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Sludge In the News

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WARNING! Sewage sludge is toxic. Food should not be grown in "biosolids." Join the Food Rights Network.

This article is part of the Food Rights Network, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy. Find out more here.

Sludge In the News is a page to accompany the Toxic Sludge portal page. Since every time the portal page is changed, there is no easy record of what was up on it, this page will be an ongoing list of the news articles that at one time appeared on the portal page. (Please, respect this use of this page and contact user Rebekah Wilce if you have any questions.)

2013

March:

2012

December:

  • Chicago’s Brilliant Plan: Sludge Soccer Fields: According to a local publication in Hinsdale, Illinois (12/17), the Chicago metropolitan area has opted to replace a soccer field’s soil with "biosolids" — dried sewage sludge — in several batches and re-sod. Apparently two other local soccer fields have also been sludged. Why? It’s cheaper than “good, new black dirt.”

October:

  • Nanosized Pollutants in Tractor Exhaust and Sewage Sludge Pose Crop Risks: According to Science News (10/6), "Nanoscale pollutants can enter crop roots, triggering a host of changes to plants' growth and health, two studies find. These tiny particles can stunt plant growth, boost the plants' absorption of pollutants, and increase the need for crop fertilizers. Nanomaterials that get released in the exhaust from diesel-fueled tractors can rain down onto crop fields. Those used in fabrics, sunscreens and other products collect in the solids separated out of sewage and wastewater -- nutrient-rich solids that are routinely spread on U.S. fields to improve soils. The new studies offer a glimpse at the toxic effects such nanoparticles may pose to future crops as exposures rise."
  • Chappell Hill, Texas "Residents Say No Thanks to Sludge Deposits": According to the Brenham Banner-Press (10/3), "Residents here had a message for a company that wants to spread sewage sludge on rural property: Take it elsewhere. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) held a public meeting Tuesday on an application by K-3 Resources of Alvin to deposit sewer sludge on approximately 411 acres on FM 2447."
  • "Human Waste Fertilizer Raises Health Concerns": According to the Morris Daily Herald in Grundy County, Illinois (9/25, updated 10/2), "There’s quite a bit of national controversy about the practice of using biosolids as fertilizer on farmland, and some Channahon Township residents don’t want it applied in the fields near their homes. 'What they are doing is making a toxic dump of our area. It’s disgusting,' said Canal Road resident Pat Budd."

September:

