EPA INSPECTOR GENERAL FOUND:
EPA officials said investigating health impacts from biosolids
is not an EPA responsibility; rather, they believe it is the
responsibility of the National Institute of Occupational Safety
and Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and local health
Compliance and Enforce has disinvested from the program.
Land application of biosolids is a controversial issue. Concerns have been
expressed about potentially adverse impacts of biosolids on human health
and the environment as well as quality of life for nearby residents. However,
EPA has taken the position that the biosolids program is low-risk and
In March 2001, the National Whistleblower Center submitted a series of
allegations to the EPA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) concerning EPA'
conduct in regard to regulating biosolids. The allegations by the Center were
based largely on issues raised by an EPA research scientist. In addition, a
previous OIG audit on biosolids, issued in March 2000, found inadequacies
in EPA' management and enforcement of the biosolids program. For these
reasons, we are providing a status report on land application of biosolids.
The specific issues we examined, as well as the status of each, are
Status of Issues
EPA and State Biosolids Program Staff. Some State officials have expressed
concerns that EPA is not dedicating sufficient staffing and financial resources
to the program. Nonetheless, EPA continues to place a low priority on the
program, and staff assigned to the biosolids program have been declining.
For example, at the Regional level, EPA had dedicated 18 full-time equivalent
(FTE) positions to biosolids in 1998 but only 10 FTEs in 2000.
At the State level, staff assigned to biosolids vary significantly, with nearly
half of the States dedicating one or fewer FTEs to biosolids. EPA' position is
that the resources allocated to the biosolids program are appropriate when
balanced against competing priorities.
Delegation of the Biosolids Program to the States. The Clean Water Act gives
EPA authority to delegate the biosolids program to States, but little progress
has been made thus far. Only five States have received formal delegation
from EPA for the biosolids program. Given EPA' lack of resources devoted to
the Federal program, EPA cannot be certain that all citizens in non-delegated
States are provided at least the same level of protection as in the Federal
Risk Assessment and Pathogen Testing Concerns.
Discussions about whether research is needed to address risk assessment
uncertainties and pathogen issues regarding the safety of land application of
biosolids have contributed to the controversy regarding biosolids. EPA does
not plan to complete a comprehensive evaluation and monitoring study to
address risk assessment uncertainties. In addition, there are indications that
more research on pathogen testing is needed.
EPA' Relationship with a Professional Association.
The National Whistleblower Center expressed concern about EPA' support of
the Water Environment Federation, a professional association. However, of
the $12.9 million EPA provided over a 3-year period to the Water
Environment Federation and a research organization the Federation created,
96 percent of that amount ($12.4 million) had been Congressionally
mandated and EPA had no discretion in awarding these funds.
Production of sewage sludge has increased in this country as a result of more
stringent wastewater treatment requirements and a growing population.
Sewage sludge is the solid, semi-solid, or liquid by-product generated during
the treatment of wastewater at sewage treatment plants. The Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than seven million dry metric
tons (DMTs) of sewage sludge are produced annually. According to EPA,
over half the sludge produced (54 percent) is " beneficially," that is, applied
on agricultural, horticultural, forest, and reclamation land throughout the
country. The treated sewage sludge product used in land application is called
"Biosolids " by EPA and the industry.
When Congress amended section 405 of the Act in 1987, it required EPA to
develop a comprehensive program to reduce environmental risks and
maximize the beneficial use of sewage sludge. In February 1993, EPA
promulgated Title 40, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 503, " for the Use or
Disposal of Sewage Sludge." (This report will refer to these standards as the
" Rule" or ""
Prior Audit Coverage
The General Accounting Office issued a report in March 1990, Water
Serious Problems Confront Emerging Municipal Sludge Management
Program (GAO/RCED-90-57). The report was issued before the final
Sludge Rule was promulgated.
This report identified potential problems for the implementation of
a national biosolids program, including the possibility of continued low
State participation, the probability of inadequate resources, and the
need for development of an effective enforcement program.
An EPA OIG audit report, Biosolids Management and Enforcement, issued in
March 2000 (No. 2000-P-10), disclosed that EPA does not have an effective
program for ensuring compliance with the land application requirements of the
Sludge Rule. Some of the points the report noted were:
• In fiscal 1998, EPA reviewed only about 38 percent of the annual
reports submitted by sewage treatment plants.
EPA performed few biosolids-related inspections of sewage treatment plant
operations, virtually no inspections of land application sites, and few record
inspections of treatment plants or land appliers.
