruit and vegetable
microbial standards, food safety management and certification plans, or setting
regional water policy, basing decisions on total numbers of 'Coliform' bacteria or
'Fecal Coliforms' is not supported by current science. These days, there is a lot of
talking and a lot of confusion. It may be helpful to look at Figure 1 and realize that
all 'Fecal Coliforms' are also 'Coliforms' and some Fecal Coliforms are non-
pathogenic E. coli and some are pathogenic and toxigenic E. coli . Some
pathogens, such as Salmonella are 'Coliforms' but don't give a positive result in
tests for 'Fecal Coliforms'."
They neglect to mention that E. coli was the fecal coliform once assumed by
scientists to be from humans and other warm blooded animals only if it showed a
positive result in the test at an elevated temperature of 112.1°F (44.5 °C). FDA
acknowledged E. coli is the primary fecal coliform. It states, "The fecal coliform
group consists mostly of E. coli but some other enterics such as Klebsiella can
also ferment lactose at these temperatures and therefore, be considered as fecal
coliforms." Even though Klebsiella is a human pathogen, FDA states the presence
of Klebsiella is not an indication of fecal contamination. EPA says, "Klebsiella are
commonly associated with textile and pulp and paper mill wastes." However,
according to the Public Health Service, in 1880, "von Fritsch described Klebsiella
pneumonia and K. rliinoscleromatis as organisms characteristic of human fecal
contamination. A short time later Escherich identified Bacillus coli [E. coli] as an
indicator of fecal pollution."
Due to the high test temperatures involved, the term fecal coliform has no actual
relationship to fecal material and Enterohemorrhagic E. coli 0157:H7. EPA's Mark
Meckes states, "--most strains of Escherichia coli will ferment lactose under the
elevated temperature test for fecal coliform and therefore will meet the definition
of "fecal coliform." Similarly, some strains of Klebsiella will also ferment lactose
under these same test conditions and will meet the definition of "fecal coliform".
Thermotolerant strains/variants of virtually any of the Enterobacteriaceae would
also be defined as "fecal coliform" as long as they produced acid and gas under
the specified test conditions."
Yet, that is not always true. According to CDC, E. coli 0157:H7 is a pathogen that
also ferments lactose. However, it does not qualify as a fecal coliform as Errol V.
Raghubeer points out in a 1990 study, "The temperature range [24.3 to 41°C] for
growth of E. coli 0157:H7 is inconsistent with that of other fecal coliforms,
suggesting that this pathogen is excluded with standard enumeration procedures
used for foods and water." Yet, CDC recommends an incubation temperature of
95-98.6°F (35-37°C) well above the optimum growth temperature. E. coli 0157:H7
is identified by its inability to ferment sorbitol and CDC's recommended incubation
temperature may be to high according to O. M. M. Bouvet, who states in a 1999
study, "We observed that for 13 Sor− E. coli O157:H7 strains, acid production
from d-sorbitol could be detected at [86°F] 30°C but not at [98.6°] 37 and [104°]
40°C after incubation for 3 to 4 days."
There is definitely confusion, especially among agricultural scientists who don't
appear to understand that many soil, shoot and root colonizers in the gram
negative coliform group have been documented as human pathogens. Moreover,
they don't appear to understand that only enteric members of the coliform group
that have picked up the thermotolerant gene are defined by federal agencies as
generic fecal coliform. Yet, UC scientists state, "'Fecal Coliforms' are a group of
indicator bacteria related to common plant shoot and root colonizers, such as
Enterobacter, Pantoea and many others, plant pathogens such as Erwinia,
Pectobacterium, and plant pathogenic types of Pantoea, human pathogens
including E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Shigella , and a diverse group of soil
and plant residents with equally obscure names. Here again the scientists neglect
to mention there are many other shiga toxin producing E. coli strains of concern
besides E. coli 0157:H7 (which is not a fecal coliform) that may show positive
results in the fecal coliform test. Yet, there is no current standard test to identify
all of them. There are also at least 30 of the coliform group which are now
Shiga toxin (a potential bioterrorism agent) is one of the most potent toxins known
to man and it is amplified by the use of antibiotics. According to Craig S. Wong
(NEJM), "In in vitro experiments, exposure to various antibiotics causes E. coli to
release Shiga toxin. Antibiotics might increase the risk of the hemolytic–uremic
syndrome by causing the release of Shiga toxin from injured bacteria in the
intestine, making the toxin more available for absorption."
Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) may also be called verocytotoxic E. coli
(VTEC) or enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC). CDC studies show "60 STEC
serotypes have been implicated in diarrheal disease, and several non-O157:H7
serotypes have been implicated as the cause of foodborne outbreaks and HUS in
the United States, Europe, and Australia." Currently, the most prevalent clinical
strains of STEC producing E.coli are 026, 029, 039, 045, 0103, 0111, 0113,
0121, 0128, 0145. Other emerging clinical strains are O96:H19, ONT:NM, ONT:
H18, and ONT:H14. They all produce shiga-like toxins which may cause bloody
diarrhea leading to the development of Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and
death. Other mutant strains of food and water borne shiga-toxin producing
bacteria that create HUS are not even on the publics radar, such as:
Campylobacter, Citrobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, and Yersinia.
What is less understood is that according to the CDC and South Carolina Health
Department (SCHD), E. coli 0157:H7 (and other shiga toxin producing bacteria)
are potential bioterrorism agents. SCHD states, "Bioterrorism is the intentional use
of bacteria, viruses, or natural toxins (poisons) as a weapon to kill, injure or
produce disease in humans, animals or plants. Terrorists may use such an attack
to create fear, disrupt the economy, or to get a response from the government."
Furthermore, "Terrorists could use E. coli 01 57:H7 bacteria as a weapon to strike
many people at one time. Among the methods that could be used are:
* Adding bacteria to a water source or to food
* Infecting cattle that people will eat."
The SCHD does make one false assumption, based on the 1981 EPA, FDA, and
USDA federal sludge use policy for grazing land , when it states, "The U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) makes sure cattle farms and meat-processing
plants are safe and clean."
Under The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response
Act of 2002 , "The National Select Agents Registry Program oversees the
activities of possession of biological agents and toxins that have the potential to
pose a severe threat to public, animal or plant health, or to animal or plant
products. The NSAR currently requires registration of facilities including
government agencies, universities, research institutions, and commercial entities
that possess, use or transfer biological agents and toxins."
However, there is nothing in the law or regulations (HHS 42 CFR part 73) and
USDA (9 CFR part 121 and 7 CFR part 331) to prevent transfer of these agents
to the public in sewage products or to protect farmers and consumers. The USDA
rules apply to:
Any microorganism (including, but not limited
to, bacteria, viruses, fungi, rickettsiae, or protozoa),
or infectious substance, or any naturally occurring,
bioengineered, or synthesized component of any
such microorganism or infectious substance,
capable of causing:
(1) Death, disease or other biological malfunction in
a human, an animal, a plant, or another living organism;
(2) deterioration of food, water, equipment, supplies,
or material of any kind; or
(3) deleterious alteration of the environment.
A bioterrorism attack would probably go unnoticed as most of these bacteria are
generally in treated sewage disposed of under a permit by the state. Since
bacteria classified as coliforms are easily inactivated, not killed, There is no way
to know what pathogens are in sludge to be used as a fertilizer as well as
reclaimed water used for toilet flushing, irrigation for parks and school grounds as
well as on crops eaten raw. Most of the gram negative bacteria may not be
culturable in standard tests because they tend to go into a state of suspended
animation, dormancy or hibernation (EPA's preferred term is inactivated) during
sewage or water treatment due to stress from heat of the test, lack of moisture,
lack of nutrients, metals injury, radiation or disinfection. The County Sanitation
Districts of Los Angeles County, reported on this phenomenon in a 1981 study on
reactivating Salmonella in compost. The report states, "Optimal recoveries in the
low [and high] bacteria sample[s] occurred at the 21% moisture level at 28 to 36°
C after a 5-day incubation. The population increased more than four orders of
magnitude under these conditions. The indigenous salmonellae initiating this
growth had survived in a desiccated state for over 1 year prior to providing the
proper moisture-temperature combination for the repopulation to occur."
Many gram negative pathogenic bacteria are not included in the standard testing
protocol. There is no accounting for gram positive pathogenic bacteria, viruses,
fungi, rickettsiae, or protozoa. Many gram positive bacteria may create
endospores which are resistant to all of the above stresses. When the stressed
bacteria do recover at a later date, it is attributed to regrowth. USDA has
documented this "regrowth" phenomenon in reclaimed sewage effluent used for
food crop irrigation. It states, "ARS scientists in Phoenix, AZ, assessed the
survival and regrowth potential of bacteria present in tertiary-treated effluent
used for crop irrigation and surface water discharge as it passed through a model
laboratory distribution system. Total bacteria increased 3 to 4 orders of
magnitude, and E. coli remained viable during the 11-day experiment. This
research has established that although the reclaimed water met EPA standards
for irrigation at the wastewater treatment plant, there is great potential for
bacterial regrowth during transport that could place the water out of compliance at
the point of intended use."
