Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Don't Poop On My Tomatoes and Tell Me It's "Fertilizer"-- Part II The Biosolid Myth

We covered this sewer sludge issue in a previous posting on Synagro Technolgies and its push into Northern Alabama to convince the state and local governments that "biosolids" (sewer sludge and toxic industrial wastes) were "safe" to spread all over North Alabama farmland and in other public areas according to their PR spokesman Stephen Bradley, because they were "strictly regulated by the EPA";
Steve Bradley, a spokesman for Synagro in Alabama, did not address the legislation specifically, but said the company is strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and also falls under the oversight of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Synagro also has developed management guidelines for its product with assistance from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. (click title for previous post)
This had been going on in Alabama since 1987 with the EPA & ADEM's blessings, and the state required NO Permits only a Land Base Book with the record of applications. The state of Alabama had "no objections to the project";
The state of Alabama has also been notified of biosolids coming to Alabama from out of state. In our conversations with ADEMs Jim Grassiano (Section Chief of Permits and Compliance, Municipal Branch Water Division) the state has no objections to this project.

Written confirmation of our intent to move forward has been sent to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). The state of Alabama will require NO PERMITS; however they will be sent a Land Base Book containing all application sites and specifics to those sites. They will also be sent a  Treatment Facility Book containing specifics to the lime stabilization of non PRSP biosolids. Synagro will provide this project information to ADEM.

ADEM has no Home Rule governing the use of biosolids they defer to EPA Region IV. However, Synagro has worked closely with ADEM since the project first began in Alabama in 1987. Synagro has presented this project verbally to Mike Horn at EPA Region IV.
Synagro probably has some foresight in choosing Alabama and "working closely" with ADEM based on its documented weakness and ineptitude which they had to be aware of and exploited to their advantage;
In 1984 the US EPA stripped ADEM of its authority to manage the disposal of hazardous wastes in Alabama on the grounds the agency personnel lack adequate training and competency in such manners.
On Dec. 17, 1985, a federal Judge in Montgomery ruled that ADEM in issuing environmental permits violated the due process provision of the US Constitution.
A following evaluation by a Washington based environmental advocacy group found Alabama's environmental management programs among the worst in the nation, ahead of those in only two other states.
(Times-Daily Newspaper, Weds. Feb 25, 1987 Page 6A)
ADEM gained control over all hazardous waste handling permitting from the US EPA in December 1987.  The timing was convenient for Synagro to come in and begin their toxic dumping on Alabama. Emelle, the subject of another post (also involving the illustrious Mr. Bradley) was another beneficiary from this change in regulatory powers.

Alabama lost. Our citizens lost. So did our environment. And we are still losing on this issue because it is still going on and being kept quiet.

Adding insult to injury in 1989, despite ADEM protesting and claiming "improvement" in managing Alabama's environmental,  the US EPA cited Alabama as "the fourth worst in water pollution, ninth in releasing toxic chemicals into the air, seventh disposing of toxic waste at facility sites and the seventh largest state receiving toxic chemicals from out-of-state."
(Tuscaloosa News June 22, 1989 Page 6A)

In other words, we have long been an environmental toxic soup aided by our state regulatory agencies, EPA Region IV and our greedy and corrupt politicians who have made deals with every big business who wanted a piece of Alabama.

Not much has changed after all these years unfortunately and the "biosolids" program is still in existence with the help of the US EPA, Region IV and ADEM under the direction of the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA).

The WEF and NACWA are all under the National Biosolids Partnership and are front groups of industry insiders;
The National Biosolids Partnership (NBP), is a government-industry organization promoting the use of toxic sewage sludge as biosolids fertilizer. 
According to its website, it is an "alliance formed in 1997 with the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) (formerly Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies), Water Environment Federation (WEF), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)."
National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) is the powerful political, PR and lobby arm of the publicly owned wastewater management agencies, sewage treatment and sewage sludge plants in the United States
Although its name evokes images of cascading mountain streams, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) is actually the sewage sludge industry's main trade, lobby and public relations organization, with over 41,000 members and a multi-million-dollar budget that supports a 100-member staff.

The WEF has been aggressively involved in promoting the so-called "beneficial use" of sewage sludge for fertilizer. To avoid the negative connotations associated with the word "sludge," WEF invented the euphemism "biosolids."

In 1977, Federation director Robert Canham criticized the EPA's enthusiasm for land application of sludge, which he feared could introduce viruses into the food chain. "The results can be disastrous," he warned. 
By the 1990s, however, Federation members were running out of other places to put the stuff. The Federation became an eager supporter of land farming, and even organized a contest among its members to coin a nicer-sounding name for sludge.

To educate the public at large about the benefits of sludge, the EPA turned to the WEF.
If this is not a grand illusion perpetrated on a massive scale by all involved we are hard pressed to find another suitable definition of it. There is a "brainchild" behind all of this beyond Mr. Bradley; the Washington DC PR firm of Powell Tate who specialize in controversial health, safety and high-tech issues. PT was founded by Jody Powell, ex press secretary of Jimmy Carter and Sheila Tate who was Nancy Reagan's adviser.

Powell Tate are the ones behind the campaign of the "National Biosolids Public Acceptance Campaign" and together with the Food Processor's Association are "strongly opposed" to labeling food as grown in sludge--the public doesn't need to know. They are after the Certified Organic Industry and seek to "greenwash" sludge with the endorsement of the COI.

