Farm Risks and Issues
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- Cornell study of current US federal regulations governing the land application of sewage sludges, including findings that regulations do not appear adequately protective of human health, agricultural productivity or ecological health. (pdf)
- Investigating the serious illnesses, including deaths, and adverse environmental impacts linked to land application of sewage sludge, including the link between the US EPA, the wastewater treatment industry and Congress to fund industry-friendly scientists and discouraging independent research, to prevent local governments from restricting land application and to thwart litigation against municipalities and the industry. (pdf)
- It was a farm idea with a big payoff and supposedly no downside, until a federal judge ordered the Agriculture Department to compensate farmer Andy McElmurray for his poisoned land and cattle after using �safe� sewage sludge as a fertilizer. (pdf)
- Comprehensive, approachable and well referenced overview about the concerns of land application of sewage sludge: What�s in sludge? How can contaminants from sludge end up in our food? What�s the concern? What is the Governments� role and What Can You Do? The best �one-stop� paper on the concerns of sewage sludge to the health and safety of our food, water and communities. (pdf)
- Is Reclaimed Wastewater Too Contaminated to Use or Too valuable to Waste, Dr. Edo McGowan. Santa Barbara Independent. December 18, 2008. With over 12,000 acres of leafy green and other consumed raw crops in the Santa Barbara area, �reclaimed� water from the Monterey sewer plant goes out to these crops. But is it safe? (pdf)
- Since 1985, new scientific evidence and regulatory policy have emerged with respect to sewage biosolids (sewage sludge) recycling on land. Recognizing that use of sewage biosolids on agricultural soils has expanded and that our knowledge regarding the practice has increased over the past 20 years, this document benefited by comments from 13 scientists, field staff and regulators. (pdf)
- An overview presented to the US EPA in 2000 of scientific concerns of dioxin standards of land applied sewage sludge including endangerment to farm families, children, grazing meat animals, wildlife and the environment. Read article
- �Potential Health Impact of Certain Persistent and Other Chemicals Detected in Sludge� � Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy chart linking health impacts and the chemically associated with their exposure. (pdf)
- USFA Bagged Fertilizer & Lawn Care Company Products Using Sewage Sludge/Biosolids (pdf)
- Comparison of metal concentrations between exceptional quality (EQ) sewage sludge and dairy animal manure � no they are not the same! Read article
- Comparison of heavy metal standards of US and other world country standards (pdf)
- Account of the death of the Boyce family farm after the dumping of sewage sludge by the city of Augusta, GA used false claims of sludge safety. (pdf)
- 2005 study of health-related symptoms of residents living near farms in Ohio where sewage sludge/biosolids are spread, including bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, giardiasus, skin ulcers and other diseases. (pdf)
- Study published by National Institute of Environmental Health Science indicating that exposure of male sheep fetuses to real-world mixture of chemicals found in sewage sludge affects hormones and reproductive health. (pdf)
- Testimony of Andy McElmurray, farmer whose death of family farm and animals after sewage sludge was land applied became the spotlighted case of McElmurray vs. USDA. (pdf)
- Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health measured levels of an antibacterial hand soap ingredient, triclocarban, as it passed through a wastewater treatment facility. Read article
- How Salmonella bacteria can cause food poisoning by attaching to salad leaves is revealed in new research presented at the 21st International ICFMH Symposium 'Food Micro 2008' conference. Read article
- 2009 United Sludge-Free Alliance event presenting Andy McElmurray, Bill Boyce and Dr. Murray McBride, of Cornell Waste Management Institute, addressing farmers and community about the concerns of land applying sewage sludge. Read Article
- Missouri Tannery Sludge Lawsuits Filed by Landowners Near Brain Tumor Cluster Read Article
- Ash leftover from burning coal contains arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metals but the U.S. government is encouraging farmers to dump it right on their fields, and effectively, right onto the public's food supply. Read Article
- Cornell study of agricultural soils accumulate trace metals, particularly copper and zinc, as a result of their presence in wastes (sewage biosolids and manures) and fungicides that are applied over long periods of time and their effect of plant growth. Read Article