Bacteria have been documented by EPA to survive in soil for over one year and
on plants for up to six months. Recent research by USDA documents that
bacterial biofilms on lettuce and spinach are resistant to both chlorine washes and
irradiation. This should not be a surprise as a 1973 Water Research article
states, "Observations made both in the field in chlorinated effluent, and in
laboratory experiments show that coliforms are capable of regrowth in chlorinated
wastewater." In a 1984 study, the authors state, "Our results indicate that
chlorination, while initially lowering the total number of bacteria in sewage, may
substantially increase the proportions of antibiotic-resistant, potentially pathogenic
organisms." The result is viable biofilms in water piping.
While there have been a large body of studies looking at regrowth of bacteria
from the hibernation or dormant (viable but nonculturalable) state as well as
transfer of antibiotic resistant DNA in treatment plants, but only a few looked at
recovering these bacteria from reclaimed water and sludge biosolids. One reason
why sewage industry scientists have ignored this problem is that they routinely
deal with dormant bacteria. As an example, a patent was filed in 1975 to create a
product consisting of dormant bacteria for use in sewage treatment plants, septic
systems and other sewage applications. The product has a one year shelf life with
90% viable bacterial survival and recovery rate. This recovery of viability is a
good indication why so many foodborne contamination cases have been traced
back to the Salinas Valley vegetables irrigated with reclaimed sewage effluent
water containing dormant bacteria when the reclaimed water leaves the treatment
EPA's History of Land Application as a Treatment alternative claims land
treatment of human waste was first practiced as far back as biblical times
(Deuteronomy 23: 13). However, the modern camper and soldier know the
purpose of burying human waste outside the camp is to protect human health.
Land treatment of sewage was practiced in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The current land treatment strategy of reclaimed sewage effluent and sludge is a
case of "history repeating itself". Land treatment did not work the first time when
municipalities actually owned the land. For the past 30 years the focus of EPA has
been on preventing bacterial contaminated sewage effluent and sludge from
entering our surface waters by claiming it can be safely recycled on privately
owned agricultural food crop production land.
California actually took the lead on the change from land treatment irrigation with
raw sewage to sewage reclaimed wastewater in 1932 with a sewage treatment
plant at Golden Gate Park. The result is the presumptive policy that sewage
effluent which can not be discharged to surface water in the dry season (Santa
Rosa, May 15 - September 30) is acceptable for use on food crops. As an
example, "The State Water Board finds that the use of recycled water in
accordance with this Policy, that is, which supports the sustainable use of
groundwater and/or surface water, which is sufficiently treated so as not to
adversely impact public health or the environment and which ideally substitutes
for use of potable water, is presumed to have a beneficial impact."
Reclaimed Sewage Water in the Salinas Valley of California
Approximately 20+ million gallons a day of reclaimed sewage effluent water is
used to irrigate lettuce, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, and strawberries
on 12,000 acres of California's "salad bowl" in Salinas Valley, California. The
reclaimed sewage effluent water is distributed to 222 parcels of farmland through
46 miles of pipes, 8 inches to 51 inches in diameter. Only a simple coliform test is
required after the sewage water is disinfected with chlorine. Chlorine temporarily
causes bacteria to go dormant and amplifies antibiotic resistance of bacteria
released for irrigation. Surviving bacteria multiply during the 46 mile trip through
the pipeline as well as attaching to the pipe walls in biofilms. As the biofilms
mature, or the pipes are disturbed, they slough off with the potential to
contaminate the vegetables in isolate spots.
There was a seven week Recycled Water Food Safety study in late 1997 that
included tests once a week for E. coli 0157:H7, Legionella, Salmonella and the
parasites Cyclospora, Cryptosporidium and Giardia within the treatment plant.
Before disinfection, the average level of secondary treatment fecal coliform was
596,000 colonies per 100 milliliters of sewage effluent. Perhaps of just as much
interest was that the residual chlorine was an average of 12 mg/L. This was high
enough to make all gram negative go dormant in hibernation mode within one
The stated scientific myth of the study was that, "The cell walls of plant roots and
leaves act to filter the irrigation water. Therefore, microorganisms can not pass
through and into the edible tissues of the crops." However, microorganism can
pass through, and into, edible tissue of crops. Toxic chemicals may also be taken
up by the edible tissue.