  • Channahon, Illinois Residents See Possible Health Effects from Sludge Spreading: “What they are doing is making a toxic dump of our area. It’s disgusting,” Cannahon resident Pat Budd told the Morris Daily Herald. According to the Herald (9/25), "Residents living on Canal Road, an unincorporated section of the village of Channahon, are surrounded by three fields where . . . biosolids are being applied by Stewart Spreading, of Sheridan, Ill. A total of 280 acres are treated yearly. Residents say they have had an increase in health issues since the land application began in 2010. All of the issues at this time come from a cluster of four homes near the fields.
"Budd was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer before any biosolids were applied in the adjacent fields. She worries that her immune system won’t be able to fend off toxic chemicals in any levels. . . .
"Neighbors fear chemicals in the biosolids have leached into their drinking wells and that field runoff will reach the I&M Canal that runs behind the homes and one of the fields. . . . Mary Lou Bozich, who lives right next to one field, was diagnosed with a duodenum tumor this year. There was no sign of the tumor during an endoscopy the prior year, she said. 'I just find it very weird that two years ago I had no problem,' Bozich said. 'Is it from that (biosolids)? I don’t honestly know. How would they prove it one way or another?'
"Neighbors are concerned about students at nearby schools, Channahon Junior High and Galloway Elementary, as well as the Channahon Park District. Students routinely jog on the road and have been seen running through the fields."
According to a 10/8 update, "When it’s being applied, about 70 trucks line Canal Road waiting to dump their sludge. . . . Spreading biosolids on agricultural land is a win-win situation from a business standpoint."
  • Oklahoma "Sludge Suit Trial Draws Near": According to the Muskogee Phoenix (9/25), "A lawsuit alleging the city and two local companies negligently disposed of treated sewer sludge appears to be headed for trial next month. The lawsuit was filed by three families who own property near a site where biosolids from Muskogee’s wastewater treatment plant had been applied. Heavy rains that fell in September 2010 washed the sludge from the application site across adjacent properties."
  • Appleton, Wisconsin Starts New Sludge "Compost" Project: According to the Appleton Post-Crescent (9/19 and 9/22), Appleton's wastewater treatment plant will soon start marketing a "composted" blend of treated sewage sludge, brush, and leaves (3.5 parts leaves and brush to one part "biosolids") to residents and commercial landscapers in the area. The city's biosolids and pretreatment coordinator, Amanda Owens, acknowledges a "sludge scare," but says it is unfounded because other cities "have much higher amounts of industrial waste -- like arsenic, cadmium and mercury -- flowing into stormwater." Appleton, in the Fox River Valley, is an industrial area filled with paper and other plants, the discharges from which have arguably turned the Fox River into a veritable toxic waste dump and local lakes into superfund sites. But, Owens argues, "People will read about Detroit or Chicago, but we’re a long way from that.” Well, that's that: Rest easy, Appleton-residents!
  • Residents Fight Sludge in West Pennsboro, Pennsylvania: According to The Sentinel (9/7), "A group of West Pennsboro Township residents have expressed concerns over Carlisle borough's plan to permit local farms to spread sludge that includes human waste to fertilize their crops. . . . [O]ne area farm lies about 2,500 feet from the head waters of the Big Spring Creek in Newville. 'It jeopardizes the creek. It is the most toxic stuff that I’ve ever seen,' said Eugene Macri, an aquatic ecologist and environmental scientist who lives in the area. 'It contains massive amounts of heavy metals, hormones, biphenyls, you name it. The risk of biosolids were vastly underestimated by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency. The stuff causes all types of infections, even Alzheimer’s disease.'"
  • West Bridgewater, Massachusetts Residents Wary of Farm 'Sludge': According to the Boston Globe (9/2), The use of treated sewage sludge to fertilize farmlands has some West Bridgewater residents concerned over odors and potential harm to their health and water quality. They are also concerned that no local authority is keeping track of where and how farmers are using the material. . . . Agricultural Commission member Beth Smith attended DeLano’s meeting and said afterward that her panel discussed the use of the biosolids recently. 'The Agricultural Commission is horrified the town can’t control it,' Smith said. 'And I personally think the sludge should not be used at all.'"

April:

  • "Measurement of Flame Retardants and Triclosan in Municipal Sewage Sludge and Biosolids" (Environment International, April 2012 volume): "The biosolids [from California and North Carolina] and SRM 2781 were analyzed for PBDEs, hexabromobenzene (HBB), 1,2-bis(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)ethane (BTBPE), 2-ethylhexyl 2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (TBB), di(2-ethylhexyl)-2,3,4,5-tetrabromophthalate (TBPH), the chlorinated flame retardant Dechlorane Plus (syn- and anti-isomers), and the antimicrobial agent 5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)phenol (triclosan). PBDEs were detected in every sample analyzed, and ΣPBDE concentrations ranged from 1750 to 6358 ng/g dry weight. Additionally, the PBDE replacement chemicals TBB and TBPH were detected at concentrations ranging from 120 to 3749 ng/g dry weight and from 206 to 1631 ng/g dry weight, respectively. Triclosan concentrations ranged from 490 to 13,866 ng/g dry weight. The detection of these contaminants of emerging concern in biosolids suggests that these chemicals have the potential to migrate out of consumer products and enter the outdoor environment" (from article abstract, with emphasis added). For more on sewage sludge contaminants, see the SourceWatch article on Sludge contaminants.

