Sewage Sludge Land Application Spreading Disease
By Jim Bynum
Editor’s Note: This article was researched and written by Jim Bynum, a devoted patriot determined to protect our air, water and food supplies from reckless waste disposal policies. This alarming report was published in 1992. The EPA, in its infinite wisdom, relied on fraudulent science, collusion and corruption to create so-called beneficial uses of sewage. As Bynum noted, farmers and other stakeholders are being victimized by the U.S. government and industry. Nothing has changed regarding the EPA’s regulation of highly toxic biosolids. Most lands treated with sewage sludge instantly exceed the criteria for land condemned under Superfund law. However, the toxic soup of known and unknown elements called “biosolids” are exempt from meaningful regulations. Such reckless dumping is contributing to death and disease among people, wildlife and livestock.
In 1992, the biosolids industry warned wastewater treatment authorities and sewage sludge producers regarding the complaints lodged in the Zander Action Summary. The warning explained that Zander had identified 18 medical experts (including physicians, immunologists, toxicologists, and nutritionists), nine veterinarians, two property valuation/devaluation experts, three soil/hydraulic/geologic experts and one testing lab who would testify about the dangers of sewage sludge use to humans and animals.
They warned that there would be extra-regional impact and “This action must not be settled. The public persona of biosolids is precarious, at best, and each member of WEF and AMSA can be assured that Zander appears dedicated to capitalizing on every available opportunity to publicize her scare story … and remember, with respect to land application, the farming community comprises less than two percent of the population, so she need only reach a narrow population to cripple land application. It is essential that her soapbox be removed and her credibility challenged before our regional problem has any more effect nationally or internationally on land application of biosolids.”
Bode also warned that there would be extra-regional impact and “This action must not be settled.” Bode further warns that, “The public persona of biosolids is precarious, at best, and each member of WEF and AMSA can be assured that Zander appears dedicated to capitalizing on every available opportunity to publicize her scare story … and remember, with respect to land application, the farming community comprises less than 2 percent of the population, so she need only reach a narrow population to cripple land application. It is essential that her soapbox be removed and her credibility challenged before our regional problem has any more effect nationally or internationally on land application of biosolids.”
The EPA claims that a farmer can not be held liable for any damages to human health or the environment caused by the use of biosolids/sewage sludge on food crop production land as a fertilizer, even, if the farm becomes a Superfund site!
Furthermore, according to the EPA, neither the producer of the sewage sludge or the spreader of the sewage sludge will have any liability for any health or environmental damages, when sewage sludge is used as a fertilizer.
However, while there may be no liability, other than the loss of a farm, the farmer is not protected, because he/she is required to read the EPA regulation which warns; the EPA Administrator has information available which proves that if any of the organic or inorganic or pathogen pollutants in beneficial use biosolids/sludge enters your body either directly by ingestion or inhalation or indirectly through the food chain, can or will, cause your death, or cancer, or disease, or other serious health effects in you and/or your unborn children (40 CFR 503.9(t), FR. 58, 32, p. 9389).
In effect, according to the EPA, the sewage sludge use and disposal regulation 40 CFR 503, puts the health of the farmer, the food consuming public and the farmer’s neighbor at risk as well as the environment. Essentially, according to the EPA, there is no liability or risk to the sludge producer or spreader of the sewage sludge. But what about the neighbor?
Death does not frighten Linda Zander, but she does get angry at the Federal and State Agencies who are causing her sickness by allowing the uncontrolled dumping of sewage sludge near her farm. The toxic pollutants from the sewage sludge have contaminated the air and water on her farm. Zander has had to watch her family and friends become sick,
and some have already died, as well as her livestock. She has had to watch as her livelihood was destroyed and the farm was taken away. The worst part was finding her name on an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) list, as a part of a 1.2 million dollar EPA/Water Environment Federation (WEF) public relations campaign to debunk sewage sludge
The EPA can not afford to investigate any health damage claims caused by the use of sewage sludge because of the liability involved. Which is why it has created the public relations program to debunk any such claims as noted above, such as the Zander case and others.
In fact, Number 2 on the EPA’s list of 19 “horror stories” to debunk is, “Linda Zander case – Sick & dead cattle -worker health -Farm Bureau and Dairy Today stories.”
Rather than investigate the Zanders problems, the EPA/WEF has created a scientific fact sheet, marshaled the state agencies, and scientists to discredit them. (Report to the National Sludge Roundtable (RNSR), July 1996, Laredo Safety Institute, Laredo, TX.)
In reality, before the toxic waste dumping started, the Zanders, who had operated the dairy farm for 20 years, had a comfortable life with no major problems they could anticipate. They looked forward to a comfortable and relatively healthy old age. Within a year after the Western Services Waste Management began spreading sludge adjacent to their farm, Linda and Raymond Zander reported changes occurring in normally healthy dairy cows. Some of their herd developed arthritis and a number of their calves were born with tendon abnormalities. Milk production dropped by 17 percent. Then the cattle started dying.