- Herbicide-tainted manure wilts organic crops across Whatcom County Read Article
- Crops Absorb Pharmaceuticals From Treated Sewage Read Article
Sludge Is Not �Normal Farming Practice�
Is sewage sludge/biosolids really recycled human waste, chock full of �natural� byproducts ready for �recycling�? While the human �manure� is promoted as a fertilizer, the danger of combining our waste together and spreading it on our food supply, water source and communities is conveniently overlooked. The human �manure� mixture of sewage sludge/biosolids from our modern waste water treatment plants is not the same as animal manure fertilizer. Sewage treatment plants were never designed to produce fertilizer: they were designed to treat and condense whatever goes down the drain from homes, businesses, industry, hospitals, laboratories, nursing homes, funeral homes, and street run-off where it collects at municipal waste water treatment plants. The goal of the waste water treatment plant is to treat the waste in order to release the water back into the community. Water returned from the waste water treatment plant back into the community is called effluence and is often poured directly into waterways, streams and rivers but is also used to water crops or lawns. Heavy metals and other hazardous chemicals do not go away from the heating or squeezing performed at the waste water treatment plants. On the contrary; modern science has found real cause for concern with the practice of combining bacteria, pharmaceuticals, viruses, heavy metals and chemicals together and introducing this chemical soup back into our society. The solids that remain from the waste water treatment plant are called sewage sludge or �biosolids�. The term �biosolids� was created by the sludge industry as a cozier way to promote the solid byproduct of sludge after they were forced to stop ocean dumping. Ocean dumping of sludge was banned in the 1980�s - considered a toxic waste under the �Clean Water Act� - because the toxic mix created dead zones. This change in regulations, necessary for the health and safety of our oceans, forced the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and municipalities to find another way to dispose of the millions of tons of sludge that is produced in America annually. The industry involved in all things sewage sludge - once known as the �Federation of Sewage Workers� - renamed itself the �Water Environmental Federation� (WEF) and �sewage sludge� became promoted as the cozier �biosolids�. But, alas, a name change does not change the facts � toxic, modern waste does not belong in our food, water and communities. Rather than invest in safe alternative uses for sewage sludge, including using sludge as an alternative fuel source, bureaucracies and the sludge industries invested funds to promote our toxic modern waste as a �fertilizer�. Although untested for safety to humans, animals, land, water and air quality, land application was promoted as the cheapest and easiest way to dispose of America�s hazardous sewage waste. What had been toxic waste that killed life in the oceans somehow morphed into a �beneficial use� program for farmers. Approximately 60% of all of America�s sludge is applied to farmlands, sold as bagged �compost fertilizer� for home landscaping and gardens, or spread on public parks, playgrounds and golf courses.
Cheap Disposal Does Not Mean Safe Sludge
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the bureaucracy responsible for sewage sludge safety, maintains that the Part 503 national regulation minimal testing requirements of nine elements. These elements � arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, zinc � and two �indicator bacteria� pathogens � salmonella or E. coli � are tested to �estimate� our health risk. Theoretically, if either of the �indicator bacteria� salmonella or E. coli is killed, you have magically killed all dangerous bacteria or pathogens in the sewage sludge. Sometimes, the sludge may contain high levels of one of the indicator bacteria, so if the other indicator bacteria measures lower, it can be used as a benchmark for �safe bacteria levels�. Biosolids/sludge is classified as Class A sludge if there is no �indicator bacteria� salmonella or E. coli present when tested at the waste water treatment plant. Class B sludge means levels of �indicator bacteria� have been registered. This is the only difference between classes of sewage sludge. Class A sludge can be spread anywhere, including being sold as bulk or bagged compost fertilizer. No permits, location, amount or record-keeping are maintained for applications of Class A sewage sludge. In 1981, EPA published a document describing various persuasive techniques that could be used to induce public acceptance of sludge with suggestions of targeting low-income neighborhoods and cash strapped farmers. By January 1993, Part 503 was put into place