• The biosolids program had been delegated to only three States,1 and
there was virtually no Federal oversight of State biosolids programs in
The report concluded that the almost complete absence of a Federal
presence in the biosolids program was a result of the low priority given to
biosolids management by EPA' Office of Water and the decision of EPA'
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance not to commit resources to
EPA and State
Biosolids Program Staff
Some State officials have expressed concerns that EPA does not consider the
biosolids program a priority and is not dedicating sufficient staffing and
financial resources to the program. Despite State concerns, EPA continues to
place a low priority on the program, and staff assigned to the biosolids
program have declined in recent years. In addition, staff assigned to biosolids
programs by the States vary significantly, with nearly half of the States
dedicating one or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) positions to biosolids. EPA'
position, as expressed in responses to our prior report, is that:
(1) EPA' financial resources are limited;
(2) the level of resources allocated to the biosolids program is
appropriate when balanced against competing priorities; and
(3) many States have excellent oversight programs.
The responsibility for EPA' biosolids program is spread among 4 EPA
Headquarters program offices (see Table 1) and the 10 Regional offices.
Collectively these program and Regional offices perform activities designed to:
(1) maintain strong science and risk assessment;
(2) set, enforce, and revise standards;
(3) support State and local decision-making;
(4) ensure appropriate incident response; and
(5) improve the quality and accessibility of information.
Office of Water officials estimated that Headquarters program offices devoted
less than six FTEs to managing biosolids in fiscal year 2000:
Biosolids Staff in EPA Headquarters Offices
EPA Office Biosolids (full time employees?) FTEs
Office of Water 4.0
Office of Research and Development 1.6
Office of General Counsel 0.2
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance 0.0
As can be seen from the table, the Office of Water provides the majority of the
Headquarters FTEs managing the biosolids program, while the Office of
Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) provides none, even
though it has program responsibilities. As we explained in our prior
report, that office has disinvested from the biosolids program.
EPA Regional Coordinators informed us that among the 10 Regional offices,
approximately 10 FTEs were dedicated to managing biosolids in fiscal 2000.
However, our prior audit noted that the Regions had dedicated approximately
18 FTEs in fiscal year 1998 to managing biosolids. Thus, in 2 years, there
was a significant drop in the Regional staffing levels for this program.
(Because the prior report concentrated on the Regions, we were not able to
compare the fiscal 2000 levels for Headquarters personnel with fiscal 1998
levels.) Further, our review of EPA Regional FTEs dedicated to enforcement
of the Sludge Rule showed that the FTEs declined from slightly more than
seven in fiscal year 1998, to slightly less than four in fiscal year 2000. These
numbers are shown in Table 2.
Regional Biosolids FTEs
Year Total FTEs Enforcement FTEs
1998 18 7
2000 10 4
At the 2001 National Biosolids Conference in Potomac, Maryland, there were
presentations and discussions of biosolids-related issues and program
Four EPA Regional staff expressed the following concerns about resource
levels for biosolids programs:
• There are two people for eight States. Reviewing more than 700
annual reports per year is impossible.
• Low environmental risk makes it hard to get resources.
• 100 percent of my time is spent on biosolids, mostly enforcement
and compliance assistance. It is not enough. OECA should invest in
• We used to have three or four people for biosolids enforcement;
now we have one.
Because EPA has assigned a low priority to the biosolids program, the
burden of ensuring that biosolids are managed effectively falls to the States.
In response to our previous report on biosolids, which was critical of EPA for
having insufficient resources dedicated to the biosolids program, key EPA
officials indicated they believed the States were adequately addressing
biosolids program needs. In a February 2000 response to the draft of our
prior audit, the then Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water stated, "
program for regulation, compliance oversight, and enforcement of biosolids
use and disposal exists in every State." Further, in June 2001, the then Acting
Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water stated in response to the final
version of our prior report that, " States have excellent oversight programs."
However, comments from State Biosolids Coordinators at the 2001 National
Biosolids Conference indicated that biosolids program staffing levels may not
• How do we run our program with fewer resources and deal with
septage, delegation, pollutants of concern, odors, rising energy costs,
• There remains a critical lack of resources at both the State and Federal
• We don' have the resources to find out causes of problems.
• Is there any way to obtain more resources?
In addition, data on State staffing provided by State Biosolids Coordinators
suggest that many States' biosolids programs may not be adequately staffed.
As can be seen from the following map, State staffing varies significantly.
Nationwide, there are 140.33 FTEs assigned to State biosolids programs.