In 1992 Heinz was firmly against the use of any sludge grown foods used in their products, but in 1995 they "reconsidered their opposition" and many other companies followed their lead. Once WEF got the EPA on their side it was open season on the public food supply and sewer sludge became the new "it" fertilizer thanks in large part to the efforts of PT.

"The public needs to know it's not safe to grow food on that toxic sludge no matter what it's called," said Hugh Kaufman of the EPA.   

Synagro is owned by the infamous Carlyle Group, but that is another story for another day.

In Alabama, Mr. Bradley became the voice of Synagro's toxic sludge campaign and Synagro succeeded in securing its place on Alabama farmlands that grew cotton, corn, hay and soybeans among other crops. Some of the areas where this sludge was applied are as follows;
Foley, Colbert County, Lawrence County, Decatur, Limestone County, Gulf Shores, Albertville, Jasper, Guntersville, Madison County, Muscle Shoals, Franklin County and Stevenson among others.

In 2009, Northern Alabama had finally had enough and passed legislation to get Synagro out of their area. Civil lawsuits have followed and motions have been filed by the defendants to move the cases to Morgan County where there may be a more lenient legal environment for them;
State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, represents the Franklin County Commission as a co-plaintiff in one of the lawsuits. The senator, who also sponsored bills that would ban the fertilizer, said Friday he is determined to keep human waste off farmland in his district.
The lawsuits deal with sludge containing chemicals known as PFOA and PFOS. The substances originated in Decatur industries that used them to make non-stick coatings used in products like Teflon.
A panel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded the chemicals, even at extremely low levels, are likely carcinogens.
Local industries that use or have used the chemicals that ended up in Decatur Utilities sludge include 3M Co., Daikin America Inc. and Toray Fluorofibers. All three are defendants in the county lawsuits, and are plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case filed June 28, 2009.
Synagro South, LLC, Biological Processors of Alabama and Dyneon LLC are also defendants in the county lawsuits.
From 1996 until November, DU contracted with Synagro to spread the biosolids on area farms as fertilizer. The practice ended in November because the EPA discovered alarming accumulations of the chemicals it calls “unregulated contaminants” in the soil of farms that received the biosolids.
According to documents it filed in court, Synagro completed 598 land applications of DU’s toxic mix on area farms between 1996 and 2007.
It did not list its applications in 2008. 
But this all supposed to be "safe" and everybody follows "strict regulations" from the federal government and the state regulatory agencies, the same agencies that are trying to unload this toxic sludge on all of us, not just Alabama. San Francisco, California is a recent recipient of the sludge in a story from August 2010. San Francisco's Gavin Newsome has dirty hands with this sludge issue, even though he is supposed to a "Green Mayor."

And another case in Bakersfield, California from June 2010.

Montgomery, Alabama "The Wave" which is the Alabama Water Environment Association Newsletter, this one from Winter 2008. They are spreading it on hay fields which is a primary food source for cattle and horses.

They are doing it even after this happened as reported in the Athens-News Courier March 29, 2008, by reporter Karen Middleton:
Synagro Technologies has a contract to dispose of human wastes from New York. The company, which operates with approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, treats sludge from wastewater plants in New York and ships it to Alabama by rail car. The sludge is treated at a plant in Leighton, and then offered at no charge to farmers in Limestone County to fertilize their fields.
 About 40 farmers signed up to receive the sludge.
In Georgia, a farmer’s cattle died and the milk from another farmer’s cattle was contaminated by fields treated with sludge from the waste-treatment plant near Augusta. Last week, a federal judge ordered the Agriculture Department to compensate the farmer whose land was poisoned by the sludge. His cows had died by the hundreds.
In October, the county had reached an agreement with the company after seeking an injunction against Synagro. Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks said Synagro officials had assured him they would no longer distribute the fertilizer on pastureland. Where it is spread, it would have to be worked into the dirt instead of being placed on top of the soil. *(Editor's note--shame on you Mr.Sparks!)
Sounds like one great big load of crap to us, and a highly toxic one at that.
(See the "Document Box" R. sidebar for "PR Industry Unspun")

Additional stories:
3 part series: Moulton May Sue Over Dumping
Clinton WH "walking on very clean poo."
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  1. I am in complete agreement on this issue with all of your well made points. It is most assuredly a grand illusion and I dare say a high crime of sorts.

  2. As much as I hate to say this I am finding even more reasons to not like Sparks, but I hate Bentley even more...What the hell was he thinking going along with this literal pantload?

  3. Here's a link to another story on how Michele Obama discovered sewer sludge had been spread on the WH grounds:http://www.prwatch.org/node/8982

    "When First Lady Michelle Obama decided to plant a vegetable garden at the White House, she faced a problem that many new homeowners in America run into.
    Previous residents of her house had applied sewage sludge to her lawn, but left no warnings to alert the her about the potential toxicity of her soil as a result of the sludge application.
    When the Obamas tested the soil in preparation for planting their garden, they found some lead in the soil.
    At 93 parts per million (ppm), the lead showed that the soil was probably contaminated by something, even though at 93 ppm the lead itself was not necessarily a danger.
    Still, the Obamas took precautions to further lower the lead level to 14ppm, and make the lead unavailable to plants by adding soil amendments that diluted the lead and changed the pH of the soil."

    Look down to the comments and you will see the evil Ned Beecher, who works for the sewer industry (shocking isn't it?) is the first plug horse out of the gate in responding.
    It didn't take long for other commenters to call him out.

  4. Excellent points GP.

    It is also noteworthy in that story that Mrs. Obama had a great opportunity to speak out against this horrid practice and she did not do so.



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