nationwide to create a legal loophole for sludge disposal. The EPA and the sludge hauling industry have invested in its promotion to develop the �good beneficial sell� to farm communities. Under the 503 rule, each state may make stronger standards for disposal of sewage sludge. Unfortunately, some states create laws that remove or block community�s rights to require further testing of sludge land application impact on neighboring water sources, land, air quality and other quality of life issues. There is no state or national systematic tracking of health incidents related to sewage sludge. When sludge is considered a fertilizer, higher levels of toxic chemicals can be dumped on farmland based on the commercial fertilizer exclusion in the Superfund Act. The EPA has admitted there have never been cancer risk assessments for the pollutants in sludge, yet there are known carcinogens in sludge, some of which have been found to cause disease just from inhaling dust. The treated sludge also contains human bacteria, viruses and parasites which do not require testing or monitoring. Of course, major illnesses often do not present symptoms for years. In 2002, the National Research Council (NRC) reviewed Part 503 of the US EPA standards of sewage sludge. NRC found the basis of the 1993 chemical standards for biosolids to be outdated and suggested that �additional scientific work is needed to reduce uncertainties about the potential for adverse human health effects from exposure to biosolids.� Because different soils have different toxicity abilities, blanket standards and rules for soil acceptability are useless. Simply put, different soils use and absorb nutrients, heavy metals and toxins at different rates; sandy soil is different than clay soil. Also, there is no testing requirement of toxicity build-up in the soil itself. Periodic reporting is required but is self-regulated. Monitoring and record keeping is done by the sludge producers and haulers. Without permits or records, there is no way to track how sludge products affect the safety of food, water supplies and communities. There is no way to determine health risks or toxic build-up of elements like heavy metals. For the farmer, there is no way to track what compounds are being applied to his land if he experiences a drop in production of crops or health of livestock. Newest 2010 studies from researchers at Yale University, Connecticut, find that sludge/biosolids isn't heated high enough to kill pathogens. This is no surprise; in 2006, studies funded by the Water Environmental Research Foundation (WERF) � an arm of the sludge industry - noted that sludge/biosolids that were dewatered by centrifuge created a material that passed standard bacteria tests, yet just 20 minutes after dewatering, showed substantial increase in bacterial counts. WERF also released findings that confirm the re-growth of fecal coliform after treatment. Somehow science and industry have chosen to ignore the obvious - bacteria re-grow after treatment. Nearly half of all the municipal sewage sludge produced in the USA each year -- up to 8 million tons � is land applied. Known toxins and antibiotics found by the EPA in sewage sludge have no regulations, remain untested for the impact on human health and are introduced into our food and water supply through land application as a fertilizer option. Dozens of chemicals found in the �2009 Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey� are introduced into the environment, include neurodevelopmental toxins, which have been found to alter brain growth. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), dioxin, brominated flame retardants and pesticides have all been found in sewage sludge. The use of sewage sludge on any open land means that America�s toxic waste may be absorbed by crops and find their way up the food chain and into human diets. The issue of land application of sewage sludge is two-fold: the infiltration of known toxic waste in America�s food and water supply and the impact to the communities where sewage sludge is land applied. If you live in a community where sewage sludge is spread, the sludge odor is often a cause of complaints. Until recently, odors have been dismissed as a purely esthetic or quality-of-life issue. But evidence that exposure to odor-causing chemicals promote illness is mounting. Some airborne contaminants can cause a variety of symptoms including eye, nose, and throat irritation, headache, nausea, diarrhea, hoarseness, sore throat, cough, chest tightness, nasal congestion, palpitations, shortness of breath and stress. In the most extreme case, severe illness and death have been linked to the airborne effects of land application of sludge. When residents living near land where sewage sludge is applied report symptoms, they are often dismissed by the bureaucracies and elected officials charged to protect their health and safety.
