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Re: Fw: Sludge disposal,or nutrient recycling?
I contacted the RTK NET's (the Right-To-Know Network) for an area
report of toxic release inventory [TRI] data for Chicago industries
during 1997. The following is extracted from RTK NET's copy of USEPA's
TRIS database. RTK NET is run by OMB Watch and Unison Institute at 1742
Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington DC, 20009 - Phone: 202-234-8494 (hours
9:00 AM -- 6:00 PM EST).
What I learned was that Chicago businesses which meet the parameters of
the law, filled out the paper work to the US EPA and reported dumping
(transferring) approximately 1,574,828 pounds of chemicals into
publicly owned wastewater treatment works during 1997, alone. The
chemicals include, but are not limited to: chromium, zinc, copper,
lead, cyanide and cyanide compounds, nitrate, nitrate compounds,
phosphoric acid, nickel, glycol ethers, maganese and maganese
compounds, sulfuric acid aerosols, diethanolamine, ammonia, benzene,
naphthalene, phenol, quinoline, toluene, xylene (mixed isomers), cresol
mixed isomers, sodium nitrate, methyl ethyl ketone, acrylamide,
dimethylamine, hydrogen fluoride, antimony compounds, epichlorohydrin,
ethylene glycol, methanol, and vinyl acetate.
In fact, in 1997 a single company admitted transferring (dumping)
286,000 pound of toluene into the publicly owned wastewater treatment
works [POTW]!! Another dumped/transferred 314,740 pounds of hydrogen
fluoride into the POTW --the majority of its waste; still another dumped
1,016 pounds of certain glycol ethers. While another reported dumping
43,000 pounds of carcinogenic antimony compounds; an electronics firm
dumped 4,300 pounds of certain glycol ethers. And these were what was
reported in one year. Often companies report less than is actually
dumped. After all, why would they report more? Also, not all companies
were required to report. They had to meet certain parameters under the
law to report in the first place. But, these are their guesstimates.
While, some of these chemicals may be beneficial for growing plants,
others are among the active and misnamed inert ingredients in synthetic
herbicides and other pesticides, such as cyanide compounds. I noticed a
large number of companies dumped cyanide down the drain.
However, alike synthetic pesticides,
<http://www.efn.org/~ncap/ActiveInertsRpt.pdf> ), potentially hazardous
chemical fertilizers and other hazards of ''modern'' agriculture, these
chemicals may not only be in the sewage sludge which is called biosolids
after ''treatment'' (composting?). Plus, being spread on farm land,
city parks and home gardens is not the only pathway in which these
chemicals get into our environment. Most are released via incineration
which includes energy recovery (a.k.a. recycling), by disposal into
landfills or deep injection wells. Regardless of the means of disposal,
all industrial and consumer wastes may taint fish and other aquatic
creatures, endanger the health of humans and other animals through
contaminated ground and surface waters, and airborne pollution.
I understand that sewage sludge is treated with bactericides, then the
liquids are separated from the solids, air and microorganisms ''treat''
the residual sludge while the liquid is released back into waterways
after again, treating with chemical bactericides. Previously, before
the Clean Water Act's recent passage, sludge was spread on some farm
land, dumped into waterways and oceans, land filled or incinerated.
Now, ocean dumping is illegal and the law mandates that the EPA give
incentives to farmers to take the sludge. The Water Environment
Federation along with their allies in the USDA and EPA are labeling this
toxic sludge as biosolids to alleviate concern of the ignorant and
Sludge is a problem which we all participate in making. But compost
toilets could reduce the bodily waste problem and proper composting at
high temperatures may reduce the pathogens. But what about the chemical
wastes which industries dump down the drain? The latter, I understand,
cannot be really treated to make them safe for consumption and they may
harm the soil, as well as other life. After all, why don't organic
farmers use synthetic chemicals? Is it because man-made chemicals often
injure the soil and the life it contains?
Therefore, should this problem be spread on organic agriculture which
advocates avoiding the use of synthetic chemicals in favor of the
precautionary principle? Changing the name of sewage sludge to
biosolids is as misleading, as is calling food irradiated with ionizing
radiation, cold or electronic pasteurization. It does not alter the
toxicity --only the mindset. It keeps the public controlled and
Thousands of people, including yours truly, wrote to the USDA opposing
the use of sewage sludge on organic agriculture. It is disheartening to
learn that an organic herb farmer is reported by the Chicago paper to be
using sewage sludge on its fields.
I strongly believe sewage sludge by any other name is still sewage
sludge and spreading it on agriculture is sludge disposal, not nutrient
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