Vancouver Spreading Infectious Waste Upstream

Sewage Sludge Contaminating Water Supplies

Residents of Canada’s Nicola Valley have said that something stinks about biosolids dumped near homes, rivers, aquifers and crops in their region. They set up roadblocks to stop the practice. A powerful new report backs them up.

John Werring, Senior Science Advisor with the environmental group, The Suzuki Foundation, recently came to the Nicola Valley where he met with some of the area Chiefs and with members of the Friends of the Nicola Valley Society. He listened to the concerns they raised about the land application of biosolids. He took samples from some of the biosolids which had been dumped in this beautiful alpine valley.

land application sewage sludge

Tests showed that the biosolids contained alarmingly high amounts of dangerous toxins. In fact, the “soils” tested indicate an area that could be classified as a “contaminated site” according to the BC Contaminated Sites Regulations guidelines.

The samples exceed the BC limits for contaminated sites under Schedules 4 and 7 of the BC Contaminated Sites Regulations on several parameters. The testing  shows that samples of biosolids taken from the Nicola Valley contained several dangerous toxins, including cadmium, uranium, lead, copper, mercury, tin, zinc, dichlorophenol, methylphenol, selenium, sodium, fecal coliform and much more.

Unfortunately, we also know that biosolids contain a deadly and unstoppable contagion known as a prion. Prions are associated with a global epidemic of neurological disease among people, wildlife and livestock. Prions are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, mad cow disease, chronic wasting disease, autism and other neurological maladies known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE). The wastewater industry and governments prefer not to discuss prions or manage the killer proteins.

chronic wasting disease caused by prions

TSEs are caused by a deadly protein called a prion (PREE-on). As such, TSEs also are referred to as prion disease. The critical factor is that prions are unstoppable. The pathogen spreads through the bodily fluids and cell tissue of its victims. Blood, saliva, mucus, milk, urine and feces carry deadly prions from victims. All tissue is infectious just because of the contact with the contaminated blood.

TSEs also include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease in the deer family. Few, if any, mammals are immune. There is no cure.

Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research. According to Prusiner, TSEs all are on the same disease spectrum, which is more accurately described as prion disease. He claims that all TSEs are caused by prions.

prion disease epidemic

Prions are unstoppable and the pathogen spreads through the bodily fluids and cell tissue of its victims. Prions shed from humans are the most deadly mutation. They demand more respect than radiation. Infected surgical instruments, for example, are impossible to sterilize and hospitals throw them away. Prions are in the blood, saliva, urine, feces, mucus, and bodily tissue of its victims. Many factors are contributing to the epidemic. Prions are now the X factor. Industry and government are not accounting for them or regulating them. They are ignoring the threat completely, which violates the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 in the United States. Other nations also are ignoring laws developed to protect food, air and water.

“There is now real evidence of the potential transmissibility of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Thomas Wiesniewski M.D. a prion and Alzheimer’s researcher at New York University School of Medicine. “In fact, this ability to transmit an abnormal conformation is probably a universal property of amyloid-forming proteins (prions).”

A new study published in the journal Nature renews concern about the transmissibility of Alzheimer’s disease between people. A second study by the same scientist in early 2016 adds to the stack of evidence.

Alzheimer's disease epidemic

These findings support the local First Nations, and Friends of the Nicola Valley’s position that the practice of land application of biosolids is far too risky to be continued. In fact, once again, it makes one wonder how the practice ever gained approval in the first place. Sewage dumping poses a direct threat to First Nations’ traditional life-ways, and it threatens the health of all citizens within the Nicola Valley. It also threatens everyone downstream with exposure to toxins and neurological disease.

“The independent tests confirm that biosolids must not be applied to land,” said Chief Aaron Sam. “Biosolids contaminate our lands and waters, and it has serious potential negative effects on fish, animals and plants, First Nations people are reliant on the land for food and medicines. Biosolids put the health of our community members at risk. We can no longer sit back while the Government of British Columbia ignores our Constitutionally protected rights to our title and rights. Published, independent science concludes that land application of biosolids is very dangerous. We now have numbers to substantiate that, and these test results were determined by an independent lab. It is time to start looking at real alternatives to land application. The time of cheap, dangerous toxic dispersal throughout rural areas is over. Cities will have to find a greener, sustainable method of dealing with their toxins.”

biosolids land application and disease

The Biosolids Controversy, Coverup

The following information comes directly from minutes of Metro Vancouver’s Utilities Committee. It describes the biosolids controversy from the eyes of public servants in Vancouver. The minutes have been revised at least once, so let’s say the minutes are dated May 15, 2015. Public safety appears to be a non-issue. 