Sludge on Your Food � You Are What You Eat
There are known and determined health and safety risks of growing America�s food in America�s toxic waste. Food crops grown on sludge-applied lands can absorb heavy metals found in soil treated with sewage sludge. Heavy metals that build over time do not necessarily wash away and persist in the soil for years. Plants continue to pull, or uptake, heavy metals from the soil for years after sludge is applied. The build-up of heavy metals, along with the uptake of those heavy metals, is also dependant on which crops are grown on the land and the metal uptake of various crops. Sometimes plant crops are affected by toxicity before they show trouble in growth, so one cannot always rely on the visual indicator to determine plant health or safety. Cadmium and lead, heavy metals linked to intestinal and kidney damage, have been found to be easily taken up in food products like carrots, potatoes, lettuce, spinach and grains. Sensitivity levels to heavy metals vary depending on the plant. Various food crops can absorb a multitude of chemicals, yet these foods remain untested for any of the known toxins found in sewage sludge. The level of food and plant contamination is dependant on the varying compounds found in the sludge, most of which are untested. No labels are required for food grown on sewage sludge so the consumer has no �sludge-free� label to ensure safety. Some examples of heavy metal plant and vegetable sensitivity include:
- VERY SENSITIVE: Chard, lettuce, beets, carrots, turnip, peanut, clovers, crown vetch, alfalfa, sunflower
- SENSITIVE: Mustard, kale, spinach, broccoli, radish, tomato, birds foot trefoil, soybean, snap bean, timothy, bent grass, ryegrass
- TOLERANT: Cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini squash, oat, orchard grass, switch grass, Kentucky bluegrass, fescues
- VERY TOLERANT: Corn, Sudan grass, smooth brome grass
The 1981 US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document �Land Application of Municipal Sewage Sludge for the Production of Fruits and Vegetables: A Statement of Federal Policy� fully recognizes the potential dangers. The guidelines are filled with wording �if the guidelines are followed� and �although the cumulative cadmium in land application may be reached�, yet the application of sewage to farmland is based on the nitrogen and phosphorous rates. In fact, the 1981 EPA guidelines find no danger in polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) levels found in sludge and encourage �incorporation� in the soil. Studies included noting that human food crops like carrots have levels of PCB�s but, ��. assumes that carrots will receive the normal processing of scrubbing and peeling, since carrots tend to accumulate PCB�s in the skin� (pg 9). No mystery - we know that PCB�s are carcinogenic and are linked to dysfunction in organs including the liver and brain yet the EPA refuses to control the distribution of this toxin on our food supply. Even this document, signed by the US EPA, US Department of Agriculture and the US Food and Drug Administration, recognizes that heavy metals �translocate� into edible tissue of plants and animals. �However, many sludges also contain substances which could contaminate such crops and make them unfit for human consumption. The contaminants of greatest concern are the heavy metals, toxic organic compounds, and pathogenic microorganisms�� (pg 2). In some parts of the US, recycled water from waste water treatment plants is used to irrigate crops, including strawberries and broccoli. Multi drug-resistant bacteria are found to survive the treatment process and be present in the finished water product. In Santa Barbara, California, the water effluent finished product of recycled water contained bacteria resistant to 11 of 12 antibiotics and were also chlorine-resistant. Water effluent is now recognized to carry the remains of many of our chemical and pharmaceutical byproducts. For instance, recent studies have found that 75% of the key ingredient used in antibacterial hand soap, triclocarban, remains in sewage sludge even after it has been biologically treated for up to three weeks. In the Salinas Valley of California, about 12,000 acres of leafy green and other crops are grown. This area has recently experienced numerous problems with pathogen-contaminated foods. The push on California farmlands and vineyards to use recycled water is the result of disposal challenges of sewage waste water effluent that does not and cannot meet water quality standard for being released into rivers and streams. This water is also used to irrigate the lawns of schools, playgrounds and parks. As we experience consistent and reoccurring problems of bacterial outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella in fruits and vegetables - like lettuce, spinach, pistachios and tomatoes � the question begs: Who is following the link of �fertilizing� and irrigating America�s food with our own human waste? There has been no risk assessment completed on the practice of sludge applied to pastures that is not tilled into the soil. Risk assessment on grazing land after sludging has been discontinued pretends there is no residue in the pastures. The stunning lack of research on the impact of toxins found in sewage sludge and applied to pastures is unsettling. Dioxin, found in many samples of sewage sludge, gathers in meat, fats and milk and is a carcinogen and is known to cause birth defects. Many chemical contaminants and heavy metals found in sludge - including dioxin, PCB�s, pesticides, some flame retardants and cadmium - tend to bio-accumulate in fat tissue and milk. Studies show that PCB�s, dioxin and flame retardants all concentrate in breast milk and are extremely accessible to the nursing baby. Milk in general collects and accumulates dioxin, but testing of the human breast milk that a nursing mother provides and the effect on their babies has not been gathered. Studies from respected universities, including Cornell University, have begun tracing the link between known toxins found in sludge and their infiltration into the plants and animals we consume.
