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PFAS-Contaminated Toxic Sludge Distributed as “Organic Compost” or “Natural Biosolids”

OCA and our allies have campaigned for years against the dangerous use and mislabeling of toxic sewage sludge as “organic compost” or natural “biosolids.” In 1997-98 we successfully pressured the USDA to back off from allowing toxic sewage sludge on certified organic farms. In March, 2010 OCA, joined by local gardeners, donned biohazard suits and dumped toxic sludge on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco, protesting its distribution to schools and inner city gardeners.

Mother Jones covered our protest.

As Mother Jones reported:

“Activists wearing face masks and haz-mat suits dumped a pile of sewage sludge on the steps of San Francisco’s city hall today to protest the city’s practice of marketing the material to home gardeners as ‘organic compost.’ The US Department of Agriculture’s organic standards explicitly prohibit organic produce from being grown on sludge-treated land.  ‘The City of San Francisco owes an apology to all of the food consumers in California who have been eating non-organic food grown on sewage sludge,’ said Ronnie Cummins, president of the Organic Consumers Association. He was wearing a haz-mat suit on which he’d written a message to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom: ‘Organic gardens aren’t toxic waste dumps.’

“Using sludge as fertilizer is a common practice; more than half of the sewage produced in America ends up being treated and applied to gardens and farmland. The EPA considers sludge to be safe, but many food activists and some of the EPA’s own scientists disagree, pointing out that it can contain trace amounts of almost anything that gets poured down the drain, from heavy metals to endocrine disruptors–and that only a portion of these contaminants are screened for in sludge.”

Now a recent Chicago Tribune story reveals that Chicago and other cities have continued the California tradition of fraudulently calling PFAS-contaminated sewage sludge “natural biosolids” and distributing it, free of charge, to city schools and city gardeners. Their excuse: the EPA hasn’t issued any regulations.

Read more: Tribune Investigation: Chicago’s Sewage District Fails To Warn Gardeners Free Sludge Contains Toxic Forever Chemicals

Read more about OCA’s Stop Toxic Sludge Campaign