In November 2014, Metro Vancouver became aware of a controversial biosolids composting project situated in the Merritt area. Biosolids from Regional District of Central Okanagan were being sent to a biosolids composting facility operated by a company called BioCentral. A second BioCentral facility was slated to receive biosolids from Abbotsford upon approval of the Land Application Plan (a requirement of the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation).

A group calling themselves Friends of the Nicola Valley, led by a resident of a 44lot subdivision in close proximity to the second site, began to protest the operation in November 2014. This included conducting interviews, lobbying First Nations in the area, starting a petition and creating a Facebook site which opposes biosolids application in general, not just the BioCentral facility. Although Metro Vancouver projects have been identified on the Facebook site of Friends of the Nicola Valley, Metro Vancouver has not been the principal target to date.

Rey Creek Ranch

Rey Creek Ranch is a property northwest of Merritt that used Metro Vancouver’s biosolids for fertilization periodically from 1997 to 2014. Currently Metro Vancouver has a contract with Sperling Hansen Associates Inc. (SHA) to apply biosolids at Rey Creek Ranch in 2015 for hayfield, range and transitional forest land application. In late January, SHA received a letter from the Interior Health Authority, which allowed the project to proceed subject to notification of neighbors, including the adjacent Lower Nicola Indian Band. In response to this notification, SHA received a letter from the Lower Nicola Indian Band, referencing Tsilhqot’in v British Columbia 2014 SCC 44, the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Aboriginal Rights and Title. The letter stated that based on their current understanding of the practice of biosolids use they are strongly opposed to biosolids operations until a meaningful dialogue with the Crown and Ministry regulators could be completed to address their concerns, and threatening action for continued operation or new activities without consultation. Biosolids deliveries to Rey Creek Ranch were halted on January 26 with the hope that a meeting could be convened in short order and Lower Nicola Indian Band’s technical concerns could be addressed. No meeting has been scheduled by the Band to date.

Nicola Ranch

Nicola Ranch is a property just east of Merritt that used Metro Vancouver’s biosolids for fertilization from 19982005. At the Ranch Manager’s request, Metro Vancouver had scheduled biosolids to be delivered to the Ranch in January 2015 for hayfield fertilization. The parties have determined not to proceed with the delivery at this time.

Local First Nations

On December 12, 2014, the five Chiefs of the Nicola Valley (Nooaitch, Lower Nicola, Shackan, Coldwater, and Upper Nicola Indian Bands), wrote to the Ministry of Environment, demanding that all current biosolids applications cease until the Crown and ministry regulators establish a meaningful dialogue resulting in the five Chiefs’ support. On February 12, 2015, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) Chiefs Council passed a resolution directing the UBCIC Executive to work with the First Nations Summit and the BC Assembly of First Nations to assist the Nicola Chiefs in halting applications of biosolids in the Nicola Valley, in particular the BioCentral composting site, and immediately call on the Provincial Government to develop a provincial strategy for dealing with biosolids including considering modification of current legislation and regulations.

On March 10, members of these five First Nations, in coordination with the Friends of the Nicola Valley, established a blockade on Highway 8 into Merritt, to stop trucks delivering biosolids from Regional District of Central Okanagan to the BioCentral facility.

Since the controversy began, the Friends of the Nicola Valley have been opposing biosolids use, and the response by BioCentral, the MOE and Interior Health Authority has been very limited and has failed to reassure the Merritt community of biosolids safety. As public confidence and support is critical for biosolids application projects and many of Metro Vancouver’s biosolids projects are located within the Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD), these events have the potential to significantly impact our program. Metro Vancouver has been dumping biosolids as a fertilizer throughout the province for 24 years.

Metro Vancouver has the ability to divert biosolids for disposal in Hinton, Alberta, at a higher hauling cost. If Metro Vancouver is unable to send biosolids to Rey Creek Ranch, Nicola Ranch, and OK Ranch in 2015, and is not able to find other comparable land application sites, the total additional cost to the program is estimated to be $1.6 M.

