The National Sludge Alliance calls on Congress to halt the land disposal of sewage sludge

The National Sludge Alliance calls on Congress to halt the land application of sewage sludge because current federal and state laws governing this practice are not protective of human health, agricultural productivity, and the environment. We call on Congress to do all in its power to protect public health and safety and the environment by halting the land disposal of toxic industrial waste-laden sludge that now includes plutonium and other atomic wastes on any American land-farmland, gravel pits, deforested areas or stripped mines. EPA has not done a peer-reviewed study that includes farmers and the general public who are being exposed to toxic sludge. We call on Congress to end the disposal of radioactive wastes to sewage treatment plants anywhere in the country. In addition NSA calls for an end to taxpayer funding for the National Biosolids Partnership a government backed PR group organized to promote the dangerous practice of sludge land disposal, despite mounting evidence that the policy is unsafe and despite widespread public opposition. The National Sludge Alliance - a coalition of grassroots organizations opposed to spreading sludge on land and to any reference to it as "fertilizer" - calls it an unpredictable hazardous waste that must always be treated as a pollutant.

Under the leadership of Congressman Sensenbrenner, the full House Science Committee hearings on March 22nd last year revealed a pattern of retaliation and intimidation of whistleblower scientists within the EPA, a scientist from Cornell, and from a California diary farmer. Further, the Inspector General's Audit report entitled "Biosolids Management and Enforcement" said," the EPA does not have an effective program for ensuring compliance with land application (of sewage sludge) requirements of the Part 503 rules, issued by the Office of Water. Accordingly, while EPA promotes the application, EPA cannot assure the public that current land application practices are protective of human health and the environment."

Specifically, NSA calls on Congress to prohibit land application of sludge that contains pathogens and persistent pollutants, including radioactive waste. These requests have become more urgent since the recent judicial decision in a federal whistleblower case involving questions over whether plutonium and other atomic wastes are safe fertilizer additives. Adrienne Anderson, appointed to represent the sewage plant workers' safety and health concerns on the Metro Water Reclamation District in Denver, Colorado was awarded nearly half a million dollars in damages, including $150,000 in punitive damages, among the largest punitive damage awards on record in whistleblower case law, according to the National Whistleblower Center. Judge David W. DiNardi of Boston concluded that the Metro Water Reclamation District had engaged in at least a five-year campaign of illegal, retaliatory and outrageous acts against Anderson one its own board members who had publicly disclosed critically important information, vital to occupational and public health.

The matter at issue involved the sewage district’s plan - since enacted, unfortunately, despite widespread public controversy and unanimous citizen opposition in public comments of record - flushing a plutonium-contaminated Superfund Site in Colorado, the Lowry Landfill, to public sewers to a non-NRC-licensed facility whose workers are not even protected under OSHA, for redistribution as "fertilizer"on farm land growing crops for human consumption, and in bagged material marketed commercially as "MetroGro", for use on home gardens. This precedent setting permit to allow atomic bomb wastes to be discharged to the sewage treatment plant will open the door for disposal of radioactive wastes around the country in blatant disregard for public health and safety.

NSA also urgently requests that the National Biosolids Partnership no longer be funded with tax dollars. This coalition of the regulator (EPA) and the regulated (WEF, AMSA) is using public funds to mount a massive public relations campaign to change "public perception" regarding toxic sludge as a suitable material for land disposal on agricultural lands. Instead, these funds should be used to research and implement safe alternatives for the management, treatment and disposal of toxic sewage sludge that do not compromise human health, our environment or the safety of the nation’s food supply. The term "biosolids" is a public relation agency-coined term used to linguistically detoxify sludge and convince the public that it is safe. Grant money earmarked for hazardous waste cleanup was used by the partnership to "debunk" rather than investigate cases of harm. Metro Wastewater Reclamation District (MWRD), under the leadership of Robert H. Hite, has waged an illegal smear campaign against Anderson after she disclosed evidence of plutonium in a waste stream MWRD had secretly agreed to accept, while subsequently issuing a permit to discharge plutonium and other radioactive wastes into the public sewer lines. Robert Hite heads both the NBP and Metro Wastewater in Colorado. Ironically, Metro Wastewater is one of the 27 plants chosen to illustrate "good management practices". Continued use of taxpayer money to support this partnership run by a man whose own agency has engaged in illegal and retaliatory acts against its own workers’ representative concerned about the safety of nuclear waste in toxic sewage sludge is a clear example of abuse of the public trust.

