Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Would You Put Sewage Sludge on Your Lawn?

"Of Course Not", you say.

But don't be so sure. If your fertilizer lists "beneficial biosolids" as a key ingredient then your have just spread processed sewage on your lawn. I hope that you used gloves!

In fact, sewage sludge may have been used on your child's school yard, on the produce from the market and, it may be seeping into your well water.

According to the Center for Food Safety:
"Every time you flush your toilet or clean a paintbrush in your sink, you may be unwittingly contributing fertilizer used to grow the food in your pantry. Beginning in the early 1990s, millions of tons of potentially-toxic sewage sludge have been applied to millions of acres of America's farmland as food crop fertilizer. Selling sewage sludge to farmers for use on cropland has been a favored government program for disposing of the unwanted byproducts from municipal wastewater treatment plants. But sewage sludge is anything but the benign fertilizer the Environmental Protection Agency says it is.

Sewage sludge includes anything that is flushed, poured, or dumped into our nation's wastewater system--a vast, toxic mix of wastes collected from countless sources, from homes to chemical industries to hospitals. The sludge being spread on our crop fields is a dangerous stew of heavy metals, industrial compounds, viruses, bacteria, drug residues, and radioactive material. In fact, hundreds of people have fallen ill after being exposed to sewage sludge fertilizer--suffering such symptoms as respiratory distress, headaches, nausea, rashes, reproductive complications, cysts, and tumors.

Despite the apparent danger of using sludge in food production, federal regulations are woefully lax. The EPA monitors only nine of the thousands of pathogens commonly found in sludge; the agency rarely performs site inspections of sewage treatment plants; and it almost never inspects the farms that use sludge fertilizer."

This is just one more reason to buy organic, support your local farmer's market and become a better informed consumer.

excerpt from:
Will the Toxic Sludge Industry Be Held Accountable for Human Health Risks?
| Health and Wellness | AlterNet

By Joel Bleifuss for Alternet

Nancy Holt, a retired nurse from Mebane, N.C., is beset by mysterious neurological problems. She blames the cause of her illness on the multiple unknown toxicities of the sewage sludge that has been spread since 1991 on the fields across from her house as "fertilizer."

And Holt says she isn't alone. People in her neighborhood have a high incidence of cancer and thyroid problems. Local creeks are no longer safe for kids to play in -- the danger of staph infection is too great.

In 2001, Holt began chronicling the health problems in her area of rural Alamance County -- 12 miles north of Chapel Hill. Soon she was tracking reports of sludge-related illnesses and deaths across the country.

"I put together the symptoms, the illnesses, the high cancer rates, the thyroid disorders in this community," she says. "It is non-scientific, of course."

"And we have precocious puberty, little girls developing breasts at 5 or 6 years old, little boys developing armpit hair. And that is something that people don't want to talk about," Holt says. "They will talk about their thyroid glands, their cancers, but they will not talk about early puberty. We are on a true toxic tilt."

For the first time since she became involved in the sludge issue, Holt is guardedly hopeful that her concerns will finally be addressed, and that the sulphurous alliance between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), municipal sewer authorities and Synagro Technologies (the nation's largest sludge disposal firm, which was recently bought by the Carlyle Group) -- will be exposed for the blight it is.

In April, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced that her committee will hold hearings on the issue this summer. The catalyst is a confluence of recent news reports about sludge-related scandals.

In the Potomac River, 60 miles upstream from Washington, D.C., scientists have discovered many small-mouth male bass with eggs inside their sex organs. The cause of these "intersexed" fish is almost certainly endocrine disruptors -- also known as estrogen mimickers -- in the water, chemical pollutants that disrupt an animal's natural hormonal system.

In February, the Washington Post reported that the concentration of intersexed fish is greatest near towns or near heavily farmed land. One major source of these endocrine disruptors is thought to be the post-treatment "cleaned" water from municipal sewage treatment centers that is discharged directly into the Potomac River system and runoff from fields "fertilized" with sludge.

This news of male fish bearing eggs was followed with an April report by the Associated Press that in 2000, nine Baltimore families -- all black residents of the city's east side -- received food coupons in exchange for permission to allow researchers to spread "Class A" Baltimore sewage sludge (brand name, Orgro High Organic Compost) on their yards, till it into the soil and then plant grass seed.

The rationale for this experiment was to find out whether municipal sewage sludge could lower the amount of lead that children who played in the nine experimental yards would absorb. Veolia Water, the corporation that markets Baltimore municipal sludge as Orgro, claims its "beneficial biosolids" are so safe they are even used on the White House lawn.

"Beneficial biosolids" is the term that Powell Tate, a D.C.-based public relations firm, invented in the early '90s, in an attempt to linguistically detoxify the 7 million tons of sludge -- industrial waste, hospital waste, pharmaceuticals in addition to feces -- that the nation's 16,000 municipal sewer systems produce each year.

In the following video clip is from an April DemocracyNow newscast which discussed how toxic sludge was spread on the lawns on residents of a low-income Baltimore neighborhood

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