As the current situation has the potential to continue to escalate and impact other project sites, inability to continue with the biosolids beneficial use program could result in additional costs of up to $5M per year for the next 3 years.

Learn more about the perils of sewage mismanagement

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Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and the prion disease epidemic is one of our special areas of practice. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform Stop prion disease.

CJD Kills North Carolina Boy

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Taking Younger Victims

By Andrew Kenney

It wasn’t bacteria or a virus that plagued young Michael Mendy’s body and mind. He did not inherit his symptoms from his mother or father. Nothing toxic was in his blood. An autopsy reveals that he died of prion disease. And while he was sick, Michael’s parents had no explanation.

“I had to figure it out. I had to find an answer. I had to find a doctor that could help him,” said Michael’s mother, Kathleen Mendy, who lives in western Cary. “You don’t think you’re going to come across something that nobody’s ever seen.”

Michael Mendy dies of CJD

But they had. Dozens of specialists and three years of suffering brought no diagnosis. Michael died a year ago, at age 16. And only then did the explanation and the terrible significance of his case emerge.

Doctors estimate that fewer than one in 100 million young people will share Michael’s journey. The sports nut and East Cary Middle School student was killed by a disease that mostly afflicts the elderly. Michael was a heart-wrenching outlier, apparently among the youngest ever to suffer a spontaneous ravaging of the brain.

biosolids land application

Kathleen Mendy thinks it started on Michael’s 13th birthday in 2009. On that January day, another boy knocked Michael’s head to the court during a basketball game. He was playing again a minute later, his mother watching with a tinge of worry.

The symptoms of a years-long illness crept in that weekend, during a mother-son Super Bowl trip to Florida. That’s where she first saw Michael’s confusion, his unsure movements and his inexplicable crying.

It seemed at first like the troubling wake of the teen’s second concussion in three months, but that theory would erode and change. Across the next three years, in a nightmare that kept unfolding, the brawny teenager would drop almost half his body weight, spend months in the hospital, lose his speech and lay debilitated by simple infections.

The printed record of Michael’s hospital visits and test appointments is three and a half pages long. It documents an increasingly desperate search, listing 140 days in the hospital, 91 visits with doctors and 426 therapy appointments from 2009 to 2012.

“I always thought he would get better,” Kathleen Mendy said. “I used to always tell him, ‘Michael, one day you’re just going to run out of your bedroom, and you’re going to come running downstairs, and you’re going to be all better.’ ”

land application sewage sludge

While his friends went on to high school, Michael was confined to a wheelchair and fed through a tube. His care grew so intense that his mother brought on a full-time medical aide. His father, divorced from his mother, drove in from Florida each time he entered the hospital, and Kathleen Mendy’s family often visited from New York. Each treatment was more esoteric than the last. By the end of 2011, the Mendys had seen more than 30 doctors, medical specialists, faith healers and alternative practitioners.

“I tried chiropractors, reflexology, myofacial therapy,” Kathleen Mendy said. “I tried everything.”

The realization came to Kathleen Mendy on the last night of January 2012, the 22nd day that Michael spent in a UNC hospital bed. He’d been kept alive in an intensive-care unit by a breathing machine while an infection took hold of his lungs. The mysterious disorder had left his body unable to respond. The memory shakes Kathleen Mendy to tears. The scene sticks in her mind.

“Not until the night before he died, is when, honestly, it hit me,” she recalled.

The doctors laid a choice before his parents that night. Michael could go home with a tracheotomy and a ventilator, but they believed he’d live just a few months longer. Or doctors could remove him from life support. Michael’s parents didn’t want him to suffer anymore. He died on Feb. 1, 2012.

sewage treatment plant and disease

Only months later would Michael’s family learn the reason for his degradation and death. An autopsy showed that the teenager died of sporadic fatal insomnia, a subtype of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

“I’m so glad I didn’t know what it was” before Michael died, Kathleen Mendy said. “Because then I wouldn’t have had hope.”

“This disease is a descent into hell,” said Florence Kranitz, president of The Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation in New York City.

She saw her own husband die in 2001 of an ailment similar to Michael’s. Since then she has heard the stories of many of the 300 CJD victims her organization identifies each year, including cases of fatal insomnia.

