Sludge Fest: Center For Food Safety Vs. San Francisco. It’s A Battle That May Be Coming Soon To A City Near You, Politics of the Plate, November 2009
And Jill Richardson wrote about here:
Outrage in San Francisco: City Gives Residents 'Organic' Compost Containing Toxic Sewage Sludge, AlterNet, March 2010
Sludge, the end product of the treatment process for human waste, hospital waste, industrial waste and stormwater, is being spread on agricultural land as fertilizer to the possible detriment of our health. In this case, and in others, it is being sold as "organic." But, as Richardson writes:
"SFPUC [San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, who is giving the sludge away free to homeowners, community and school gardens] also defended its usage of the word "organic," claiming its use of the term "referred to the scientific definition of organic matter as in containing significant amounts of organic carbon" and never meant that the compost was certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Use of the word "organic" was particularly misleading because the USDA's organic standards strictly forbid the application of any sewage sludge on land used to grow organic crops."Whether you call it "sludge" or "organic biosolids compost", "hazardous waste" (which Richardson says the EPA called sludge prior to 1992) or "fertilizer", it still, according to the Center for Food Safety, contains "toxic chemicals and hazardous materials." Says Estabrook:
"According to a report released this year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sludge has been found to contain heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, PCBs, flame retardants, and endocrine disruptors -- pretty much anything that humans living and working in a large metropolitan area flush down their toilets or pour down their drains."And those toxins are finding their way into our food (as we saw with E. coli in my previous post). Writes Richardson:
"Thallium, a rat poison toxic to humans even in small doses, went from the sludge, to the crops, to the cows, all the way to milk on grocery store shelves. ... In the EPA's recent tests, 80 out of 84 samples of sewage sludge tested positive for thallium."
It's time to find another use for sewage sludge. Or at least label our food as being grown in sludge:
H.R. 185: Sewage Sludge in Food Production Consumer Notification Act, 111th Congress
"To amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the egg, meat, and poultry inspection laws to ensure that consumers receive notification regarding food products produced from crops, livestock, or poultry raised on land on which sewage sludge was applied."