The conclusion of Recycled Water Food Safety study was: "This study showed
that "viable organisms" of public health concern are not present in the recycled
water produced by the MCWRP." This statement implies the six named organisms
are the only ones of public health concern and all viable as well as viable but
nonculturable (dormant) organisms were actually included in the study. The
scientists in the wine industry explain the viable but nonculturable phenomenon
best. They state, "It sounds like the ultimate winemaker nightmare: a spoilage
organism that can resist S[O.sub.2], avoid detection through testing, shrink down
far enough to slip through sterile filtration, and come back to life in the bottle with
ruinous results--even though the cellar staff did everything right."
No reclaimed water was delivered to customers until April of 1998.
The safety of reclaimed sewage effluent water for irrigation is based on generic
Total coliform test. During the five following years total coliform exceeded
California Title 22 standards five times. It would appear the charts given were of
selected samples and did not include the tests which indicated that outflow ponds
had to be drained occasionally because the standards could not be met.
The standards called for a maximum total coliform number of 2.2MPN/100ml with a
maximum one time number of 23MPN/100mg. The problem is that the numbers
have no meaning in the real world. In a 10 tube fermentation dilution test each
sample tube contains 10 times less of the sample than the previous tube. If two
tubes show positives results it is reported as 2.2MPN/100ml. If 9 tubes show
positive results it is reported as 23MPN/100ml. There is no relationship to the
actually number of individual bacteria contained in the sample.
In a recent study Regrowth of potential opportunistic pathogens and algae in
reclaimed-water distribution systems, Patrick K. Jjemba, et al., (July 2010),
warned, "Opportunistic pathogens, notably Aeromonas, Legionella,
Mycobacterium, and Pseudomonas, occurred more frequently [in reclaimed
water] than indicator bacteria (enterococci, coliforms, and E. coli)."
Aeromonas spp. was incubated overnight at 35°C.
Legionella spp. was incubated at 35°C and monitored for one week.
Mycobacterium spp. was incubated for 21 days at 35°C.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa was enumerated on modified M-PA agar incubated at
41.5°C for 72 hours.
Wrong Focus by Scientists on Fecal Coliform Test
Scientists know these coliform bacteria grow best at 95-98.6°F in a 24 hour test.
However, the official scientific opinion is that only coliform bacterial samples that
have been cooked at 112.1°F for a further 24 hours and still show some minor
biological activity are of human fecal origin and that only indicates the potential
that these disease causing bacteria may be present. Informed scientists have
been questioning the validity of the fecal coliform test since it was developed in
1904, for good reasons. First, the assumption was that those bacteria which
became nonculturable at 112.1°F were from cold blooded animals even
though they grew well in the human body. Second, some scientist knew that if
there were 8,000 E. coli colonies per gram growing in a 24 hour test at 95-98.6°F,
there might be only 30 E. coli colonies per gram growing in a 24 hour fecal
coliform test at 112.1°F. Therefore the fecal coliform test used by EPA, FDA and
USDA offers no assurance for the safety of food, water or sludge.
The standard generic coliform and fecal coliform tests are used to protect
municipalities from liability of contaminated treated drinking water, reclaimed
sewage effluent water, and sewage sludge biological solids. Feel good laws
promoted by federal regulators who claim they don't have the necessary power,
people or money to protect public health and backed up by misguided scientific
studies are killing us. The Food Safety Modernization Act now before the Senate
is the latest example of a feel good law. While it is a good idea to give FDA the
power to order recalls of contaminated food products, it does not address the
problem of how those food products became contaminated. The problem is the
1981 EPA, FDA and USDA policy to spread disease causing organisms in
contaminated sewage sludge biosolids used as a fertilizer on grazing land, fruits
and vegetables, and recycled sewage effluent water used to irrigate spinach,
lettuce and other vegetables eaten raw.
Feel Good Laws, Regulations and Science
After 30 years of promoting the use of pathogen contaminated sludge on grazing
land, on July 1, USDA launched a new school lunch food safety initiative that
maintains the agency's zero tolerance policy for the shiga-toxin producing E. coli
O157:H7 and Salmonella in meat, which is being evaluated by the National
Academies of Science. At some future point in time, the National Academies of
Sciences will provide information to compare USDA's policy to "industry
recognized best practices." However, USDA's zero tolerance policy does not
include pathogens which require a different type of test than E. coli 0157:H7.