“We get this phone call, and tragically it’s the same phone call over and over again,” Kranitz said. “They’ve never heard of this disease.”

The story she heard from Kathleen Mendy fit the profile, with one beguiling exception. Almost everyone afflicted by CJD subtypes are older than 45, except those who contract a variant of the disease genetically or through contaminated beef, which Michael had not.

biosolids land application and disease

Michael’s case quickly drew the attention of national experts, including Pierluigi Gambetti, director of the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center in Ohio. Gambetti, a pioneering researcher, examined Michael’s brain and in April identified his disease as sporadic fatal insomnia.

He’d later take hours to talk with Kathleen Mendy about her son’s death. Sporadic fatal insomnia and CJD, he explained, are part of the still-mysterious field of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Some of these ravages of the brain, such as so-called mad cow disease (another form of prion disease), begin with an infection of prions, or pathogenic proteins, from the outside. CJD in the young also can be caused by prions, often transmitted during surgery.

Prions and Prusiner win Nobel Prize

Like a virus, a prion can essentially “breed.” The virus hijacks human cells, and the prion reshapes other proteins into its own mutated form. And when a prion or virus propagates enough, it can destroy its host.

But there’s a crucial difference: The prion also can come from within. Gambetti believes that Michael’s disease began when the boy’s brain misfolded a protein, creating a prion instead. The defect may then have multiplied out of control and ruined the delicate balance of the body.

It’s not uncommon for the body to make mistakes. Neurons and other cells normally catch and eliminate prions before they replicate. These defensive systems may grow weaker with age; some people may also inherit weaker defenses.

But Michael was a teenager, with no apparent family history of neurodegenerative diseases. Gambetti put the odds of such a case at one in 100 million in the general population; another doctor said it was one in 600 million. In fact, Michael may be among the youngest ever to be affected by a neurodegenerative disease without an inherited or outside cause.

“We just haven’t seen this disease affect someone this young,” said John Trojanowski, a professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Gambetti, who played a key role in the discovery of fatal insomnia, theorizes that Michael’s illness was random, despite the odds. It may be that, by chance or some unknown factor, Michael’s brain perfectly bred its own pathogen.

“The bodies of all animals are a marvel of things, in positive and negative,” Gambetti said. “They can do things striking for the good, but also for the bad.”

Nearly a year after Michael’s death, Kathleen Mendy finds love and support from family, friends and Compassionate Friends, a local group. But the extreme rarity of Michael’s case is isolating.

When she attended a CJD conference last summer with her twin sister, they met the families of people who had mostly died in middle and old age.

Some nights she goes up to her only child’s room. It’s lined with dozens of sports team caps and trophies. Athletes’ names are still painted on the blades of his ceiling fan, and the UNC comforter is still on his bed. All that’s new is the shrine on the desk, where Michael’s photo stands near a glazed statue of praying hands.

“Sometimes I think I’m OK, and other times it’s like it just happened last night. It’s like a rollercoaster,” Kathleen Mendy said.

She may have as many logical answers now as she’ll ever get – a medical, if not a spiritual description of why Michael died.

She still doesn’t know what it was that made her son vulnerable. She believes Michael’s concussions triggered his illness, but his doctors haven’t confirmed the idea.

“I’m a little bit resolved that I’ll never hear the answer,” she said. “It would be nice to know, but if I don’t know it, it’s not what matters now.”

She finds hope instead in the idea that she could help others; she’s thinking of writing a book and becoming a public advocate for those who suffer with CJD.

Meanwhile, as Michael’s birthday and the first anniversary of his death approach, Gambetti and one of Michael’s former doctors are preparing to present his case to their respective medical communities. As painful as the case is, “its rarity may contribute to expand the knowledge on this terrible disease,” according to Gambetti.

He hopes his research will one day allow much earlier diagnosis and treatment of fatal insomnia. Such a breakthrough could key medical progress across the spectrum of prion-related diseases, which are fatal in practically all cases.

Gambetti’s research into Michael’s case will soon yield a more immediate result too: He’ll be able to tell caregivers that sporadic fatal insomnia can strike not just the mature, but perhaps people who are just beginning their lives.

And with Michael’s story spreading, the next stricken family may at least know the harrowing path ahead.

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Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and the prion disease epidemic is an area of special expertise. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform