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Got Sewage?

  For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Toxic Sludge and Organic Compost page.

"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact." - Arthur Conan Doyle

"I have learned in the past that if you don't have a seat at the table, you can be on the menu," says Patrick Geraty, owner of St. Louis Composting Inc., the region's largest commercial composter.

Geraty made the revealing comment to the board of directors of the U.S. Composting Council (USCC) late last year.  As part of his pitch to gain a board seat, Geraty also proposed adopting an advertising blitz similar to the now-famous mantra: "Got Milk?"

The St. Louis businessman's proposition is part of a recurring public relations barrage aimed at cleaning up an industry image sullied by its involvement in the toxic waste trade.

Geraty now dines at both the tables of the USCC and its governmental counterpart, the Missouri Solid Waste Advisory Board. The private and public agencies regulate wood waste - St. Louis Composting's main raw material. But they also regulate another waste that's being incorporated into compost with increasing frequency: sewage sludge.

Sewage sludge is raw sewage minus water. Raw sewage is everything that gets flushed down toilets and drains, including household, industrial, and medical wastes. Water-treatment plants collect raw sewage, and their main goal is to recover as much clean water as possible for reuse The leftovers form a concentrated, toxic stew.

All sewage sludge contains hazardous materials, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Many of the individual contaminants in sludge cause cancer, reproductive, and immune-system disorders.