The National Academies of Sciences is the same group that in 1996 promoted
EPA's 1981 policy "Land Application of Municipal Sludge for Production of Fruits
and Vegetables: A Statement of Federal Policy and Guidance" The policy was
signed by EPA, FDA and USDA. Twelve years after development of the policy
EPA released a formal regulatory sludge policy (part 257 et al. part 2 ) that
included only 10 toxic metals out of about 80,000+ deadly toxic pollutants.
Furthermore, it stated, "EPA concluded that adequate protection of public health
and the environment did not require the adoption of standards designed to
protect human health or the environment under exposure conditions that are
unlikely and where effects were not significant or widespread." Moreover, EPA
stated, "The term “Toxic pollutant” is not used in the final part 503 regulation
because this generally is limited to the list of priority toxic pollutants developed by
EPA. The Agency concluded that Congress intended that EPA develop the part
503 pollutant limits for a broader range of substances that might interfere with the
use or disposal of sewage sludge, not just the 126 priority toxic pollutants."
Nevertheless, the National Academies of Sciences was immediately hired after the
sludge policy was released to issue a scientific opinion concerning the science
behind the sludge rule, which does not contain any reference to reclaimed
sewage effluent water. That opinion released 3 years later did not address the
science behind the part 503 sludge policy or current research, but it was released
in 1996 as "Use of Reclaimed Water and Sludge in Food Crop Production" to
support food producers purchase of crops grown with reclaimed sewage effluent
and sludge. While the scientific opinion was that it was safe, there was a severe
limitation in the conclusion, "The suite of existing federal regulations, available
avenues for additional state and local regulatory actions, and private sector
forces appear adequate to allow, with time and education, the development of
safe beneficial reuse of reclaimed wastewater and sludge." According to the
EPA's Office of Inspector General, by 2002, the EPA Office of "Compliance and
Enforcement has disinvested from the program."
While sludge and reclaimed sewage effluent water from a wastewater treatment
plant are by law point source pollutants, there is no federal law or regulation that
prohibits sludge runoff from non-point source sludge and reclaimed farm
treatment sites. Yet, after 17 years of permitting these sites because scientists
claimed it was safe, Ohio EPA is currently proposing a rule to "prohibit the
surface application of [sludge]biosolids to land from December 15 through March
1, when frozen or snow-covered conditions are more likely to occur; Ohio EPA
considers this necessary to ensure that polluted runoff does not enter surface
waters." This proposal was in response to the City of Columbus dumping
thousands of gallons of sludge on a farm which ran off a field poisoning Paint
Creek in Fayette County. The taxpayers of Columbus paid a $10,000.00 fine for
this irresponsible act by the City. Ohio has approximately 8,800 farm fields where
sludge dumping occurs.
Scientists promoting sewage use, EPA's 503 sludge rule, and state reclaimed
water rules, give us the impression that bacteria only survive in/on soil for less
that 30 days. However, EPA documents state bacteria may survive in soil for up to
one year and on plants for up to six months. Even USDA has documented that E.
coli 0157:H7 will survive in soil for more than five months. New research from
Ireland has documented that E. coli in soil will survive over nine years. As early as
1991 it was known in Hawaii that Escherichia coli and enterococci contaminated
soil to a depth of 36 cm.
It is time to change the scientific focus from promoting the spread of disease in
the environment to protecting public health and our food and water supply. Many
scientists have been tasked with the job of trying to prove that sewage reclaimed
water and sludge can be safely used on food crops and grazing land since EPA,
FDA and USDA created the policy 30 years ago. In an effort to make their point,
they try to blame farmers whose animals have been exposed to pathogens in
sewage reclaimed water and sludge, or consumers who fail to wash properly,
while ignoring original studies showing treatment processes do not kill all
pathogens. They simply make a certain class of stressed gram negative indicator
bacteria mostly nondetectable by standard laboratory methods. They know the
standard tests have no basis in science, yet claim testing for a few indicator
organisms assures the safety of sewage reclaimed water and sludge on food
crops. After 30 years of poisoning our food crops, farmland and water under a
federal policy, Congress is now working on food safety laws which are directed at
farmers, who believed the lies, and their customers rather than focusing on the
actual cause -- dumping pathogen contaminated human and animal waste on
food crops, grazing lands, etc.