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US Government Allows Toxic Sewage Sludge to Poison Farmland,
the Food Supply, & Drinking Water


NATIONAL SLUDGE ALLIANCE
PO Box 130
Copake, NY 12516
518-329-2120

3-31-1999
EPA AND THE NEW PLAGUES
By James W. Bynum

Our farms, forests, gardens and lawns are become breeding grounds
for new
versions of the plague and EPA is promoting it under a little known policy
that disposes of disease contaminated sewage sludge as a fertilizer. The
beginning of a plague is not always recognizable as the victims may be
isolated and it may be caused by bacteria, viruses or human parasites which
are not known to be a problem by most doctors.
Virginia Zander, a 34 year old housewife in Lynden, Washington,
almost died
because a doctor did not believe she had an infectious disease for almost a
year. She loss 43 pounds, suffered excruciating pain, headaches, dizziness,
nausea, fatigue, violent stomach reactions to food and water and a serious
loss of blood. When she had a dramatic loss of blood pressure, her doctor
finally realized there was a major problem. He drove her to the hospital
himself, where she received a blood transfusion. She was within hours of
death
when tests revealed the little known fecal parasite, Blastocystis homines,
was
eating away her life blood. She is enduring a long and painful recovery.
Virginias 10 year old niece, Diana, who lived on the farm, was also
infected
by the parasite. While the parasite did not invade her bloodstream, it
caused
her stomach to swell and she suffered severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and
liver problems.
Over 3,000 miles away, in Laurel Hill, Florida, seven year old
Jacklyn
Jerkins and her two year old brother were also infected with Blastocystis
homines. Jacklyns symptoms started with a rash on her face. Then the severe
stomach cramps and diarrhea began. Jacklyns grandmother, Theresa Hanson,
said, With their little swollen bellies, they looked like poster children
from a Third World country.
In Third World countries the disease organism is spread
where raw
sewage contaminates drinking water. In both Washington and Florida, sewage
sludge was used on neighboring farms where it contaminated the farms water
supply. Because these were isolated incidents involving single family
units,
local health authorities would not get involved.
New versions of the Plague have returned to haunt modern society
with a
vengeance While only 104 people died worldwide from the old version of the
plague in 1989, over 80 million people are infected and over 9000 people
die
in the United States each year from the new versions of the plague. During
the middle ages and into the late 19th Century millions of people suffered
sickness and died from the Black plague. Scientists now think the old
version
of the plague was caused by the bacteria Yersinia Pestis which was spread
in
unsanitary conditions from host rats to humans by fleas. However, 30 years
ago
many disease organisms of concern today were not even known.
The effects of the plague have not changed. Each year millions of
people
suffer from mild to severe illness and excruciating pain. Most will
recovery
without medical help. For some, once the bacteria enters the blood, the
victim
may suffer extreme liver and lung damage, liver and heart failure, and
death.
One of the frightening aspects of the plague is the emerging Super Bugs,
Staphylococcus, Tuberculosis, Listeria and Salmonella DT 104 and E. Coli,
some
of which are resistant to cold, heat and almost all current antibiotics.
The
most frightening aspect of this new version of the plague is that it
usually
kills the most vulnerable part of our society, those with weakened immune
systems, our children and our parents.
In the 1990s, the plague is called water and foodborne illnesses.
The
cause has expanded from the bacteria Yersinia Pestis to included less well
known parasites like Blastocystis homines and Cryptosporidium as well as
the
bacteria, Salmonella, E. Coli, Staphylococcus, Listeria, etc. . The host
has
changed from rats to polluted sewage sludge disposed of on farmland in the
guise of a fertilizer. The disease organisms are spread to humans by
polluted
water running off farmland and food products.
Health departments do investigate when large numbers of people are
effected
as was the case in 1993, when Milwaukee suffered through a Cryptosporidium
plague. Over 400,000 people were infected, 4000 were hospitalized and over
100
individuals died. Initially, the outbreak was blamed on cattle manure
contaminating the water supply system. However, it would take over three
years
before the health department identified the source of the infection. It was
a
human strain of Cryptosporidium.
A foodborne plague is more difficult to identify because
individuals are
isolated from the source and many are not reported as they exhibit the same
symptoms as the flu, but food product recalls are almost a weekly
occurrence.