Sludge Dangers to Farmers, America�s Food Source & Our Future
Sewage sludge is falsely marketed to farmers as a fertilizer because it has measurable amounts of Nitrogen and Phosphorous. By accepting the sewage sludge, the farmer can save thousands of dollars normally spent on synthetic fertilizer. As the sludge industry participates in conservation and zoning plans, hosting farm appreciation gatherings and making huge financial displays of �affection� in the farm community, farmers are lured into trusting the big business of the sludge industry. These corporations understand how to pose as �a wolf in sheep�s clothing�. In most states, the municipalities or sludge haulers are required to obtain a permit to spread sludge on farm fields. Farmers or landowners who use the Class B sludge are required to prepare and implement a Farm Conservation Plan with the appropriate Best Management practices approved by the County Conservation District. All of these terms sound great, but �permitting� toxic waste to be poured on our food and water does nothing to protect our health, safety, food or future. If you can farm it, you can sludge it. Depending on the size of the waste water treatment plant, testing of sludge is required once a month to once a year.
By accepting sewage sludge as a fertilizer option, regardless of approval by a regulatory bureaucracy or marketing by a business, the farmer is unknowingly participating in damaging his own land, crops, livestock, family and future. Excessive accumulations of certain metals, such as copper, zinc, and nickel, reduce crop yields. The cumulative limits of copper, nickel, and zinc in Part 503 regulations are 10 times higher then those recommended by soil scientists especially in the northeast part of the US, where soils are acid. According to soil scientists at Cornell University Waste Management Institute, farmers using sewage sludge as fertilizer may experience reduction of crop production. In some cases, crop and livestock loss can take upwards of ten years to present as a noticeable problem. �Agricultural soils accumulate trace metals, particularly copper and zinc, as a result of their presence in sewage sludge/ biosolids and fungicides that are applied over a long period of time.� Cornell further warns farmers that they have assumed a big liability and risk if the sewage sludge contains chemical combinations that are toxic to animals, plants or humans. Yield reductions considered acceptable by EPA standards can be up to 50%, regardless of the farmers crop needs. There has never been a national long-term risk assessment of yield reduction as contaminants build in the soils where sludge is spread. Studies of long-term, sludge-treated fields in the UK, Germany, and Sweden show that soils can be affected by metal concentrations that are not necessarily toxic to crops. Many of the metals allowed and accepted on US farmland application are over 100 times what other industrialized nations allow in sewage sludge application for farmlands. Also, microorganisms found in soils are instrumental in the health of plant and food growth, but the Part 503 of EPA standard does not set limits based on soil microorganisms.