Furthermore, the Zander’s health problems fit the EPA’s profile of toxic sewage sludge exposure. While Linda experienced mycoplasma pneumonia, chemical induced brain damage, thyroid problems and immune system damage, Raymond suffers from hypothyroid, lupus and nickel toxicity. In addition to their other medical problems, the Zanders are facing financial problems. They were forced to declare bankruptcy, when the bank, who is financing the sludge producers’ defense of their legal suit, foreclosed on their property.
When Zander started looking for answers, she found that the Whatcom County Health Department, the very agency that should have helped her, had approved the sludge dumping. When she could not get the Whatcom County Health Department or the Washington State Ecology Department or the EPA to stop the dumping, she went to Court for an order to stop the dumping. The Court Order to stop it was not effective, because it was then dumped at night.
There is additional documentation which confirms the EPA, WEF, Washington State Ecology Department and King County Department of Metropolitan Services (Metro) are conspiring to destroy the credibility of the Zander family claim. Peter Machno of the King County Metro is the WEF expert delegated (according to the EPA memo dated 12-94) to
explain away this case. On February 22, 1993, two Washington State Ecology representatives – Al Hanson, Kyle Dorsey and five King County Metro representatives – Mark Lucas, Carol Ready, Steve Gilbert, Dan Sturgill and Salley Tenney of the Metro Legal Services as well as Mel Kemper of the City of Tacoma, Hal Thurston an Attorney, and four
individuals actually associated with the Zander law suit, met in a closed meeting to discuss the Zander Case. According to Keith A. Bode’s, Zander Action Summary, the legal cost will exceed $500,000.
One of the articles written about Zander was “Sludge under suspicion,” by Ed Haag, published in the Farm Journal, in March, 1992. According to a letter dated, May 17, 1996, from PIMA GRO SYSTEMS, INC. to the Planning Director of Imperial County, Ca., Pima Gro Systems Director of Technical Services assures Imperial County that, “the Farm Journal article was retracted by the magazine itself due to the amount of mis-information it included.” Furthermore, “The Farm Journal article…… was thoroughly rebutted by Dr. Terry Logan, a respected soil scientist from the University of Ohio and a member of the peer review committee that developed the 503 regulation. This rebuttal article is attached.”
The rebuttal article, dated April 27, 1992, is impressive. Dr. Logan has been, “active in sludge research and consulting for 15 years.” Not only that but he, “co- chaired the W-170 Regional Research Committee of USDA-CSRS that has coordinated research on sewage sludge in the U.S. for the same period of time.” However, according to Logan, he
sympathized “with the Zanders who were taking advantage of an opportunity to reduce their input cost and to assist in recycling of our waste. It was also logical for them to suspect that sludge was the cause of the observed livestock disorders. No data is given, for example, of the metal analysis of the sludge applied to the Zander land, or analysis of
soil or forage from sludge amended pastures.”
It is apparent, Dr. Logan never even read the article he was rebutting. No sludge has ever been applied directly to the Zander land. Furthermore, in spite of Pima Gro Systems assuring the Imperial County Planning Director that the Farm Journal article had been retracted because of Dr. Logan’s rebuttal article, as of July, 11, 1996, Karen Frieberg,
Managing Editor of Farm Journal, states that the Farm Journal has not retracted the article.
The EPA/WEF public relations campaign to debunk the sewage sludge “horror stories” by Zander, and others farmers like her, is based on the EPA’s 18 year old policy of promoting the use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer on lawns, gardens and food crop production land. EPA backed up it’s 18 year old sewage sludge policy with a sludge use and disposal regulation in 1993, 40 CFR 503. Under the EPA regulation, sewage sludge that is too contaminated with certain toxic pollutants to be disposed of safely in a landfill is promoted as a safe fertilizer. Yet, the EPA’s strongest defense against these “horror stories” by Zander and other farmers like her, is it’s claim to a lack of scientific data concerning the human health and environmental damages which can be caused by the toxic pollutants in sewage sludge.
Furthermore, part of the EPA/WEF defense against the damages which can be cause by the uncontrolled use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer, is an EPA funded 1996 National Research Council (NRC) report; Use of Reclaimed Water and Sludge in Food Crop Production. The NRC Report concluded, that based on the EPA’s lack of scientific studies and data indicating potential harmful effects, and if all the other regulations and laws concerning the safety of food worked properly, sludge was probable safe for use on food crop production land.
However, “The [NRC] Committee based its review on existing published literature [furnished by EPA] and discussions with experts in the field.”, such as Dr. Logan. (NRC Report, p. viii)
In effect, according to the NRC Report, since there were no published scientific studies in the literature to support the “horror stories” of Zander and other farmers like her, it concluded the toxic contaminated sewage sludge could not be harmful as a fertilizer on lawns, gardens and food crop production land.
While the NRC Report did not note the EPA’s acknowledgment that exposure to the toxic pollutants in sewage sludge could cause dramatic and serious health effects through the food chain, the Report did note that EPA only addressed 10 toxic heavy metals, out of 126 toxic priority pollutants known to cause serious health effects.