February:

  • King County, Washington Brands Sludge Product and Pushes it at Northwest Flower and Garden Show: According to a press release reprinted in the West Seattle Herald (2/8), "King County’s clean-water utility has announced the launch of Loop, its new biosolids brand, at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show at the Washington State Convention Center, Feb. 8-12. . . . 'As an urban farming collective, it only makes sense that we use an urban-derived compost. We know that using Loop not only helps us grow great crops, it’s also the right thing to do,' said Sean Conroe, founder of Seattle-based urban farming collective Alleycat Acres, which uses GroCo compost made with Loop to fertilize and amend their city farm sites." "Biosolids," or treated human and industrial waste, include many hazardous chemicals. New studies found steroid hormone runoff from agricultural test plots smeared with sludge. Seattle cancer patient and naturopath, Dr. Molly Linton, has raised concerns about pharmaceutical residues such as the drugs in her chemo therapy making their way into sewer systems, and University of Washington Researcher John Kissel shares those concerns, according to King 5 News (2/7). The Food Rights Network supports urban farming, but doesn't support the growing of any food in toxic sludge.
  • Calabasas, California Residents Encouraged to Stock Up on Free Sludge! According to the Calabasas Patch (2/6), "Built in the early 1990s, Rancho Las Virgenes uses a highly-automated process to convert biosolids removed during the water reclamation process into U.S. EPA graded “Class A – Exceptional Quality” compost that has become a favorite of professional landscapers and home gardeners across the region. After nearly 20 years of production, some of the machinery and the buildings that house compost production must undergo significant maintenance and upgrades." So the facility is urging residents to come get some free sludge quick, to help them clean out before they fix up.
  • Sewage Sludge Spread on Farms Alarms Lehigh County, Pennsylvania Residents: According to The Morning Call (2/4), "[Thomas] Shetayh and other Lynn Township residents want neighboring farmers to stop using sludge to grow crops, a practice residents say is polluting their water supply and leaving a stench in the air. Dozens of residents packed a Lynn meeting in January after traces of fecal coliform and E. coli were discovered in a resident's well." For more, see The Morning Call's 2/6 article, and the Food Integrity Campaign.

January:

