Mismanagement Putting Lives, Planet At Risk

Six former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrators are calling for reform at the agency. Although most of the former EPA leaders were critical of the current management, they were optimistic about the EPA’s future in an open letter published Wednesday. The letter reads:

As former leaders of the Environmental Protection Agency serving both Democratic and Republican administrations, we take great pride in the agency’s many successes improving the quality of the air we breathe, safeguarding the water we drink, and protecting the environment that sustains us and our economy. As EPA approaches its 50th anniversary this December, we believe the time has come to reset the future course for EPA to address the environmental challenges we face today.

The nature of the environmental and health challenges our nation faces have changed. Fifty years ago, pollution was visible and unrelenting throughout our country. Today, less visible but equally dangerous environmental hazards threaten communities in ways that differ from place to place, person to person.

Climate change is having far-reaching impacts on air quality, infectious diseases, and water quantity and quality, as well as intensifying destructive climate events such as floods, storms, wildfires, and droughts. Environmental injustices are putting lower-wealth communities, communities of color, and indigenous communities at disproportionately high levels of exposure, risk, and vulnerability to toxic pollution, not to mention the pandemic we are now facing.

Speedier, more effective assessments and responses are needed to face pandemics, new toxic hazards, and other emerging or unmitigated health risks. The Environmental Protection Network (EPN) and its over 500 EPA alumni have developed detailed recommendations for setting new directions at EPA. We invite everyone to review this important report http://www.environmentalprotectionnetwork.org/reset.

Not everyone will agree with every recommendation, for there is no single roadmap for the way forward.

We agree with EPN that the following overarching recommendations for EPA are essential to meet the environmental challenges of the 21st century and improve people’s lives and our economy.

  1. EPA must reaffirm its commitment to fully protect public health and the environment.
  2. EPA must conduct its scientific and economic analysis free from political interference.
  3. EPA must incorporate environmental justice in every aspect of its work in order to address and resolve inequitable environmental conditions.
  4. EPA must focus on the most significant and pervasive public health and environmental risks, prioritizing actions that provide the greatest health benefit for the greatest number of people, including vulnerable populations.
  5. EPA must innovate and collaborate with states, tribes, local governments, and federal agencies as co-regulators, as well as with stakeholders, including the private and non-profit sectors and community groups, to build an effective and resilient system of public health and environmental protections.
  6. EPA must earn and maintain broad public trust by demonstrating the best ethical behavior, transparently considering all stakeholder viewpoints, and providing objective environmental information. To do the job well, EPA will need additional resources. As new threats to the health and environmental needs of a growing population have multiplied, EPA’s budget has declined. In inflation-adjusted dollars, EPA’s budget was more than 50% higher under President Ronald Reagan than it is today. The steady deterioration of resources has undermined EPA’s readiness for the challenges ahead and the agency’s ability to adapt and respond to emerging needs.

While we are concerned about the current state of affairs at EPA, we are hopeful for the agency’s future. EPA has a strong foundation on which to build. Capable and talented staff members are ready to answer the call. They have labored in good faith across administrations of both parties to fulfill EPA’s mission by following the law, applying the best available science, and displaying openness and transparency with the public. America’s bedrock environmental laws have delivered enormous health and economic benefits to the American public, as documented by Republican and Democratic administrations alike.

The public values clean air, clean water, and a healthy natural environment, notwithstanding differences in priorities and approaches. The years ahead will bring new and often far-reaching environmental and health risks. They also hold great potential for new approaches, new opportunities, and new technologies to confront environmental problems.

Growing ranks of companies are showing internal leadership on sustainability without waiting for regulations. New technologies and data tools can pinpoint and help solve environmental threats. State and local governments, farmers and other landowners, community-based groups, universities, and others have pioneered new approaches to getting results. We have successfully risen as a nation to confront past threats to our health and environment. We are at an environmental crossroads, and we are hopeful that America will again muster the resolve, the will, and the action needed to protect public health, the environment, and our economy.

Sincerely, Hon. Lee Thomas EPA Administrator, 1985-1989

Hon. William Reilly EPA Administrator, 1989-1993

Hon. Carol Browner EPA Administrator, 1993-2001

Hon. Christine Todd Whitman EPA Administrator, 2001-2003

Hon. Lisa Jackson EPA Administrator, 2009-2013

Hon. Gina McCarthy EPA Administrator, 2013-2017

They endorsed the broad goals of new recommendations for the agency from the Environmental Protection Network (EPN), a group of hundreds of former agency employees, which also calls for “resetting the course” of the agency.

