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Sewage Sludge Land Spreading ("biosolids")



Few citizens know of the nationwide practice of land spreading municipal and industrial contaminated wastes  on forest and farm lands, and selling it for residential garden uses.  Green washed with names like "biosolids;" "soil amendments," "compost," and "organic fertilizer," without divulging their contents, these sludges have degraded soils, air, water, wildlife and human health, and property values.

The US population is approximately 314 million.  Each person excretes about 90 lbs of excrement/year and 150 gal urine.  Human wastes empty into sewers along with hundreds of hazardous and persistent pollutants discharged from residential, medical, business and industrial drains.

About 17,000 U.S. publicly owned wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) exist, producing millions of dry tons of sludge annually.  WWTPs separate effluent from solids, concentrating most, but  not all, pollutants and pathogens in the solids.  Under the Clean Water Act, treatment is for the effluents that are meant for release into open water bodies.  However, treatment is minimal.  Sewage contaminants can include solvents, PCBs, dioxins, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, fluoride, flame retardants, radioactive materials, nano particles, and fracking wastes, as well as  disease-causing pathogens, including prions.

Recent research demonstrated that the wastewater treatment process contributes to the selective increase of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the occurrence of multi-drug resistant bacteria in aquatic environments.(1)  The USEPA's sampled typical sludges for 147 pollutants from 35 facilities across the nation, including WA State. (2)   Priority pollutants and emerging chemicals of concerns were found in every sample. Approximately 1000 new chemical compounds are added annually into the waste stream, which is increasingly becoming more complex.  Some chemicals can be taken up by some foods.  In January 2014, Whole Foods joined others from around the world refusing to grow or accept food grown in sludge.Land applied sewage solids may be the most pollutant-rich waste created in the 20th century. Yet, US regulations monitor and regulate only 9 metals and nitrogen in the sludges and, depending on their use, for a few pathogens. Pathogens deemed "dead" can multiply once in contact with soil.

Land spread sludge can wind up in ground water, and in surface water bodies via stormwater runoff, and on the way able to contaminate what is in the stormwater pathway.

There are alternatives to handling this waste to that of releasing toxic effluents into water bodies and allowing the land spread toxic sludges to seep into groundwater and run into surface water bodies.

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