  • Pennsylvania's William Bispels Runs for the State House of Representatives on Anti-Sewage Sludge Spreading Platform (BCTV, 1/25)
  • "Cadmium Stress" from Sludge Spreading Negatively Affects Plant Growth and Development (CO2 Science, 1/25): For more on the presence of cadmium in sewage sludge, see the SourceWatch article on [[Cadmium#Uses and Presence in the Environment|cadmium].
  • Pennsylvania Compost Program Stench Causes Outcry: According to the MarpleNewtown Patch (1/24) and HaverfordHavertown Patch (1/20), the program composts local leaves, but the unholy stench has neighbors upset enough to demand the program be ended. The two neighboring townships, Havertown and Marple, Pennsylvania, hired well-known sewage sludge consultant Craig Coker, to help reduce the odor. Coker is on the Board of the sludge front group the U.S. Composting Council and a former member of the sludge industry trade group the Water Environment Federation's (WEF's) "Biosolids" Management Committee and, in 2008, wrote an [[Craig Coker#"It's Not Sludge, It's Compost"|editorial] (or "advertorial," in PR jargon) for the Roanoke Times in which he advocated the safety of treated, minimally regulated sewage sludge as fertilizer. Are the townships "composting" human and industrial waste sludge with their leaves?
  • Culpeper Star Exponent Suggests Culpeper County, Virginia Board of Supervisors "Steer Clear of Biosolids Facility" (1/24)
  • Cloquet, Minnesota Opts Out of "Bio-Cremation" Because of Risk of Liquified Corpses Containing Prions Being Released into Sewer System (Pine Journal, 1/23 - thanks to Maureen Reilly of SludgeWatch)
  • Sludge Management Company Harvest Power Wins "Cleantech" Award for Sludge-to-Power Process that Leaves Behind Toxic Sludge the Company Sells as "Organic Fertilizer" (Renewable Energy Magazine, 1/23) - A prime example of "greenwashing." Certified organic farms are forbidden by the U.S. Department of Agriculture from fertilizing with sewage sludge.
  • Newark, Delaware to Thermally Dry Sludge as Part of Sludge-to-Power Project, No News on What They Will Do with the Dried Sludge (Newark Post, 1/22, and Delaware Online, 1/23)
  • "Septic Sludge Battle" Pits Counties Against Washington State: "A court battle over whether to spread septic sludge on a Western Wahkiakum County farm isn't so much about whether the practice is good or bad.It's ultimately about who gets to decide — Wahkiakum County or the state." (The Daily News, 1/22)
  • Lystek Building Fifth Plant in Ontario, Canada - This $16.5 Million Plant in Elora (The Wellington Advertiser, 1/20 - thanks to Maureen Reilly of SludgeWatch)
  • Stamford, Connecticut Sewage Plant "Flush with Problems," Polluting Long Island Sound (Stamford Advocate, 1/18 and 1/17)
  • Energy.gov Spins Austin, Texas' Sludge Management Plant as "Green Innovation": The government website (Energy.gov, 1/17) calls Austin's Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Plant, which produces the sludge product "Dillo Dirt" of 2009 Austin City Limits Festival [[Dillo Dirt#Dillo Dirt - Sea of Toxic Mud|"mud rash" fame], "a national model for innovative approaches to improve the environment, such as reducing waste, producing compost, and protecting ecosystems." When the government is both regulating and marketing a project, who can citizens trust for the truth?
  • Agilyx Corporation Appoints Former Synagro CEO and Chairman, Ross Patten, to its Board of Directors (MarketWire, 1/17): Agilyx, which calls itself "the first company to economically convert difficult to recycle waste plastic into synthetic crude oil," filled a spot on its Board by calling on Patten, who acquired Synagro with other investors in 1991 and helped "grow the business." It is now the largest processor of sewage sludge in the United States and owned by The Carlyle Group since 2007. Recently, Synagro gave 30 days notice of its application to dump municipal sewage sludge in the northern Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania (Northern Lehigh Valley Logic, 1/12). According to the Lehigh Valley Live (1/9), "while Lower Mount Bethel Township supervisors aren't necessarily pleased about sludge coming to township farms, there's really not a lot they can do about it" because "the use of sludge fertilizer is approved and monitored by environmental agencies across the country, including the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection."