Foodborne plagues have been spread by polluted food products such as meat,
eggs, fruits, vegetables, berries, juices, milk, ice cream and even toasted
breakfast cereal. The cause has been blamed on the use of cattle manure as
a
fertilizer, foreign food products fertilized with raw sewage, improper
storage, poor sanitary conditions and mishandling of food by cooks.
If anyone except the government was responsible for this new
outbreak of
plagues it would be considered an act of terrorism. The EPA's Office of
Wastewater Management (OWM) and its partner, the Water Environment
Federation
(WEF), are promoting, with the approval of the USDA, FDA, CDC, the disposal
of
polluted sewage sludge on farms, forest and ranch land in spite of the
known
risks to human and animal health. The WEF is one of the sludge industry
organizations whose members EPA is supposed to regulate. However, neither
EPA
nor the WEF are concerned with human health. Ten years ago EPA acknowledged
there were 19 known human cancer causing agents in sewage sludge as well as
25
families of disease causing organisms. Today, EPA's OWM does not consider
any
chemical in sludge to be carcinogenic or toxic to humans and disease
organisms
don't effect human or animal health.
The States appear to agree. Now, according to the State of
Maryland's fact
sheet, Sewage sludge is not sewage. It is one of the final products of the
treatment of sewage at a sewage (wastewater) treatment plant. After
treatment
to break down the organic matter and kill organisms, the remaining fine
particles ultimately become sludge. If only it were so easy. The better a
treatment plant performs its job of removing the toxic and hazardous
chemicals
as well as disease organism from raw sewage, the more concentrated the
pollutants become in the remaining solid material called sludge. The known
pollutants in the condensed solid material are only a few of the half
million
toxic organic and inorganic chemicals (a different part of EPA attempts to
track them under the Community Right to Know Rules), as well as over 25
families of deadly disease organisms (i.e., bacteria, viruses, Helminths,
protozoas and fungi) known collectively as pollutants.
By EPA OWMs definition, the known and unknown pollutants in sludge
will
cause death, disease, cancer, physical deformities, mental problems and
birth
defects to organisms and their offspring. However, when we look at
government
agencies who are concerned with human health, OSHA and U.S. DOT, we find
that
the same pollutants, which EPA claims cause no human health effects, do
effect
humans and animals the same way they effect organisms. Yet, EPA claims the
control of nine metals makes sludge use safe.
Actually, EPA's OWM appears to have a split personality. It says,
Congress
wanted it to limit a wide range of harmful pollutants in sludge, yet, the
term
Toxic Pollutant is not used in the regulation because it is generally
limited to the list of 126 Priority Toxic Pollutants developed by EPA. It
claims the best scientific minds in the country did the research on sludge
use, Peer Reviewed its regulation to bring it up to scientific standards,
and
then, after it was released, the same Peer Review scientists (and others)
spent three years reviewing the scientific methodology behind the
regulation.
Professor Michael Baraum, a member of the review committee did find toxic
pollutant problems. He released a statement saying he would not want
sludge
put on his watershed, nor would be want to purchase crops grown on sludge.
EPA's Dr. Alan Rubin, who supervised the regulations revision,
claims
pollutants are removed or destroyed before sludge can be disposed of as a
fertilizer. In fact, EPA has changed the name from sludge to, Biosolids, to
illustrate the lack of any pollutants in sludge. Sludge is now, according
to a
1997 WEF copyrighted definition, Biosolids, n. A nutrient-rich organic
material resulting from the treatment of wastewater. There is a little
more
to biosolids than that. According to EPA's research microbiologist Dr.
David
L. Lewis. He says, Organisms in biosolids of particular concern to healthy
individuals are, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibro, Yersinia [the original plague
bacteria], Campylobacter, Hepatitis A, Norwalk viruses, Roto viruses,
Coxsackii viruses and Cryptosporidium.
Yet, if the biosolids or sludge cannot, for what ever reason, be
dumped on
some land as a fertilizer, it must be safely disposed of in a permitted
landfill. It is ironic, but the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
will
not allow sludge use on the 260 million acres of land it manages, except in
very limited and isolated cases. BLM believes the use of sewage on farms
is
common Disposal and the use of mixed sewage and industrial sludges is
illegal landfilling. According to BLM, Disposal of such sludges on public
land continue to be prohibited by BLM policy as well as by law.
