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Sewage Sludge: A Youth Blogger's Educational Overview

  • Our Eyes Are On The Water!
    Fighting the Good Fight Against Environmental Corruption
    By Angela "Ajomi" N. Harper
    Waterfront Sportsman and The Environmental Investigation Coalition, April 21, 2010
    Straight to the Source

The spreading of sewage sludge is a white hot topic. On one side of the fence you have the argument that the land application of sludge is safe and on the other side you have the opposing argument. Words are tossed around like hot potatoes and meaning often gets tossed to the four winds. Sewage sludge. Biosolids. Fertilizer. Organic. I am not very interested in the semantics but let's be sure we are arguing about the same thing and understand the definition of these words as they relate to the discussion. Definitions according to the dictionary are:

Fertilizer - Any of a large number of natural and synthetic materials applied into soil to increase its capacity to support plant growth.      

Sewage Sludge
 - Solid, semi-solid or liquid residue generated from industrial wastewater, domestic sewage, and surface water processed in a treatment facility.
     
Biosolids - Solid, semisolid or liquid material derived from sewage sludge, often used as fertilizer, has been labeled as "biosolids compost," organic fertilizer."
Organic - Grown without the use of drugs, hormones, or synthetic chemicals; Of or designating carbon compounds.

Given these definitions it is reasonable that one might assume that biosolids can be used as fertilizer. Sludge by definition doesn't seem safe to use as a fertilizer whatsoever. But do a Google search on sludge and biosolids. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Now that you've searched you're probably confused, wondering who's right and who's wrong? The EPA says one thing. Corporate interests says another. And, the scientists are all over the place. The conclusion that I draw from all the information available about sewage sludge and biosolids is that sewage sludge is bad. No other way to say it. Biosolids, that information seems designed to be inaccessible and, well, the expert opinions are all over the place, so how can anyone come to an informed opinion about biosolids? How? It seems they just throw caution to the wind.

Volumes of research have been done on biosolids, yet there is still no scientific consensus on the safety of biosolids. The only thing one can get from the controversy is that the opposing sides strongly disagree over whether sewage sludge and biosolids are or are not the same thing. But that is not the real question?

The question is is biosolids safe to apply on land? It's a little late to ask, but let's, why? Because  biosolids - be it aka sewage sludge or not - is being spread on land all over this country as we speak. Biosolids, which are derived from sewage sludge that our government environmental watchdog has long considered hazardous toxic material, have to meet certain requirements set forth by the EPA. Well, that's all fine and dandy. But are we sure that those standards are as rigorous as they need to be? Or does setting forth a requirement simply make it sound legit? Like half-doing a job to get by. And, who is doing the monitoring to make sure these requirements are met? And, what about someone studying those monitoring reports to make sure we know what we think we know? The ramifications of land application of biosolids not being 100% safe are catastrophic. And, yo, it's not okay to "slip up" here. Does the spreading of biosolids pose a clear and present danger to public health? Is there the slightest risk that harmful chemicals, hazardous toxic material can get into the food and water supply? They do not know for certain. One thing we know for certain is IF that happens there will be no turning back. We have had enough experience to know that. 

If human life could be sustained solely on episodes of Glee, the music of Nicki Minaj, and the dance moves of the JabbaWockeeZ, then sure spread biosolids, sling sludge until you pass out. But the truth of the matter is humans have to eat and drink to live. Our digestive systems are not designed to separate bad things in foods from the good. We are mutations. Mutants. What we eat goes directly into our collective systems and the rest is called evolution, for better or for worse.

In North Carolina, Virginia, and many other states, sludge spreading is a serious problem. If it is known that sludge is potentially harmful, why is it being spread? In my mind, if Sugar Brand A is laced with arsenic and Sugar Brand B is not; why would I voluntarily put Sugar Brand A in my coffee? It appears that they want to count us brain dead before our time. Sewage sludge is known to have caused serious medical complications in people and animals that have been exposed to it. Getting the powers that be to admit to and take responsibility for this has proven to be somewhat difficult. When money is involved people do some strange things. And if a company can cut some corners and make a few extra bucks, say, like hundreds of millions, the amount of strange things they'll do is endless.

NEWS FLASH: We all drink the same water and eat the same food. Sludge will get to you too!

Take for example, the upcoming educational summit at NCSU in Raleigh, April 27-28. It's called the "Fork to Farm: A Biosolids Educational Summit." It caught my eye, I read the agenda and the list of attendees. Immediately, I said to myself, "WHOA! Hold the freaking ...!
Those are not the soil-friendly folks that launched the "Farm to Fork" initiative in 2008 at NCSU's Center for Environmental Farming Systems. But aren't they the same people that we here at the Waterfront Sportsman and The Environmental Investigation Coalition have been discussing for months in the e-mag." Oh, I gasped, how stupid of me, those names are simply strikingly similar. Farm to Fork Fork to Farm, the inversion of the name got by me. Oh, words, words, words, words. Try false flag flying.

The squires and pages at the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, aka DENR, and Darth Vaders's spawn, i.e., representatives of the titan of the biosolids industry, Synagro, have been given the opportunity to speak and enlighten. Well, I'd fasten up the horse and buggy and scurry right on over to the summit next week had I not the sinking feeling that something ain't right, pardon my grammar. It is to be an EDUCATIONAL seminar, right, meaning those who attend are under the supposition that they're going to learn something. How much unbiased, 100% fact based knowledge do you think is going to be available at an event with DENR and Synagro folks as featured experts? Am I skeptical about this event? You bet. She doesn't own the phrase. I'm quite skeptical and if I had the ability to raise one eyebrow I would. Paranoia and humor are the only things that can save you with this crowd.

Putting jokes aside, let's focus on the fact that sludge spreading and the use of biosolids is profoundly serious. This is not the case of a bunch of tree huggers banning together to try to save a local park. This is the case of scientists, consumers, producers, politicians, environmentalists, and all the people of the land finding themselves in one dilly of a pickle. This is not the time to be colluding, cutting deals, stuffing dollars, lying, or equivocating. We cannot allow these issues to remain pawns in a sick and pointless, but ruinous, greed filled game of chess. Unless, of course, you're comfortable with complicity. We're talking about human life, and life in the broadest sense. No matter your take on the semantics - biosolids, sewage sludge - the bottom line is that the safety and security of the water and food supply, which are dependent on the health of the soil, should never be compromised and possibly irreversibly contaminated to satisfy, what, the short-term thinking, parasitic, greedy and corrupt agents that are running amok in our society. Have we gone mad?

Answer the question, below, it's easier:

When you go out to eat don't you want to know the water you'll drink is clean and pure? Don't you want to know your salad and/or your burger has come from a farm that is free from toxins? Let me guess, answered in the affirmative, correct?  So what are you willing to do to get what you want? 


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