Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

The Green Mayor has Toxic Sludge on His Hands

Gavin Newsom's reputation as "the green mayor" is going down the drain, contaminated by the toxic sludge on his hands.

With Mayor Newsom's blessing, in 2007, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) [began distributing] tons of "organic biosolid[s] compost" to city residents, community gardens, and the Parks and Recreation Department.

On May 17, 2008, SFPUC conducted its third Great Compost Giveaway "5 gallons for every green thumb!" claiming that "all food scraps, garden clippings, and soiled paper that residents have been piling into green bins had been transformed into rich, soil-enhancing compost that is perfect for landscapes and containers." One trusting resident commenting on the Giveaway's website writes, "I made out like a bandit last year! Garden looks great because of it. When is this year's Great Compost Giveaway?"

Problem is, this substance is not organic! Moreover, the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) regulations strictly forbid the use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer or soil amendment, no matter if composted or otherwise treated.

John Stauber is the author of Toxic Sludge is Good for You and an advisory board member to Organic Consumers Association (OCA). He says, "In the mind of the public, "organic" represents the highest standard of integrity, purity, and healthfulness."

But the EPA's January 2009 "Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey" found San Francisco's sludge contains heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, PCBs, flame retardants, and endocrine disruptors.

Stauber adds, "That the sewage industry and the SFPUC misuses the word "organic" destroys ordinary peoples' trust and credibility. It is the same sort of public relations spin that hoodwinks farmers around the country." 
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