Wednesday, March 07, 2012

EPA: Sewage Sludge Safe To Use As Fertilizer

Eric Jensen, owner of Jensen Farms, examines
cantaloupes in his field last September.
Cantaloupes from Jensen Farms have to date sickened 146 and killed 33 people. The illnesses were a result of infection by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. This foodborne illness outbreak is one of the worst in US history, measured by number of deaths.

Today I read:

Exclusive: Biosolids Near Farm Examined For Listeria Link
"A company that sprays treated human waste on Colorado fields is being questioned as investigators look into the source of a listeria outbreak tied to Colorado-grown cantaloupe.

The human waste, known as biosolids ... come from New York and are shipped to Colorado to be disposed of because New York cannot handle the volume of its human waste.

The substance was applied to a field directly across from a Jensen Farms field years ago."
But the EPA says sewage sludge is safe to use as fertilizer because it has been "carefully treated and monitored."
"The use of these materials in the production of crops for human consumption when practiced in accordance with existing federal guidelines and regulations, presents negligible risk to the consumer, to crop production and to the environment."
So, the FDA, who is conducting the investigation, doesn't trust the EPA?

"Dr. David Lewis worked for the EPA for 31 years. In a peer-reviewed article in Environmental Science and Technology he showed that pathogens could easily remain undetected in untreated sewage sludge. Since the government is pushing the use of this sludge for agricultural fertilizer, Lewis was harassed and finally fired in May 2003. At a hearing on the role of science in shaping public policy he charged the EPA with "corrupt[ing] the scientific peer review process in order to support certain political agendas and further the agency's self-interest." "


Dr. Mel said...

At the Farm they have a composting toilet that they researched thoroughly before installing. The idea was to use after proper processing in the fields. Not sure if they did or not. Will have to check w/ the farmer.

Bix said...

Composting toilets ... they sound reasonable, useful even.

But I don't think we should be using treated municipal sewer sludge on crops. Besides the pathogen issue:

"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."
- Barry Estabrook

Jill Richardson writes:

"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."


But if the EPA says it's safe...

caulfieldkid said...

After reading your post, I did some digging (no pun intended). Just going through the citations of the wiki site brings up a host of nightmares:

Sometimes I get the feeling we still aren't all that far removed from the days of The Jungle. That is despite the sterile appearance we give the food industry.


I think I've read about systems similar to what Dr. Mel describes, and I do think it's an entirely different beast. They make pretty good sense.


Dr. Mel said...

I completely agree w/ you re sludge and its toxicity. I just hope the composting toilet is safe as promised!

Claudia said...

No offense or anything but how do you know someone using the toilet doesn't take drugs? Or doesn't it matter?

Dr. Mel said...

Claudia, I don't know for certain, but this is a very "crunchy" group of organics-fanatics, mostly young families, and frankly I doubt they do drugs. And the farmers & assistants are periodically drug tested (rules of the convent). I imagine composting would alter things chemically--but I *can* tell you I've never gotten high from eating any of the veggies!

Claudia said...

Ha Ha @DrMel. It can't be any worse than what we're already pumping soil with. With all the antibiotics in manure its a wonder anyone ever gets sick!!