The case for a split personality is reinforced with the restriction
for
food crops. As an example, according to EPA, food crops, which are for
human
consumption, cannot be harvested from, 14 months for lettuce to 38 months
for
potatoes, after sludge has been used on a farm. This time is needed to give
the disease organisms time to die offon the other hand in the same
restrictionsEPA says that animal feed and all food crops can be harvested
30
days after sludge has been applied. Not only that, but 1998, EPA and WEF
did
their best to get sludge accepted as an organic fertilizer for use on
organic
labeled crops. The USDA did include it in the proposed ORGANIC RULE, until
over 280,000 outraged people responded to the USDA proposal.
EPA's Dr. John Walker, a prime mover behind the regulations, is
pushing the
use of lime treatment to convert the sludge into an unlabeled fertilizer
product safe enough for unrestricted use on you lawn and garden. Currently,
according to Walker, the lime treatment destroys the disease organisms in
sludge. Apparently this is a temporary condition. In a 1973 document, when
Dr. Walker was with USDA, he acknowledged that USDA research showed disease
organisms would start to regrow within 30 days after the lime treated
sludge
was incorporated into the soil. The same is true for composted sludge
products
used as a fertilizer. In effect, your child could get a case of Salmonella,
E.
Coli, etc. food poisoning off your front lawn or from the vegetables in
your
garden or even the public park where it has been used, and no one would be
the
wiser.
The governments own figures show that plagues are sweeping the
country.
Illnesses caused by polluted food products infected with disease agents
such
as Salmonella, E. Coli, Listeria, etc., have increased from about 7 million
cases in 1990 to 80 million cases in 1996. Dr. David L. Lewis, a research
microbiologist with EPA, knows EPA is wrong and was fired for voicing his
opinion about EPA science. Lewis wouldn't accept that and EPA now pays him
to
work at the University of Georgia. He also wrote an article, SLUDGE MAGIC:
EPA
Spreads E. Coli which was published by the Lexington Institute and
reprinted
in the January 27, 1999 issue of Journal of Commerce as SLUDGE MAGIC at
EPA.
He reported that both Salmonella and E. Coli were found on the Alice Minter
Trust farm in north Kansas City, Missouri at levels of 650,000 bacteria per
100 grams of soil. This was unexpected since no sludge had been applied to
that particular site since 1992. Lewis said, This is many thousands of
times
higher than that considered safe by public health officials. EPA's Office
of
Wastewater Management documents reveals that only sludge with less than 75
bacteria per 100 grams is considered safe for unrestricted use on human
food
crops.
The polluted crops from the Alice Minter Trust farm and Kansas
City's 1200
acre sludge farm have been sold for human consumption. Unsuspecting farmer
tenants sell the crop to unsuspecting grain
elevators who sell the crops to food processors. The State of Missouri
claims
its rules require that crops grown on sludge can only be sold for animal
feed.
But then rules don't mean a lot in the sludge industry. In 1993, San
Diego's
Channel 10 news team found that about 30 semi-truck loads of sludge was
illegally dumped on a 250 acre organic food production farm in California.
Until recently, there were only allegations based on observed
damage to
human and animal health by a few dairy farmers who had the misfortune of
allowing sludge to be applied to their farms or on neighboring farms. The
allegations were ignored by most health departments or environmental
departments, who have permitted the practice. They have been able to ignore
the growing problem because the direct health effects are only seen on
isolated farms spread out across the county. Linda and Raymond Zanders
dairy
in Lynden, Washington and Ed Rollers dairy in Sparta, Missouri were
destroyed
because the pollutants from a neighbor's sludged field contaminated their
land
and water. Cynthia Hawley of Heyer Hills Farm in Vermont knows what
caused
the death of her dairy cows, a drug resistant strain of Salmonella. While
she
is not sure how the herd was infected, health officials couldn't ignore the
cause, nine of her family became sick from salmonella infection and she
almost
died. Bob Whithington thinks his dairy in Canaan, New Hampshire was
destroyed
when he bought contaminated animal feed grown on sludge. Robert Runes dairy
in Rutland, Vermont as well as the R.A. McElmurray & Sons and Boyceland
dairies in Augusta, Georgia were almost destroyed because they allowed
sludge
to be disposed of on their farms where crops were grown for animal feed. In
each case, health officials could not find a cause, or would not
acknowledge a
cause, for the death and illness in the herds and the infected cows were
sent
to market. In a home video one of Bob Rune cows is very sick and he said,
We
had the vet for her this morning. And the vet says there is something toxic
in
her. She don't know what it is. She says to take the cow to the slaughter
house right away because the cow is going to die.
