Is Compost Safe With Bio-Solids In It?

The writer questions the safety of Athens Clarke County compost because it includes bio-solids.

David L. Lewis, Ph.D.

1310 Saxon Road

Watkinsville, GA 30677 USA

Cellular: 706 296 3675

Email: LewisDaveL@aol.com; DavidL@uga.edu


Research Associate

Neural Dynamics Research Group

University of British Columbia

828 W. 10th Ave, Vancouver, BC,V5Z 1L8



Director, Research Misconduct Project

National Whistleblowers Center

3238 P Street, NW

Washington, DC 20007


E-mail: RMP@whistleblowers.org


 The article promoting composted sewage sludge as safe for children to play in, "Athens children play with worms, learn about composting" (May 7), is irresponsible and factually incorrect. Studies published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature demonstrate that persistent environmental pollutants, which are commonly found in treated sewage sludges and are not broken down by composting, become concentrated in earthworms. A Swedish study published in 2005, for example, found that flame retardants banned in Europe because of their developmental effects on children accumulate to high levels in earthworms feeding on sewage sludges - also called "biosolids." A 2010 study found that verbal and IQ scores in children exposed to these pollutants were reduced as much as 5.5 to 8.0 points.

The article promoting the safety of Athens-Clarke County's compost also claims that there is "no trouble with traces of metal or pathogens within the sludge because of required testing." Based on a national survey of sewage sludges conducted in 1988, EPA only requires testing nine metals. But when EPA repeated the survey in 2009, it found a total of 27 metals in most if not all sewage sludges. This includes highly toxic metals such as thallium, which were rarely found in the 1988 survey upon which EPA's regulation is still based. With regard to pathogens, EPA only requires testing for one or more indicator organisms that are easily destroyed by sewage treatment processes. It does not require testing for most disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites that survive treatment processes such as composting.

In 2002, my coworkers and I at EPA and UGA documented illnesses and deaths linked to biosolids at land application sites across the U.S. and Canada. Others have since independently confirmed our results. Many of the same skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems we observed are also prevalent among residents living in the Dunlap Road community where Athens-Clarke County stockpiles and composts its sewage sludge. Although technologies for greatly reducing these adverse effects are available, Athens-Clarke County chooses to ignore the sufferings of this community and mislead the public concerning the safety of its composted sewage sludge.

David L. Lewis     

Caroline Snyder May 11, 2013 at 04:03 AM
The complex and unpredictable mixture of industrial and human waste, called biosolids, does not belong on the land where we grow our food or graze our animals. After a one-time notification during the first month, every entity connected to a sewer is permitted to discharge any amount of hazardous and acute hazardous waste into sewage treatment plants. As these highly toxic and persistent pollutants are removed from the waste water, they end up in biosolids. Thousands of sludge-exposed rural residents have reported serious, life threatening illnesses; in Augusta GA two price winning dairy herds were virtually wiped out after animals ingested forage grown on land that had repeatedly been treated with toxic sludge. Biosolids is probably the most pollutant-rich material created in our cities. Yet repeated petitions to EPA to stop the practice of spreading sludge on land, or, at the very least, tighten the current regulations, have fallen on deaf ears. County libraries would do well to become fully informed about the risks of using biosolids, before promoting a practice that can sicken people and animals, pollute ground water, and degrade healthy soil. Caroline Snyder, Ph.D. Emeritus professor Rochester Institute of Technology cgsnyder@post.harvard.edu For a general overview, see http://blog.planetnatural.com/compost-sewage/ For groundbreaking research linking biosolids to illnesses and deaths, see www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/2/11
Darlene Schanfald May 11, 2013 at 05:30 AM
The Sierra Club, the nation's oldest and largest grass roots environmental organization, opposes using composts that contain biosolids. How sad that after all these years of data on the harmful impacts to soils, wildlife, and humans -- and now we should think about CO2 emissions and ocean acidification from land applied sludge that winds right back in water systems violating, in reality, the CWA -- that this practice is still allowed and supported by the USEPA. Even the EPA updated investigation demonstrated how harmful is this waste. Yet, still, no change in their policy. Business before human and planet health. Shameful.
myra dotson May 11, 2013 at 08:39 PM
Children should not be exposed in anyway, shape or form to toxic sewage sludge. In Alamance County, local parents are fighting to keep their children safe from the toxic effects, as elementary schools are being exposed to nearby fields, where the sludge is sprayed up into the air, becoming dangerous micro aerosols. Children in these schools are coming down with severe auto immune diseases..... One school has the highest absentee rate in the county.... http://myfox8.com/2013/05/08/sludge-concerns-in-alamance-county/ What is going on with the movement of the sludge industry to expose children? To prove sludge is safe to the opposition;? Are the children reduced to being trapped guinea pigs? Is the sludge industry so desperate for approval? There is a day care center for EPA employees in Research Triangle Park, that is using soil and compost containing sewage sludge..... http://www.firstenvironments.org/seed-table/caring Is it going to take an epidemic to get these people to wake up? In Sylvan School, there were 3 children diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis in ONE WEEK, IN ONE CLASS... The nationwide ratio is 1-3 per 1,000 children.... this is 3:35!! Myra Dotson, Chair Sewage Sludge Action Network....


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