At a time when the safety of our food supplies is of paramount importance, we ask our elected officials to stop the destruction of our valuable productive farmland with a policy that allows toxic chemicals, heavy metals, pathogens, and radioactive wastes as "fertilizer." Further, we request that Congress use its legislative power and protect public health and safety from this controversial EPA policy and discontinue public funding of the "National Biosolids Partnership" in the public interest.

We, the members of the National Sludge Alliance, thank you in advance for your consideration of these requests and await your prompt reply.

Sincerely,
Charlotte Hartman, Coordinator

Sources:

National Biosolids Partnership, statement of Robert H. Hite, Chairman

Recommended Decision and Order, District Chief Judge David W. DiNardi, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Administrative Law Judges, in Anderson v. Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, Case No. 1997-SDW-7, September 18, 2001. The Department of Labor has now posted Chief District Judge David W. DiNardi’s September 18, 2001 ruling in the whistleblower case Anderson v Metro Wastewater Reclamation District at its government website, for those who wish to review the entire, 80-page decision. The matter at issue involved the sewage district’s plan - since enacted, unfortunately, despite widespread public opposition- to flush a plutonium-contaminated Superfund Site in Colorado, the Lowry Landfill, to public sewers to a non-NRC-licensed facility whose workers are not even protected under OSHA, for redistribution as "fertilizer" on farm land growing crops for human consumption, and in bagged material marketed commercially as "MetroGro", for use on home gardens.

For more information about MWRD’s plan to turn plutonium-contaminated Lowry Landfill Superfund Site wastes into "beneficial biosolids":

Dirty Secrets", 3-part Special Investigation by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eileen Welsome

For general sludge information and links:

The National Sludge Alliance Sewage Sludge Homepage

VA Land Application of Sludge, the Uncensored Story, by Henry J. Staudinger

ReSource Institute for Low Entropy Systems in Boston

"Potential Health Effects of Odor from Animal Operations, Wastewater Treatment and Recycling of Byproducts," Journal of Agromedicine, Volume 7, Number 1 2000-ISSN: 1059-924X. In the conclusion, the report in the Journal of Agromedicine says: "Our current state of knowledge clearly suggests that it is possible for odorous emissions from. . . recycling of biosolids to have an impact on physical health." ("Recycling of biosolids" refers to land spreading of sewage sludge.) Some symptoms related to inhaling the vapor of sewage sludge mentioned in this report are: eye, nose, and throat irritation, headache, nausea, hoarseness, cough, nasal congestion, palpitations, shortness of breath, stress, drowsiness, chest tightness, an alterations in mood.

Out of Control: Ten Case Studies in Regulatory Abuse" by David L. Lewis. Lewis works as a research microbiologist for US EPA Ecosystems Research Division and is an adjunct professor at the University of Georgia. Excerpt from ‘Sludge Magic’ at the EPA "according to scientists working for EPA Office of Research & Development, the sludge rule on land application of municipal wastes (40 CFR Part 503) promulgated in 1993 may be the most scientifically unsound action ever taken by the agency. Rather than being protective, the rule actually threatens public health and the environment."

The Waste Management Institute at Cornell University published, "The Case For Caution," Recommendations For Land application of Sewage Sludges and An Appraisal of the US EPA’s Part 503 Sludge Rules by Ellen Harrison, Murray B. McBride and David R.Bouldin, Working Paper August 1997 Revised February 1999.

Joanne Marshall's statement to the EPA regarding the death of her son from sludge poisoning.

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