Top Dressing = Surface Sludge
Human and animal foods are allowed to be grown on land where sewage sludge has been applied. Cattle and other livestock may also be set to graze on pastures with sludge �top dressing� - spraying sludge on top of the foliage of a grazing field without plowing into the soil. While there are waiting periods from the time the sludge is applied before human food crops, tobacco and forage can be harvested, there are no tests required to confirm hazardous levels of chemicals, heavy metals and pathogens in the plant or animal product. As most states trim budgets, the bureaucracies charged with checking farms for sludge compliance are generally short staffed and rarely visit every farm that applies sludge to their property. Unfortunately, no two loads of sewage sludge have the same composition of chemicals or pathogens, so the farmer does not know what is actually applied on his land even if the sewage treatment plant followed the EPA rules. Assumptions on the amount of soil that grazing and foraging animals consume vary depending on the animals, location, vegetation and soil exposure. Sludge applied to pasture and field crops where animals not only consume soils as part of their regular grazing process but also ingest sludge that is still on the plants, directly introduces the untested pathogens and poisons into the animal. Lack of data on the ingestion of sludge vegetation adds to scientific �guestimating�. While grazing animals ingest soil as part of their food source, the EPA risk assessment assumes a mere 1.5% of animal�s diet as soil intake. Yet poultry is known to consume soil in their general foraging diet in varying amounts; geese will consume as much as 8% of their diet as soil, wild turkeys will consume up to 9% and chickens and other poultry have been found to accumulate dioxins in their bodies. For some animals, like sheep, up to 30% of their diet is soil from grazing. Wild animals also ingest foliage and soil in varying amounts and remain untested for health contamination. In communities where hunting is prevalent and game meat is part of the diet, sludge contamination should be considered a cause for concern. US EPA regulations do not restrict grazing on lands to which Class A sludge has been applied and allow grazing 30 days after application of Class B sludge. No tests are required on the animal�s physical intake of sludge. Dr. Murray McBride, of Cornell Water Management Institute, expresses concern with grazing animals on fields that have been �top dressed�, noting that ��. the animal can be ingesting something close to pure sludge.� Cattle ingest 1-18% of the dry matter of soil or sludge while grazing. Dr. McBride notes that perflourochemicals (PFOS and PFOA) - also known as Teflon-type products - persist indefinitely in the environment and repeated application of sludge to farm fields leads to a concentration of perflourinated chemicals. In 2008, reports of very high levels of PFOS and PFOA were found in 5,000 acres of grazing farmland in Alabama. In 2006, perflourochemical contamination of two rivers in Germany was traced to fields treated with sewage sludge. Both Molybdenum and Selenium can easily be taken up by plants. Concentrated levels become toxic to foraging animals consuming the fresh or dried fodder. Studies showing uptake of molybdenum into red clover and forage grass are examples of toxicity in forage materials. Molybdenum toxicity, unlike the slow and building toxicity of other heavy metals, is a short-term impact. Uptake of Molybdenum into legumes, including foraging alfalfa, is relatively high. Both Molybdenum and Selenium are highly soluble in both water and plants. Some countries, including Denmark and Sweden, recognizing the dangers of poisoning their food source and do not allow sludge application of any kind on grazing land. The 2005 study at University of Edinburgh, in the United Kingdom, �Cellular and Hormonal Disruption of Fetal Testis Development in Sheep Reared on Pasture Treated with Sewage Sludge� finds: �We established that exposure of pregnant ewes to a complex cocktail of environmental chemicals (those present in sewage sludge) could selectively affect development of the testes of male fetuses�.Treatment had no effect on the body weight of the ewes, but reduced body weight by 12-15% in fetuses.� This study was prompted by concerns about deteriorating human male reproductive health, in particular falling sperm counts in human males and its possible relationship to environmental chemical exposure during fetal development. The study results showed that long-term exposure of breeding ewes to a mix of chemicals added to pasture in sewage sludge, according to standard farming practices, resulted in major reduction and hormonal function of fetal testis. Could the same sewage sludge toxins found to affect sheep reproductive health, be a link to the extreme drop in human male reproductive health?
