A Little Sludge, er Biosolids on Your Salad?

>> Friday, February 5, 2010

A septic tank before installationImage via Wikipedia
This is a guest post by Libby from Whose Authority about a local and nationally-widespread problem that affects your health. She was recently informed from one of her neighbors that their rural area had been targeted for depositing of what's being called "biosolids" as a friendly way of masking its true nature, which is the remaining residue from sewer sludge. Libby forwarded this letter to me; it began as an email to Michele Meyer of the Red Wing city council.

I met Michele Meyer at the City council meeting tonight.  She is on the Sustainability committee In Red Wing.  She asked for information on 'sludge' so I sent her the following info:  If anyone has any ideas of how to safely 'recycle' sludge would you please send them to me :)  Thanks!!

One of the best sites on sludge is www.sludgefacts.org; scroll down to The Dirty Work of Promoting "recycling" of America's Sewage Sludge.  The author is a professor emerita in the College of Liberal Arts at Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY

Briefly, no one knows what is in sludge.  It was renamed biosolids to make it more 'acceptable'.  Sometime in the 70's some environmental groups were appalled by the sludge (feces, urine, pharmaceuticals, industrial waste, bacteria, viruses, pcb's, lead, cadmium, arsenic,  mercury, nickel etc. etc. etc.) dumped into the oceans.  They lobbied and protested and went before Congress.  The end result of that struggle was that the environmentalists reached a truce, agreeing to allow sludge to be dumped on land instead of dumped in the ocean.

The National Academy of Sciences warned that treated sewage sludge is such a complex mix of biological and chemical wastes that its risks, when used for farming, can not be reliably assessed and that standard strategies to manage the risks of land application do not protect public health.

All public works screen for heavy metals ~ allowing land application if the quantity is within 'acceptable' parameters.  Prior to 1996 some municipalities screened for PCB's but they determined the quantity to be so low that they no longer screen for it.

I believe this is basically the procedure used to 'break down' everything that finds its way into sewers and outlying areas from septic tanks.  The sludge is screened to remove "chunks" (things flushed down the toilet that don't liquefy), they then bring the liquid to 95 degrees, stir it around, drain off the liquid into the river, scoop up the semi-solid/solid left overs and put it in a storage tank to be spread on land.

There is no control over what people flush down their stools, added to pharmaceuticals/ hormones/ chemo therapy etc that they have taken that run through their bodies and into the toilet.  Every industry nationwide  is 'allowed' to dump 33lbs per day of its waste into the sewer:  hospitals, funeral homes, manufacturers, gas stations, and more - they could dump all sorts of things including dyes, chlorine, plastic additives, pesticides, lindane, detergents, cleaning products, paints, detergents, cosmetics etc.

Again, there is no way that all of these toxins can be tested for economically.  The health problems that are associated with chemical toxicity of the sludge are changes in behavior, brain development and immune function in children, anemia, acne-like conditions, liver, stomach and thyroid gland injuries, reproductive problems, birth defects, endocrine disruption, ovarian dysfunction, decrease in sperm quality/quantity, interference with key enzymes in liver.  Health problems associated with 'active' sludge are staph and viral infections.  

The problem is that no one knows what to do with sludge. I'm confident that  Public Works were "told" that sludge is good compost and that lie makes their job easier.  The truth is that if anyone thinks about it the truth is really obvious.  To continue to indiscriminately spread sludge across our farm lands does not resolve the problem, it just passes it down to future generations.

Environmental sustainability has been defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.  Each of us is asked by our cities, our counties, our nation to recycle, to protect the land and waterways, to be good stewards, to carpool, to be efficient and yet on a corporate level more damage is done to our environment than we can even imagine.  I had no idea that sludge was being sold as "organic compost" (Milorganite etc.) and being 'donated' to farmers as a way to save on fertilizer costs and I'm appalled!  We need to brain storm to solve the problem of sludge rather than bury it for our children and grandchildren. 

What I find especially alarming is that these biosolids - remember, this is sludge which cannot financially be afforded to test for all possible contaminants - can be legally allowed for use for organic farming. This is appalling! I admit that while reading through this article about biosolids, they make it sound pretty good - pretty useful and healthy. But comparing that "scientific analysis" to the personal testimonies found on Sludge Victims, well, I don't buy it and I don't want to consume anything grown with it. 

Let's get the word out and get this information into public awareness. Not only do we need to keep what we take in clean, but we need to take care that what we put out gets clean, too.

This post is part of Fight Back Friday at FoodRenegade.com and Prevention Not Prescription on theKathleenShow.com

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Local Nourishment,  February 5, 2010 at 10:31 AM  

Yup, it's true. When Cindy Delvin (owner of Delvin Farms and president of Tennessee Organic Grower's Association) started organic farming, the local authorities told her to use sludge as an "organic" fertilizer. She was horrified and started working hard to find other methods. Thankfully she did. Even more thankfully, she teaches anyone who asks her how to do it better.

It's something you can't ask a grocery store manager, but something you can find out from the farmer when you "shake the hand that feeds you" at your farmer's market. Is their organic sludge-fertilized?

Lynne,  February 5, 2010 at 2:01 PM  

Great write up and attached sites with MORE info on sludge!! Thanks for posting :)
It's pretty revolting that we live in a so called "modern" age with such primitive disposal of sludge!!

Doe Run Farm CSA (Tn.),  February 18, 2010 at 12:53 PM  

Biosludge is most likely being used more widely than is thought.  That's why it is so important to become a "label reader" for everything that you purchase.  As a Certified Organic farm, we are required to know what the contents are in each and everything that is used on our farm.  A good practice for any farm.  As consumers, today more than ever, we must be vigilant on all things concerning the safety of our food supply. Be proactive, let your elected officials know what you expect of them, when it comes to protecting our food in this country. If we don't let them know, we will have to accept the status quo. 

Psychic Lunch,  February 22, 2010 at 9:17 AM  

I think it's a good idea to be wary of any time some company or agency says you can get a discount on things for no reason at all. There's always SOME way that it costs more, it seems.

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About Psychic Lunch

Psychic Lunch was founded in 2009 by a nerd and father who wants people to be healthy. The information on this site is researched, but should be considered opinion; that is, you should always do your own research and come to your own conclusions about what is and what is not healthy. Products endorsed on this site are actually believed in and used by the author.


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