  • Paragould Light, Water and Cable Required to Enclose Sewage Sludge Discharge Area (Arkansas) (Paragould Daily Press, 1/17/12)
  • Charlotte, North Carolina Spins Sludge Spreading as "Resource Recovery" and "Nutrient Recycling" (Charlotte, NC, 2011)
  • Union City, Indiana to Pay Fine for Arsenic Pollution from Spreading Sludge (Star Press, 1/14/12)
  • Culpeper County, Virginia Denies Permit for ReCyc Systems Storage Facility: ReCyc Systems, a a Virginia-based company that spreads Washington, D.C.'s treated human and industrial sewage on fields in Albemarle County, VA, among other places, applied for a permit from the Culpeper County Planning Commission to "relocate its Culpeper office and build two 100x200 foot [sewage sludge] storage structures on a 220-acre tract of property located about half a mile off U.S. 29, near the border with Fauquier County. The structures would have 8 feet walls and a dome shaped canvas cover, but would be open at the sides," according to the local Star Exponent (1/11/12). The Commission recommended denying the request, however, in part because "the company could not convince residents that live near the property. Several adjoining property owners spoke in opposition, many of which said Recyc Systems had never contacted them about plans to build a facility in the area. . . . Another concern of those that spoke was the fragile nature of the tarp material that would be the cover for the facility. . . . Piedmont Environmental Council land use officer, Brian Higgins, said the proposal is contrary to the county’s comprehensive plan. 'There is no known approach that can effectively eliminate the odor,” said Higgins. He pointed out that soil in the area has a low infiltration and that spills would end up in the river'" (Star Exponent, 1/12/12). The proposed piece of land is also the site of four historic battles. The recommendation will now go to the county board of supervisors for final review. According to the Fredericksburg Lance-Star (1/11/12), "More that two dozen people spoke at a three-hour public hearing, with the majority opposing the venture."
  • 3M Blames Twin Cities for Disposing of its Industrial Chemicals via Wastewater in the Mississippi River: According to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press (1/11/12), using the argument, "If we polluted, so did you," 3M defended itself against a lawsuit by the state of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Council alleging that its chemicals polluted the Mississippi River. The dispute is "over PFOS, or perfluorooctane sulfonate, found in the river." According to 3M, "the planning agency for the seven-county Twin Cities area dumps chemicals into the river from its seven waste treatment plants. . . . There has been no dollar amount specified in the state's lawsuit, but removing PFOS from the Mississippi could cost billions. . . . Starting in 1949, 3M manufactured chemicals called perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, including PFOS. They were used in Teflon, fire extinguishers, Scotchgard stain repellent and other household products. . . . 3M . . . said the Met Council gives farmers sewage sludge that contains PFOS, which can seep into rivers and underground water. Wastewater from such sources must be finding its way into the Met Council's treatment plants, Brewer said. Four of those plants are on the Mississippi, and three are on tributaries, the document says."