Some of the milk and meat from these infected cows could have ended
up
on your table or may have been a part of the multitude of food product
recalls, which worry all of these farmers. Infection in cattle has become a
major problem for society. USDA studies show Salmonella infection in
cattle
increased from 2 percent of the calves in 1992 to 11 percent of all cows on
dairy farms in 1996. Some cows do not exhibit the Salmonella symptoms of
diarrhea, yet, according to Dr. Rob Atwill, Professor of Veterinarian
Medicine, University of California-Davis, The bacteria can replicate in
cattle and be passed to humans through the meat and the milk. There have
been multistate plagues involving both Yersinia enterocolitica and Listeria
bacteria in milk, which had been pasteurized.
CNN addressed the hazards of sludge use on farmland in a 3 part
program,
Hazardous Harvest, in June of 1997. Needless to say, Robert Perciasepe, EPA
Assistant Administrator, was outraged. In a letter to CNN President C.
Thomas
Johnson, he wrote, A major tenent of the CNN presentation is that biosolids
as used on land is a hazardous, toxic material that poses grave threats to
human health, livestock, and the environment in general. Nothing could be
further from the truth. There have been no documented cases of toxicity
damage
to human health, livestock, and the environment from use of biosolids
following the well established guidelines and regulatory limits prescribed
by
law - even the cases alluded to in the CNN presentation.
It would appear that Perciasepe never read his own Agency's
definition for a
pollutant which says the pollutants in sludge can do all the damage
reported
by the farmers whose dairies have been destroyed. Not only that, but no
health department can investigate health damage at a sludge site without
EPA
approval. However, EPA has documented cases of toxicity damage to human
health, livestock and the environment. EPA calls them cases to debunk and
in
1994 , appropriated $300,000 for its partner, the WEF, to start the
debunking
campaign. As for the law, Missouri Biosolids expert Ken Arnold explained
it
this way, when this writer complained about polluted sludge run-off on his
farm, Once sludge is applied on farmland, by law, it becomes an unregulated
non-point source of pollution and I don't care whether the pollutants in it
run off on your land or into the Missouri River. Yet, EPA and the States
blame water pollution on farmers and their use of cow manure.
One of the major points CNN mentioned was that ocean dumping was
stopped by
law because it was destroying the marine ecology at the dump sites. EPA
documents and Senate reports confirm this, yet, in an EPA document dated
October 15, 1998, which addresses the questions raised by CNN, EPA says,
NOTE: This Question is Under review.
Ocean dumping was banned 9 years ago in the United States and in
Europe in
December of 1998. Not only were pollutants destroying the marine ecology,
they
were washing up on the beaches. Scientists in England found E. Coli on
several beaches. Yet, EPA is funding and promoting a policy to get sludge
use approved as a fertilizer worldwide by the year 2000 based on it own
policy. The purpose of the worldwide promotional effort is because many
countries will not purchase food crops from the United States which are
grown
on sludge.
Unlike CNN, large newspapers, who refuse to get involved in the
sludge
issues, contribute to the pollution in sewage sludge. As an example, the
Kansas City Star newspaper was number seventeen on the top 20 list of major
contributors to the Kansas City treatment works in 1989. The Star also has
a
Pulitzer prize winning environmental reporter, Mike Mansur, who knows as
much
about the sludge pollution issues at the Kansas City site, and nationally,
as
this writer, yet he has never written a story on sludge. Why Not?
Some reporters like Channel 41 TVs, Denny Brand, let the regulators
control
the story. In August of 1998, Brand did a story on ground water pollution
by
fecal coliform, nitrates, aluminum and arsenic at Kansas City's sludge
site,
as well as the Salmonella and E. Coli levels of 800,000 bacteria per 100
grams
of soil found on the Alice Minter Trust farm. According to Brand, he was
going
to follow up on the contaminated food being sold for human consumption,
rather
than animal feed. Yet, it didn't happen. In the follow up story, the focus
changed from concern about high levels of Salmonella and E. Coli to a
potential concern about metals contamination. Brand showed James Macy,
Regional Director for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources,
personally
sampling the soil for heavy metals. The results of the test? Macy said,
He
may have some drainage issues with the City, but as far as contamination
goes,
it doesn't appear the site is contaminated. The high levels of disease
organisms were not addressed by the State since the Salmonella and
E.
