Sunday, July 30, 2017 by Isabelle Z.
Since the EPA started promoting the “land application” of sewage sludge in 1993, millions of tons of this toxic biosludge have been spread on the farmland and public parks in our nation. It also sometimes makes its way to the organic compost and fertilizer section of your favorite garden supply store. What happens to it next? No one can say for sure because it is not tracked once it leaves the wastewater treatment plants and there is no national system for reporting problems related to it, but there is no doubt that is has the potential to cause significant harm given its contents.
One lawsuit from 2008 shows how pervasive this waste can be. In that case, a federal court acknowledged that sludge applications on a Georgia farm killed hundreds of dairy cattle and contaminated the supply of milk across several states. Federal Judge Anthony Alaimo said in his ruling that “senior EPA officials took extraordinary steps to quash scientific dissent and any questioning of EPA’s biosolids program.”
That’s hardly a comforting thought, but the truth is that the EPA has been using fake science and suppressing critics to allow this profitable practice to continue. They even ruined the career of their former microbiologist. Dr. David Lewis, after he blew the whistle on the EPA’s faked safety data.
Biosolids is simply a euphemism intended to make sewage sludge sound slightly more appealing than it actually is. Sludge is so much more than simply urine and feces, although that is certainly a big part of it. It is also anything that goes into the sewer system and comes out as a solid from wastewater treatment plants. It might be hospital waste, road runoff, drugs, detergents poured down people’s drains, bacteria and viruses, heavy metals, and any of tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals used in industry or the chemicals created by combining them. Some of these chemicals are persistent organic pollutants that resist decomposing and build up in the tissue of humans and animals alike. You don’t need to be a scientist to realize the dangers here, yet EPA officials have the audacity to say that a mysterious phenomenon known as “sludge magic” keeps this lethal mixture from being as dangerous as it sounds.
In other words, all those dangerous chemicals the well-informed among us do everything in our power to avoid – phthalates, endocrine disruptors, hormones from birth control pills – are all being dumped on our yards, playgrounds, food, parks, gardens and fields so municipalities can get rid of it to accommodate even more waste. Some of them even do it while proudly proclaiming they’re “recycling,” something that improves their public image. There is also a lot of money to be made for the sludge hauling companies that the municipal authorities contract to remove biosludge from treatment plants, and their government connections mean this practice is unlikely to be stopped any time soon.
Biosludge in the air and water has been linked to everything from cancer and immune system damage to birth defects and neurological problems. Some experts even believe that it is one of the biggest health threats the American public is currently facing, and it’s particularly insidious because so few people are even aware that this situation is occurring. For many, it’s hard to believe that the EPA’s 503 rule would allow sewage sludge that contains all of these pollutants to be spread, injected and sprayed on land where kids play and food grows.
Our ecosystem and food supply continue to be put at risk thanks to this dangerous practice, and the one agency that is supposed to protect the environment is actually paving the way for the atrocity to continue.