For more, see the Center for Media and Democracy's Food Rights Network.

2011

December:

  • Lehigh County Pennsylvania Residents Allege Local Sludge-Spreading Has Made Their Well Water Undrinkable: According to NBC Philadelphia (12/28), "Several Lynn Township, Pa. farmers use a bio-solid called 'granulite' to fertilize their crops, according to township authorities. 'Granulite' is sewage sludge turned into dried pellets, 30 percent of which is made of human waste. Residents like Bill Schaffhouser fear the health effects when this chemically-treated sewage fertilizer seeps into the ground and water. . . . Schaffhouser says that he and his neighbors can no longer drink their water because the sewage fertilizer has seeped into the drinking water, the storm drains and the nearby creek."
  • Site Contaminated by "Composted" Los Angeles Sewage Sludge Shows High Levels of Zinc, Copper and Sulfur: According to the blog "Root Simple" (12/27), "Ecological designer Darren Butler, at a class I was sitting in on, showed a soil report from a site that had used compost from the city of Los Angeles. LA's compost contain biosolids, a euphemism for sewage. The soil test showed high levels of: zinc 196 ppm; copper 76 ppm; [and] sulfur 5,752 ppm. The problem isn't human waste, it's all the other stuff that ends up in the sewer."
  • Sludge "Composter" May Be Ousted from Marion County, Florida: According to the Ocala Star Banner (12/26), "Marion County attorney Guy Minter told county commissioners last week that he may ask a judge to issue a permanent injunction against a composting business that, its neighbors say, has failed to tamp down the stench emanating from its property. . . . An injunction would seek to declare the site a public nuisance and permanently oust the composting facility from the area. . . .
"Compost USA leases the 38-acre site . . . from a local tree company to process wood debris, horse bedding and treated sludge into mulch. The county alleges that the permit originally granted to the property owners in 2003 does not allow treated sludge at the site. . . .
"By October 2009, months after the company's operations began, residents started to complain about the smell. The County Commission revoked the permit in 2010. Compost USA subsequently sued the county, challenging its right to overturn the zoning director's decision to grant the permit."
  • Controversial Hinkley, California Compost Plant Construction Halted for Trespassing on Public Land: According to the Desert Dispatch (12/26), "The Bureau of Land Management has ordered owners of a proposed compost recycling center to stop ground work on public land outside Hinkley. The BLM issued a cease and desist order Dec. 14 to Nursery Products, LLC, the proposed recycling center. The order said after investigation the BLM found the Nursery Products altered grounds on public land just outside the company’s property, thereby trespassing. . . .
"Nursery Products has been trying to build the plant for six years, but have been stalled due to litigation from environmental firms associated with HelpHinkley.org, a group dedicated to fighting environmental issues on behalf of Hinkley residents." The plant would "compost" sewage sludge from San Bernardino and Riverside Counties in California. (Thanks to SludgeWatch's Maureen Reilly for the tip.)
  • Weighing the "Benefits" of Different Sludge Treatment Processes: An article in Environment & Energy's ClimateWire (12/22) profiles three waste treatment companies that claim to harvest energy and profits from human and industrial sewage sludge.
The first, Florida-based company Earth, Wind & Fire's technology, takes "pellets of dried human sludge and carbon-based landfill material, runs an electrical current through it, captures the vapor that's produced and then condenses it into a No. 2 diesel fuel." The company claims its processes are "closed-loop systems that don't produce any harmful byproducts."
Another company, Cork, Ireland-based AquaCritox, which is owned by SCFI Group, "takes in raw sewage and brings the temperature and pressure above 700 degrees Fahrenheit and 221 bar (3,000 psi). In these conditions, it enters a supercritical condition or 'fourth phase' that completely destroys organic material, producing only carbon dioxide, which [SCFI CEO] O'Regan says can be used in the soft drink industry or to create dry ice. The steam generated by the process is then used to drive turbines for power generation." He claims the process is energy positive and can use wet waste rather than first requiring drying.
A third company, Pennsylvania-based PMC BioTec (which the article calls PMC BioTech), uses "microbes [to] turn the sludgy feedstock into methane, and break down the organic material to nitrogen and phosphorus, which can be used as fertilizer" and "produces biodiesel or biomethane that can be used for electricity." The process requires dried sludge and produces a product, "fertilizer," that is still toxic. SCFI's O'Regan also points out that "the fertilizer business is not a profit-making operation" (at least two California cities have had to turn to giving it away).
  • Virginia Not Likely to Restrict Spreading of D.C. Sludge in 2012: According to Charlottesville Tomorrow (12/21), "Albemarle County staff have told the Board of Supervisors that legislation to further restrict land application of treated human waste, known as biosolids, is not likely to be passed in the near future. . . .
