Spreading Sewage Sludge on U.S. Fields, Hidden Cause of Food Safety Problems

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Creative Commons License photo credit: holisticmonkey

Giving FDA More Power and More Money is NOT the Answer, Changing National Sewage Policy Is

by Guest Blogger, Jim Bynum, Vice President of Help for Sewage Victims

The House recently passed a new food safety bill (HR2749) giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new power and more money. According to recently discovered documents, this will do nothing to protect our food. Since 1980 it has been the official national policy to dispose of sewage waste on grazing land, fruits and vegetables, parks school grounds and home lawns. The policy was signed by EPA, FDA and USDA based on the premise that EPA had a mandate from Congress under Public Law 92-500 (Clean Water Act) to prevent sewage effluents (water and sludge) from being released into surface water. At that time there were more that 3,000 municipal sewage treatment land application sites in operation. However, most states balked at using land treatment systems without additional secondary treatment and EPA refused to fund those treatment systems.

Sewage Treatment Plants Mass Produce Bad Bacteria

Shortly after the national policy was created in 1980, EPA studies documented that sewage treatment plants were creating antibiotic resistant bacteria. According to EPA in 1982, “present-day conventional waste water treatment — “poisons the rivers and streams” Not only that, but drinking water treatment plants were picking up the antibiotic resistant bacteria and adding chlorine resistance to their armor. Furthermore, Milwaukee’s Milorganite  and Chicago Metropolitan Sewage District’s sludge as well as 50% of the other municipalities  could not meet the national policy requirement.

Studies Show Public Health, Ecosystem Harmed by Toxic Sludge

Sludge for Fertilizing the Field

Sludge for Fertilizing the Field

Documents show: 1) chemical build up in animals that may effect the first and second generation, as well as those who eat certain animal parts; 2)  bacteria were found to be viable for over 70 weeks on grazing land; 3)  composting cause bacterial desiccation (dry up) which only lasted until proper moisture was available; and 4)  there were even problems with land filling sludge. EPA states,   “Environmental and public health risks include leachate contamination of water and soil  resources, destruction of native fauna and flora, obnoxious odors, aerosol and dust generation, pathogen transmission, and other related nuisances.– The risk of transmitting disease is of major concern for the various sludge disposal practices. The direct pathways for disease transmission from sludge land filling operations include aerosols, vector transport, direct contact, groundwater and surface runoff.”

The solution was to use the exclusions in the environmental laws and allow municipalities to dispose of sewage effluents and sludge where it wasn’t regulated:  “A key advantage of land application is that it usually takes place on privately owned land. Thus, the municipalities can avoid the high cost of acquiring land for disposal sites, or constructing expensive sludge processing facilities.” Bacteria survival in sludge and the associated animal infections were never a consideration in the studies.

Swiss Researchers Discover Salmonella, Sludge Link

Switzerland documented the first a positive association of Salmonella in sludge and a cycle of infection existing from man-sludge-animals-man almost 40 years ago. The Shigella gene was transferred into E. coli to create 0157:H7 about 35 years ago and the first documented infection was a naval office in Oakland, Ca. in 1975.

Farmers know colibacillus  (E. coli) may cause the scours (diarrhea) or death in young calves as well as mastitis in older cows. It does the same to humans.  What the farmer doesn’t know is the fecal coliform test used to prove sludge/biosolids is safe, only reveals a few E. coli that have inhibited growth at the test’s high temperature. All other enteric bacteria (coliform) growth is suppressed at the high temperature. At normal temperatures E. coli will triple every hour multiplying  into millions in just a few hours.

Biosolids aka Sludge

Biosolids aka Sludge

Sludge / biosolids is basically a biofilm  created by bacteria encapsulating  bacteria, viruses, and organic materials.  Antibiotic resistant biofilms will also grow in your body, on your teeth (plaque) and in water pipes as well as on your fruits and vegetables. In the body biofilms cause chronic inflammation, heart attacks, strokes, lung disease, etc.

Congress Funds Sludge Pushing Studies, PR Campaigns

With the above documented facts in mind, Congress has funded millions of dollars of fluff studies and public relations programs to convince farmers and the public that sewage effluents and products such as sludge/biosolids are safe for use on grazing land, food crops, parks, school grounds, home lawns and gardens.  Farms have been destroyed, cattle have been killed, people have suffered serious irreversible illnesses and many have died needlessly.