These goals include conducting analyses that are free from political interference, resolving inequitable environmental conditions faced by disadvantaged communities and prioritizing actions that provide the greatest health benefits to the most people.

The report from the EPN also made more specific policy recommendations to the agency, such as suspending its rollback of Obama-era water protections and affirming California’s authority to set its own vehicle emissions standards, both of which have been major points of contention. The EPA has also rolled back many other environmental rules in recent years like regulations governing fuel efficiency standards and power plants. The agency has lost hundreds of staff under the current administration. The letter prompted an immediate response from the EPA.

For example, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that deadly prions are in sewage and that there has been no way to detect them or stop them. As such, the EPA has never issued guidance on prion management within wastewater treatment plants. Unfortunately, the EPA’s risk assessment on sewage sludge (biosolids) was prepared before the world of science knew about prions. The agency clung to its antiquated sludge rule crafted back in the dark ages until recently. All along, it considered prions as an “emerging contaminant of concern.”

biosolids land application and disease

The risk assessments prepared by the U.S. EPA for wastewater treatment and biosolids are flawed and current practices of recycling this infectious waste are fueling a public health disaster. Many risks are not addressed, including prions and radioactive waste. They don’t mention prions or radiation because there is no answer. Most nations are making the same mistake. We’re dumping killer proteins on crops, parks, golf courses, gardens, ski areas, school grounds and beyond. Wind, rain and irrigation spread these contaminants and many more throughout our communities and watersheds.

Meanwhile, its outdated risk assessments are still in use. They are promoting a public health disaster. The neurotoxins found in sewage, including heavy metals, also are contributing to the global spike in autism, which follows the same timing and trajectory as the spike in neurodegenerative diseases.

“Since it’s unlikely that the sewage treatment process can effectively stop prions, adopting measures to prevent the entry of prions into the sewer system is advisable,” said the Toronto Department of Health, November 2004.

Once unleashed on the environment, prions remain infectious. They migrate, mutate and multiply as they infect crops, water supplies, wildlife, livestock, sea mammals and humans. According to prion researcher Joel Pedersen at the University of Wisconsin, prions in soil become up to 680 times more infectious. From there, they migrate, mutate and multiply. It’s a real world version of Pandora’s Lunchbox.

“Our results suggest that if prions enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most prions would bond to sewage sludge, survive anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids,” Pedersen said. “Land application of biosolids containing prions represents a route for their introduction into the environment. I emphasize the importance of keeping prions out of municipal wastewater treatment systems.”

Pedersen also found that sewage treatment does not inactivate prions. Therefore, prions are lethal, mutating, migrating and multiplying everywhere sewage (biosolids) is dumped.

Prions could end up in sewage treatment plants via slaughterhouses, hospitals, dental offices and mortuaries just to name a few of the pathways. The disposal of sludge represents the greatest risk of spreading prion contamination in the environment. Plus, we know that pathogens, pharmaceutical residue and chemical pollutants found in sewage sludge are taken up by plants and vegetables.”

Thanks to the mismanagement of infectious waste, including sewage, the animal world is contracting prion disease from humans. They also are passing it among themselves via their own bodily fluids. When it comes to prion disease, species barriers are a myth.

Unfortunately, prions linger in the environment, homes, hospitals, nursing homes, dental offices and beyond infinitely. Prions defy all attempts at sterilization and inactivation. If they can’t stop prions in the friendly and sterile confines of an operating room, they can’t stop them in the wastewater treatment plant.

Dr. Claudio Soto confirmed that plants uptake prions from the soil and water. The plants become fatally infectious when consumed. Even wildlife and sea mammals are contracting brain disease from people because of the dumping of infectious waste on farms, ranches and forests. Humans, wildlife and livestock are vulnerable to prion disease via crops and plants grown on land treated with infectious waste (sewage sludge, biosolids and reclaimed wastewater).

Crops for humans and livestock grown in sewage sludge absorb prions and other neurotoxins. They become infectious. We’re all vulnerable to neurotoxins right now due to widespread denial and mismanagement. It’s time to stop the land application of sewage sludge (LASS) in all nations. Safer alternatives exist.

Prion disease is highly contagious, incurable and fatal. Despite all of the smoke and mirrors, prion disease is prion disease. It’s killing more and more mammals, including humans, every year. The hype about species barriers is ridiculous, reckless and irresponsible.

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Gary Chandler is the CEO of Crossbow Communications. He also is the founder of Sacred Seedlings and Earth News. Gary Chandler is the author of 11 books about health and environmental issues from around the world. Chandler also is the author of the Language and Travel Guide To Indonesia.