"Nearly 1,900 dry tons of treated waste were spread on Albemarle County fields this year through the end of November, according to DEQ [(Virginia Department of Environmental Quality)] records. The material comes from wastewater treatment plants in Washington D.C. and other large cities.
"The county applications were all conducted by one company — ReCyc Systems of Remington. This year, ReCyc was approved to add another 545 acres of Albemarle land to its permit, bringing the total to 6,907 acres. . . .
"Carrsbrook resident Ray Caddell lives next to an 88-acre farm where ReCyc applied biosolids in late May. 'Immediately after the spreading, I developed a hoarse cough that continued, even after repeated doctor visits, well into the fall,' Caddell said. He said symptoms only stopped after the first frost.
"He said his daughter experienced a similar condition after biosolids were applied on the farm in 2008. State regulations only allow fields to be treated every three years.
"'I do not believe they should be able to apply in growth areas, next to existing neighborhoods, and especially on land in flood plain or adjacent to rivers and streams,' Caddell said. . . .
"However, none of the area legislators present at a roundtable discussion with supervisors last week expressed interest in submitting a bill to allow counties to exclude urban areas from biosolids application."
  • Gallatin, Tennessee Issues $10 Million in Bonds to be Funded by Revenues from Selling Treated Sewage Sludge as Fertilizer: "The city currently has to pay to have its sewage sludge hauled off, but with the new plant, the sludge will be treated and processed into nutrient-rich organic material called biosolids that are promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency for use as fertilizer" (Tennessean, 12/20). Warning, Tennesseans! Sewage sludge is toxic. Food should not be grown in "biosolids." As the new Sludge Blog points out in its most recent post (12/20) about Washington, DC's sludge being spread on Virginia farms, "It is absurd to believe that the material removed from the wastewater at sewage plants simply needs a bit of zapping and then it’ll be fine. The process in the works at Blue Plains, a $400 million upgrade from Class B to Class A biosolids, will make sludge supposedly 'safe enough to put in your mouth — though it’s not encouraged' because the new Class A biosolids won’t contain pathogens that can sicken humans and animals. The pathogens are definitely a problem. But so are heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, radioactive waste, flame-retardants; the list of modern American inventions that end up in the drains goes on and on" (emphasis added).
  • Sludge Spill in Three Rivers, Michigan: A hose break yesterday within the fenced area of the Clean Water Plant (wastewater treatment plant) in Three Rivers, Michigan, resulted in a spill of 300 gallons of treated human and industrial sewage sludge over about 50 square feet, caused by failed/faulty equipment. According to the plant director, "The discharge did not enter any storm water structures, was immediately cleaned up with a vacuum truck, and disinfected with sodium-hypochlorite granules" (River Country Journal, 12/20).
  • Media Mislead About Natchez, Mississippi's Sewage Sludge: The city of Natchez has a pile of treated sludge it wants to sell. According to the Sun Herald and the Natchez Democrat (12/20), the state Department of Environmental Quality "has already tested a smaller sample of the bio-solid made at the plant, and the plant received a Class-A certification, which means the bio-solid can be used as organic fertilizer" and quoted the Natchez City Engineer as saying, "We’re just really excited about this project. . . . We’re saving a lot of money and turning a liability -- the toxic sludge -- into a beneficial use." Calling the treated sludge "organic fertilizer" misleads the reader into thinking that it can be spread on certified organic farms. It cannot -- the National Organic Standards prohibit it. Calling the spreading of this sludge, which still contains heavy metals, pharmaceutical residues and flame retardants, among other things, on farmland "beneficial use" makes a mockery of the English language.
  • Daily Kos Diary Spins the Sludge?: Daily Kos diarist "NNadir" posted this week (12/19) about a sewage sludge industry article in Energy and Fuels entitled "Behavior of Phosphorus and Other Inorganics during the Gasification of Sewage Sludge." NNadir discusses whether or not sewage sludge gasification could produce significant energy, concluding, "There is not enough human shit, cow shit, pig shit, horseshit or chicken shit on the entire planet to save the American car CULTure lifestyle. Period." He does not discuss the other inevitable product of sludge gasification, that is, the reduced-in-quantity and -pathogens, but still toxic, sludge. He does, however, mention that he is "reading a fabulous and wonderful book called The Big Necessity by an insightful, fine young woman named Rose George, which is all about sewage practices around the world." Laura Orlando reviewed The Big Necessity for In These Times in 2008 and criticized George for the same omission. The review concludes: "George, by failing to address such issues, underscores the need for a deeper, more a critical analysis of the causes and remedies. . . . The needed critique will take into account on-site technologies vs. central collection, source-separation vs. mixing-then-fixing technologies. Hopefully, the choice of developing sanitation systems that are culturally appropriate, ecologically responsible and functionally sustainable will then sound downright conventional."