Coli came from an approved non-point source of pollution, the sludge site.
Channel 41s anchor, Tom Lawrence, assured the people of Kansas City their
food was safe when he reported, Kansas City's sludge farm gets a clean bill
of health. In effect, this writer and Kansas City was given permission by
the State to sell any food crops grown on the farms, for human consumption,
even though they could be loaded with disease organisms, especially
Salmonella
and E. Coli bacteria. If a member of your family gets sick from the food
products grown there, the cook gets the blame---and carries the guilt.
There are some writers who do write pro-use sludge articles based
on very
limited information and one type of treatment. One such writer is David
Tenenbaum, who visited the Madison, Wisconsin Sewage District plant in 1988
and became an expert on the subject. However, he fails to reveal the level
of
sludge treatment used by the Madison, Wisconsin plant. If the sludge is
heat
dried, most of the disease organisms in sludge may be destroyed. However,
there may still be heat resistant toxins which survive the process and
there
are still high levels of toxic chemicals in the product which is sold for
use
on home lawns and gardens. As an example, in 1992, Madison was working on a
program with EPA to clean up a PCB contaminated Superfund site by putting
the
pollutants in its fertilizer.
In his newsroom/op-ed article, SEWAGE SLUDGE: NOT DIRTY, posted on
the Water
Environmental Federation (WEF) website, Tenenbaum attempted to discredit an
Environmental News Network article which claimed sewage sludge being
applied
to farmland contained infected human feces, hospital waste, bacteria,
viruses, dioxins, PCBs asbestos, industrial waste, heavy metals and a whole
range of other pollutants. He also took a shot at John Stauber and Sheldon
Ramptons book on public relations, Toxic Sludge is Good for You, which
warned about the hazardous nature of sewage sludge use. Tenenbaum
acts like
he believes EPA's public relations campaign as he helps to promote its use,
yet, artfully puts a disclaimer in his article. He asks, Wont this stuff
make
us sick? He then makes his disclaimer, Yesif recycling were done as a dump
and forget operation. But its not done that way, at least it is not
supposed
to be done that way in the United States, where the Environmental
Protection
Agency and state regulators control toxic chemicals and pathogens in
sludge.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but in 1991, researchers from
the
University of WisconsinMadison's Veterinary Medical teaching hospital found
several strains of drug resistant enteric bacteria, including Salmonella
and
E. Coli while investigating a plague among horses in the area. While no
cause
was found, we have to wonder if sludge use may have been involved. When
infectious diseases are being spread on farms like fertilizer it is very
difficult for EPA and the States to convince us sludge may not be a a major
contributing factor in the plagues.
Tenenbaum, like EPA claims that toxic sludge is good for you and
when sewage
sludge is applied to farmland, nitrogen runoff is reduced which protects
your
water supply. Writers and scientist alike appear to be confused by EPA's
use
of a dry weight measurement for sludge. They tend to think it is a dry
fertilizer, but most sludge used on farmland is applied at between 95 and
99.5
percent water. It will contain up to two (2) million fecal coliform
bacteria
and unknown quantities of other disease organisms per gram of sludge. We
don't know how many disease organisms are contained in the water by weight.
Furthermore, there is nothing to prevent the toxic and disease elements in
sludge from running off into waterways where they can do untold damage.
There is some hope of preventing part of the damage as the truth
slowly
emerges. The public is becoming more educated about the issues and more
environmental organization are becoming involved. Congressman Jose Serrano
of
New York is one of the few people in the legislative branch of the
government
concerned with the deadly results of sludge use. He introduced a bill last
ye
ar to label food products grown on sludge. This year he reintroduced the
Food Labeling Bill as H.R. 261. However, it is not likely to pass, unless
you
get involved and support him, because in the words of EPA spokesperson,
Dana
Minerva, You would almost have to label every jar and can.

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