Furthermore, the NRC report failed to note that one of the Studies it claimed to have reviewed, documented Salmonella infection of cattle grazing on pastures fertilized with toxic sewage sludge and a cycle of infection from humans to sludge to animals to humans.
Not only that, but the disease organisms (found in beneficial use sewage sludge), which cause many public health effects; Salmonella, E. coli, Hepatitis A, Cyclosporia and others, according to the National Center for Disease Control, cause approximately 50 million cases of food poisoning and 9,000 deaths annually.
More Sewage Sludge “Science”
Studies have documented Salmonella infection of cattle grazing on pastures fertilized with toxic sewage sludge and a cycle of infection from humans to sludge to animals to humans. (Taylor and Burrows. 1971, WHO. 1981, Dorn, 1985)
Studies have also documented the acute toxicity of organic pollutants in sewage sludge (which the EPA does not address in the beneficial use regulation) and that the pollutants in sludge may not leave any indication in the body as to the actual cause of death. (Babish. 1981, 1985).
Beneficial use of sewage sludge, according to two EPA funded “scientific studies” is based on the fact that “Suitable landfill sites are, however, being exhausted. Thus sludge is now being applied to farmland by many municipalities.” (Dorn, 1985). and “The limited capacity of sanitary landfills is quickly exhausted, and communities are not providing for new landfills.” (National Research Council (NCR), 1996). Sludge disposed of in a sanitary landfill will not harm anyone, nor will it contaminate the food or water supply. (Federal
Register (FR.) 58, 32, p. 9375). Ocean dumping of New York City sewage sludge was stopped by Congress because it destroyed the ocean environment where it was dumped. At the time, only 20% of New York City sludge was acceptable as EPA approved fertilizer under the proposed sewage sludge regulation. (Schultz, 1989).
EPA now brags that 67% of New York City sludge is processed by the New York Organic Fertilizer Company for use on citrus orchards in Florida, wheat farms in Colorado and cotton and grain farms in Arizona. Twenty-seven percent of New York City sludge is used on Merco Joint Venture’s 128,000 acre cattle ranch in west Texas. (WEF/EPA. 1995. Biosolids Fact Sheet 1).
If sludge dumpers do not claim the right to use sewage sludge as a fertilizer for wild grass, lawns, gardens or food crops, the sewage sludge must be disposed of in a safe highly regulated landfill under Part 503. FR. 58, 32, p. 9330. Sewage sludge classified as a high quality fertilizer is too contaminated with toxic pollutants to be disposed of in a part
503 landfill, primarily because of the Chromium content. FR. 58, 32, pp. 9362, 9396 – Parts 503.13 & 503.23. EPA has proposed a solution to the inconsistencies in its regulation. According to the EPA, the solution is to simply remove Chromium from the regulation and no one will notice that it only addresses 9 of the 126 priority toxic pollutants which can kill you or that its high quality sewage sludge fertilizer can not be disposed of in a part 503 landfill. Biocycle, Dec. 1996.
EPA did not address 116 of the 126 priority toxic pollutants in sludge that it knows will cause death, cancer, and other acute illness, because Congress wanted it to regulate a greater number of toxic substances. (FR. 58. 32, pp. 9327, 9389 – Public Facts # 100, # 101). EPA has acknowledged 25 groups of death and disease causing agents and 21 cancer causing agents in sewage sludge.
“EPA concluded that adequate protection of public health and the environment did not require the adoption of standards designed to protect human health or the environment under exposure conditions that are unlikely and where effects were not significant or widespread.”
EPA estimated its beneficial use of sludge as a fertilizer was responsible for about 500 health effects annually. EPA’s Sludge Regulation claims to give itself, the states, cities and sludge dumpers immunity from all damage and health claims caused by the use of sewage sludge and claims to void the Congressional mandated environmental laws (even if a Superfund site is created) as long as the sludge is called a fertilizer.
Under the law, States and cities are required to comply with Federal environmental laws which are very clear: sewage sludge from a wastewater treatment plant is always a solid waste that must be disposed of in a legal landfill where it can harm no one. (Public Laws 98-616, 99-339, 99-499)
Yet, the States no longer accept any responsibility for your protection. As an example, in a letter to Kansas City, Missouri, the Department of Natural Resources attempted to wash its hands of the problem, “These (wastewater treatment plant) inspections did not address compliance with EPA sludge regulations under 40 CFR 503. These regulations are self- implementing and directly enforceable without being included in your state operating permit.” (Dettman, June 23, 1994).
The State of Washington Courts have found that the State has no responsibility to protect the lives and health of individuals under the public duty doctrine or the law. (Zander Case, 1995). EPA is spending 1.2 million dollars to debunk the horror stories (death and diseases) associated with sludge used as a fertilizer and promote the use of sewage sludge on watersheds? (Walker, 1994). The question is, how long will Congress and the American public allow the unwarranted deaths and disease to continue?
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