  • Ignoring Successful Protest Against Similar Project, Racine, Wisconsin Puts New Sludge Project Up for Bid: According to the Daily Reporter (12/19), "The Racine Wastewater Utility has a project due Jan. 27 for the hauling, storage and land spreading/disposal of about 12,000 tons of wastewater Class B biosolids on an annual basis. . . . It will be interesting to see if this project actually goes through after all of the problems the Neenah-Menahsa Sewerage Commission had with the proposed biosolids storage building/biosolid spreading on agricultural lands in Greenville, which was cancelled soon after a Rapid Health Impact Assessment [(HIA)] report was released in late October." It concludes, "If you live near the area of this proposed project, it may do you well to take a good look at the Greenville HIA and it may be an idea to request the same of Racine County if such a report for the proposed facility and area involved doesn’t already exist."
  • Wellington, Florida Aims to Sell Pelleted Sludge: Following on the heels of a report that three Florida wastewater treatment facilities have been penalized by the EPA for Clean Water Act violations, Wellington, Florida has announced its plans to expand its plant to the tune of $22 million in order to "yield savings of about $201,500 a year" by producing "Class AA biosolids" and "sell[ing] its pellets to the South Dade Soil and Water Conservation District for about $52,000 a year" (WPTV, 12/18). The sludge would be filtered, treated with chlorine and then with microbes (the article doesn't explain how the microbes would survive the chlorine), dewatered and then further dried into pellets. According to CBS (12/20), the fertilizer would be available for sale to the Conservation District starting in February. Neither article mentions what the Conservation District would fertilize with the pellets produced.
  • Injecting Los Angeles' Sewage into Spaces Between Rocks: As an alternative to the locally controversial Kern County facility that is the subject of a local ordinance and a legal fight, Los Angeles engineers have proposed the "Terminal Island Renewable Energy Project," an environmentally friendly sounding name for a project to "shov[e] the biosolids it produces into underground reservoirs, spaces between rocks, once occupied by oil and gas. . . . Putting the biosolids down there," they claim, "LA can let the earth do the work for them. The higher temperature of the earth breaks them down; using the byproduct methane gas, LA can produce energy for 3000 homes" (KPCC, 12/16). So far, the plan has produced no actual energy. The article also doesn't explain if the ground temperature of these sites is the average and constant approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit of the ground below ten feet or if the temperature at the site is higher because of tectonic activity. (Thanks to Maureen Reilly of SludgeWatch for this tip.)
  • Allentown, Pennsylvania Accepts Bids for Project to Generate Electricity from Sludge: New Jersey-based Delta Thermo has proposed a $30 million project to turn Allentown's trash and sewage "into a coal-like substance and burn it at temperatures up to 2,192 degrees to create electricity. The goal is to generate enough power to run the wastewater treatment plant and to sell leftover electricity to the power grid" (The Morning Call, 12/14). "One of the most pressing concerns had to do with another Pennsylvania municipality that went belly up after its own waste-to-energy pursuit. Harrisburg's decision to guarantee bonds on a waste incinerator plant is often cited as the main reason that city considered filing for bankruptcy." The article doesn't mention where the plant will get the energy to turn the sludge into that "coal-like substance" nor to then burn it at 2,192 degrees.
  • British Columbia Residents Blockade Sludge Trucks: On December 9, a group of Salmon Valley, British Columbia residents blockaded (250 News, 12/9) the first sludge truck that aimed to spread City of Prince George human and industrial waste on neighboring farmlands. The City is considering a court injunction against the protesting residents, but so far the truck has not returned. Read more about this story from the Food Rights Network.
  • Hinkley, California Sludge Facility Sanctioned by Judge: A Hinkley plant that would process Barston, California's human and industrial waste has received judicial approval of the company's environmental impact report (Victorville Daily Press, 12/12). According to the local press, "Bob Conaway, Hinkley resident and member of HelpHinkley.org, said the group opposes the plant due to the environmental and community impacts the facility will have on the Hinkley community. Conaway explained the group’s biggest concerns are with odor, wind and water supply, among others. Each of these matters are addressed in the company’s EIR, which has been under legal scrutiny these six years. Conaway said he felt the information given to the judge in this case was inaccurate or incomplete, though he’s not sure what the group’s next steps will be."
For more, see the Food Rights Network.

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