Sludge Fertilizer Turns America�s Farms into Toxic Dumps
Farmers throughout America, including Georgia, Vermont, Washington and Missouri, have been destroyed by the toxic pollutants in sludge. In some cases, such as United States vs. Cooper the farmer was charged and imprisoned for improper disposal of Class B sludge. In 2009, Missouri farms that received sludge marketed as a fertilizer from a tannery, were linked to an outbreak of brain cancer after contaminating the community with Hexalent chromium, also known a Chromium 6. In other cases, such as McElmurray v. Augusta-Richmond County, farmer Andy McElmurray accepted sludge to his 1,730 acres dairy farm only to witness the death of his land and lifestyle. With the filtered information and constant reassurance of safety of the sludge, Andy had no idea that the sludge contained levels of arsenic, toxic heavy metals and PCB�s two to 2,500 times federal health standards. His cows died a slow and painful death while Andy searched for an answer. Finally, he discovered that the sludge he had been accepting as free and �safe� fertilizer was the cause of his problems. Even years after halting sludge application, his farm is still too toxic to support plants and livestock. In McElmurray�s court case, Judge Alaimo stated, �senior EPA officials took extraordinary steps to quash scientific dissent, and any questioning of EPA�s biosolids program.� Although McElmurray�s neighboring farmer, Bill Boyce also won his court case, Boyceland Dairy v. City of Augusta, he lost his fourth generation family farm after accepting sludge as a fertilizer for cultivation and grazing. Despite constant reassurance from sludge haulers and the city of Augusta, Bill witness the steady decline and death of his prize-winning dairy herd, known as Georgia�s Boyceland Dairy. In 1999, Bill had independent testing performed on the milk from his cows. The stunning test results revealed high levels of thallium, molybdenum and cadmium. EPA lists thallium at a toxic heavy metal that can cause gastrointestinal irritation and nerve damage. Although the USDA regards thallium as one of the most dangerous agents of potential bioterrorism against the nation�s food supply, thallium is not required for testing in sludge. Bill Boyce is no longer in the fourth generation farm he had hoped to pass on to his children. The farm was sold and a housing development was erected where the Boyce farm once fed America.
Farmers & Sludge � Be Curious, Be Cautions
Large, independent bodies of scientific work point to the dangers of the �free� fertilizer and how sludge will impact our food and farm future. The filtered information that farmers and citizens receive encourages the dumping of toxic waste on land and gardens and provides the sludge industry - and some municipalities - with big money. No two loads of sewage sludge have the same composition of chemicals or pathogens, so the farmer does not know what is actually applied on his land. Load testing is inconsistent and unmonitored. But as more information and community resistance gathers around the dangers of land application of sewage sludge to the health and safety to our food, water and communities the sludge industry will retreat from being the farmers �friend�. The farmer will be left with the legal, financial and moral responsibility of pouring toxic waste on America�s food and water source. Under the Clean Water Act, sludge is declared a pollutant and must be disposed of properly. This issue is downplayed by companies spreading sludge on farmland because the farmer will be the one charged with breaking the law if a problem arises. The farmer can be held liable for any nuisance litigation from nearby neighbors finding the land application offensive or charges that exposure to the sewage sludge caused illnesses or death. There is no financial liability to the sludge hauler or municipality after they discontinue dumping sludge on a property. In fact, the farmer can be held accountable to clean his own property if soil test shows high levels of heavy metals and toxins. Farmers using sludge should seek indemnity insurance coverage by the sludge applier or sludge generator, but this only applies while the property is accepting sludge. After the sludge company discontinues sludge distribution, a farmer will need his own liability and indemnity insurance. In some state, like Pennsylvania, a farmer who applies sludge to their property must make this fact known as a �Hazardous Use� on a �Seller�s Disclosure Sheet� at the time of property sale. Property neighboring a farm where sludge has been applied must also state this fact at the time of a sale and the farmer may be held accountable for reduction of value. Legal and insurance concerns may argue that the farmer accepting known toxic material nullifies any obligation of protection. Can legal argument be made that a farmer who accepts sludge accepts the responsibility for transferring hazardous waste to his own property? Land applications of unknown mixtures of chemicals, metals, and pathogens require careful thought and caution. In some European countries, household waste is separated from business and industrial waste so land application of sewage sludge is safer for the communities and food supply. By separating household waste from business and industrial waste at the source location, and not combining everything at the waste water treatment plant, toxins are easier to monitor and control. The mounting evidence from independent scientific studies not paid for by the sludge industry, warns of short-term and long-term dangers to the health and safety of America�s water and food supply and the future of the farmlands that we rely on to sustain us. By using our human waste as a false fertilizer, we are introducing our own species bacteria and pathogens into our food and water supply. Land application of sewage sludge is no more than pollution transfer to the very source of our nourishment. A glance at the rise in infectious incidents in America�s food supply and 5,000 annual deaths from food poisoning are true cause for alarm and necessitate �connecting the dots�. Why are we pouring known toxic waste where we grow our food, gather our drinking water and raise our families? Now is the time to make the changes to laws that are meant to protect our present and future ability to feed ourselves. It�s time to end our �toilet-to-table� approach to food production.