It’s Time to Talk (Again) about Sewage Sludge on Farmland


Each year, millions of tons of sewage sludge is disposed of on fields in the United States. (Image: Susan A. Secretariat / Flickr)

By Laura Orlando

The "land application" of sewage sludge has been promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1993 as the preferred method for the disposal of this by-product of municipal wastewater treatment. Millions of tons of hazardous sewage sludge have subsequently been spread on farmland and public parks in the United States. Sometimes it is bagged and sold as “organic” fertilizer and compost in garden supply stores. No matter how it is processed or how slick it is marketed as a fertilizer or soil amendment, putting sewage sludge on land is a health and environmental disaster.

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The History of Sludge for Agricultural Application

2/8/2016 11:11:00 AM
By Lidia Epp


It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in late October 2014. My husband and I were enjoying a soft shell crab sandwich at the Blue Crab Festival in West Point, Va., just a few miles from our home. Local arts and crafts were on the display, the Main Street was filled with people, cotton candy carts, draft beer stands, merry-go-round, the usual.

A lady with the Sierra Club baseball hat and a handful of flyers came over and asked if we know about the problem with biosolids.

“Biosolids?” we both asked in unison. “What’s that?”

“It’s a municipal sewage sludge and industrial waste that is applied to the farmland as a fertilizer. A company called Synagro applied for a permit to spread industrial waste on 17,000 acres in our area over the next 10 years. This practice is mostly unmonitored and the permit is very likely to be granted,” she answered, frowning.

“WHAT?!” we screamed, in unison again, and looked at each other in horror. This woman is crazy! This just can’t be!

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Contaminating Our Bodies With Everyday Products


Activists in Paris protest the use in common household products linked to endocrine disruption in March 2014. Credit Bertrand Guay/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

IN recent weeks, two major medical organizations have issued independent warnings about toxic chemicals in products all around us. Unregulated substances, they say, are sometimes linked to breast and prostate cancer, genital deformities, obesity, diabetes and infertility.

“Widespread exposure to toxic environmental chemicals threatens healthy human reproduction,” the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics warned in a landmark statement last month.

The warnings are a reminder that the chemical industry has inherited the mantle of Big Tobacco, minimizing science and resisting regulation in ways that cause devastating harm to unsuspecting citizens.

In the 1950s, researchers were finding that cigarettes caused cancer, but the political system lagged in responding. Now the same thing is happening with toxic chemicals.

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Sewage-based fertilizer permit canceled for Mount Bethel farms

By Kurt Bresswein | For lehighvalleylive.com
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on November 09, 2015 at 6:04 PM, updated November 09, 2015 at 6:05 PM

A Baltimore company has withdrawn plans to apply fertilizer made from human sewage sludge on farms in Upper Mount Bethel Township, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

"They're just not going to apply at this time," DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said. "They can reapply to do it again in spring."

Township residents organized as Sludge Free UMBT challenged the DEP's approval, granted Dec. 23, 2013, for Synagro Mid-Atlantic Inc. to apply the biosolids fertilizer on the Potomac, Sunrise and Stone Church farms. All three properties are owned by Ron Angle and farmed by Paul Smith through a lease.

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Are Your Vegetables on Drugs?


A new study conducted on zucchini plants suggests that pharmaceuticals in biosolid fertilizers could be harming your veggies.

By Natasha Gilbert on October 22, 2015

Fertilizing crops with biosolids—a combination of human, commercial, and industrial wastes otherwise known by critics as “sewage sludge”—is a common but controversial practice.

On the one hand, municipalities argue, it is much more environmentally sound to recycle nutrients that would otherwise be sent to landfills. The use of these fertilizers also cuts down on the amount of man-made fertilizers needed to boost crops and keep soils healthy.

On the other hand, biosolids have often raised safety concerns, and the quality and safety can vary depending how they’ve been treated. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Standards prohibit their use in organic agriculture because of concerns over contamination from hormones, steroids, and pathogens. And there has been a passionate debate over whether biosolids are safe to use because of the risk of contamination.

Despite the fact that there are many substances found in biosolids, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only regulates a few including pathogens and heavy metals. And the agency has no control over the level of pharmaceuticals in biosolids or in wastewater.

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The Truth about Biosolid Pollution

Natural health expert and Mercola.com founder Dr. Joseph Mercola interviews Dr. David Lewis, a microbiologist with a PhD in Microbial Ecology who spent three decades working as an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientist.

Chronic Wasting Disease A Byproduct Of Sewage Mismanagement

June 14, 2015 by Gary Chandler

Sick Wildlife The Tip Of An Iceberg Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is ravaging wildlife in many regions across North America. It’s part of a larger epidemic of neurological disease that is killing millions of people, wildlife and livestock around the world. Once again, wildlife are serving as the proverbial canary in a coal mine.

CWD is part of an incurable spectrum disease called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” Mismanagement of pathogens associated with the disease are contributing to a broader epidemic of neurological disease among wildlife, livestock and people.




Few, if any, mammals are immune to prion disease. There is no species barrier. It’s been found in dolphins, too, thanks to sewage runoff and sewage dumped at sea. It is likely contributing to the mass stranding of whales, too.

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