Spreading the Sludge

Spreading the Sludge

In the 1970s Congress enacted cradle-to-the-grave legislation for control of hazardous chemicals and waste. What we got is cradle to agricultural and home lawns as Congress neglects its responsibilities. According to the Congressional COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHTAND GOVERNMENT REFORM letter to EPA on endocrine disruptor screening program. “Over the past ten years, EPA has not completed a single step of this multi-stage process.” “assuming that EPA identified the same number of chemicals [73] for testing each year, testing for the pesticide chemicals alone would not be completed for roughly 30 years, and testing for other chemicals listed under the TSCA Inventory [75,000] could take hundreds of years. This pace is unacceptably slow and fails to protect the American public from thousands of dangerous chemicals that may interfere with vital biological processes.

Current Food Safety Efforts Evade the Real Problem

Lying to the American people and putting our health in jeopardy is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable for Congress to give agency employees immunity and the right to ignore or change the laws at will. Moreover, giving these agencies more power, more money, and more people to regulate food safety, a problem they created with the national sewage  policy, is shear madness.

William Sanjour, Chief of the EPA Solid Waste Division, warned in 1978, that EPA was going to end up in court looking like fools over this national policy. Congress did not heed the warning of EPA’s  best: Sanjour, Hugh Kaufman or David Lewis who fought for public health and suffered badly. It is time to stop this madness.

The goals of food safety and health reform are laudable. However, the government needs to actually protect public health by focusing on cradle to grave control of waste that is hazardous to public health.

This is where the money should be spent, not on ineffective regulations.

Jim Bynum is the Vice President of Help for Sewage Victims, a retired safety consultant, hazardous material transportation trainer, and farmer. Sludge runoff from the Kansas City, MO sewage disposal site contaminated his fields. High levels of salmonella and ecoli 0157:H7  forced him to stop farming. He has since sold that farm.

What Can You Do?

The latest research of early studies on toxic biosolids can be found on our website, thewatchers.us.

A petition to stop this madness can be found at. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/help-ban-sludge

Call your Senator and tell them to “Vote NO” on S510, the Senate version of the food safety bill.

Become a fan of Stop! HR2749 and S510 “Food Safety” Bills in Facebook.

This post is part of the Fight Back Fridays’ blog carnival, hear from more food activists on FoodRenegade.com.

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Comments

  1. Kimberly Hartke says:

    Hey all,

    Jim sent me these links which describe in detail what happened to his farm:

    Jim’s Account:
    http://deadlydeceit.com/DD4.html

    Sludge Magic at the EPA
    The Journal of Commerce; January 27, 1999
    by David L. Lewis, Ph.D.
    http://www.deadlydeceit.com/SludgeMagic.html

    the Pitch wrote about it in 2000
    http://thewatchers.us/papers/field-of-bad-dreams.html

  2. Kimberly Hartke says:

    A real food activist from Maryland just called me, she said there was a big flap about the White House garden not being able to qualify as true organic, since previous administrations used sewage sludge on the land.

    I googled it and this is what came up:

    http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2009/07/more-thoughts-sludge-and-white-house-garden

  3. When we found Salmonella and E. coli on our farm at high levels, we quit farming. However, others did not and sold their crops to the local grain elevator, who had no storage facility for animal feed, under a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. In 2002 we were glad we quit when the local ADM Milling had a major recall because of Salmonella contaminated flour.
    http://www.recalls.org/f10-02.html

  4. Great information, Jim. Thanks so much. I am forwarding your petition.

  5. The word “Biosolids” is now being used a ‘nice’ word for sewage sludge by the water industry. It is a made up euphemism for sewage sludge that has no scientific basis. However, it has been adopted by the waste industry and the waste generators, and it can be found in place of the actual word, sludge, throughout their marketing materials and literature.
    For more shocking toxic sludge info visit
    http://sewagetreatmentplant.blogspot.com/2010/12/soil-association-urges-use-of-sewage.html#comments

  6. I currentlyl live a nightmarish life next to a local rancher who spreads sewage sludge on his grazing lands, his cattle and goats fatten on these fields within weeks of the spreading and then go to market. Besides the obvious despicable practice, its making my neighbors and myself sick with the constant assualt of Ammonia fumes and feces stench. The lands are in a watershed that contributes to our groundwater recharge. We have called for the revocation of his use permit and have been ignored by our County Supervisors and the EPA, USDA, Water Boards, and the lead agency claims they have no oversite or jurisdiction to act to shut it down. This dump is hiding behind the right to farm ordinance and it is shameful and sickening. The right to farm is not the right to HARM!

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