While this averages out to almost 3 FTEs per State (2.81), in fact, this is
not how biosolids staff are generally distributed. Nearly half of the States
(24) have one or fewer FTEs, while 5 States have 42 percent of all of the
FTEs. Those 5 -- Texas,Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey
-- have between 11 and12 FTEs each, for a total of 58.83.In our previous
report we said that, "EPA cannot assure the public that currentland
application practices are protective of human health and the environment.
" Given the almost 50-percent reduction in EPA enforcement resources and
the number of States with one or fewer FTEs devoted to biosolids, we believe
this conclusion is equally valid today.
Concerns of State Biosolids Coordinators
Several State officials stated that EPA is not sufficiently committed to the
biosolids program. At the 2001 National Biosolids Conference, various State
Coordinators expressed their concerns.
• EPA needs a true goal with staffing and financial directives.
• EPA resources are going into TMDLs2 -- not to biosolids.
A third State official noted that it took a cryptosporidium outbreak to get
dollars shifted to drinking water research. Related to this issue, another State
official opined that a similar outbreak involving land-applied biosolids would
probably result in the abolishing of land application rather than research;
however, this official believed that the States would probably get out of land
application before such a crisis actually occurred.
Further, State Biosolids Coordinators have expressed concerns regarding
EPA' shift from advocacy of land application to a neutral position, without any
written explanation. According to Office of Water senior managers, EPA used
to be proactive in promoting biosolids land application because it is consistent
with recycling. However, a recent Assistant Administrator decided the Agency
should instead be method-neutral; i.e., regulators should not be promoters of
any one of the management methods over another described in the Sludge
Rule. While some Office of Water senior managers said they did not see the
shift as a major change, some State coordinators believed otherwise.
In addition, on various occasions dating back to 1998, the Wisconsin State
Biosolids Coordinator, who said he had broad State consensus, expressed
concerns directly to senior EPA officials. In an October 1998 letter, the
representative urged EPA to financially support biosolids research and
development, as well as the Pathogen Equivalency Committee.3
The representative also requested that EPA have a dedicated Biosolids
Coordinator in every Region to maintain oversight of the entire program.
Almost 3 years later, in September 2001, the Wisconsin State Biosolids
Coordinator wrote to the EPA Administrator about biosolids management.
He requested that, " biosolids program within EPA be granted additional
funding and personnel to effectively implement this overburdened program."
As support for this request he pointed out:
Only about $4 million (of EPA' FY 2001 budget) ... was
devoted to biosolids staff and the program .... At the same
time approximately 40% of the cost of wastewater treatment is
expended on sludge treatment and management. This inequity
has far-reaching consequences and places beneficial use in
His letter cited a series of events he believed should force the Agency to
reconsider the low priority rating given to biosolids and reallocate resources
and staff to the program. His letter concluded with recommendations for
immediate action, including: increasing staffing levels within EPA for the
biosolids program; funding the Pathogen Equivalency Committee; and making
funds available to States for elevating their biosolids programs.
The Wisconsin State Biosolids Coordinator presented the Opening
Comments at the 2001 National Biosolids Conference, and continued to
express concern about EPA' biosolids program:
As you may recall at last [year' meeting], a warning cry was raised
that the viability of land application of biosolids would be in jeopardy
if more resources and oversight were not directed to the program....
A year later, regulatory oversight and program implementation
remain critical issues and the long-term viability of beneficial reuse
remains hanging in the balance.... There remains a critical lack of
resources at both the state and federal level and dwindling staff at the
federal level. The biosolids program continues to receive a very low
priority rating within EPA.
EPA Position on Resources
EPA Headquarters officials attending the conference acknowledged that
resource needs expressed by EPA Region and State personnel would not be
met. The Director of the EPA Office of Wastewater Management noted that
the biosolids program is competing for funding with many other water and
wastewater infrastructure demands, and he does not expect additional
funding to be available for biosolids efforts.
This was confirmed in a January 2002 response to our prior audit. The
response, from the Assistant Administrator for Water and the Acting Assistant
Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, stated:
Implementation of most, if not all, of the recommendations ... would
require additional resources in terms of people and dollars which are
simply not available. We have only finite resources to support a
large number of responsibilities to address risks to the nation' water
resources ... we believe the level of resources currently allocated to
the biosolids program is appropriate when balanced against
Delegation of the Biosolids Program to the States
Section 405 of the Clean Water Act gives EPA the authority to delegate the
biosolids program to the States, but little progress has been made thus far.
Because only five States have received formal delegation from EPA for the
biosolids program, and EPA devotes few resources to the program, there has
been minimal implementation of the Federal biosolids program.
EPA has had more success in delegating other environmental programs. For
example, EPA has delegated primary responsibility for the Underground
Injection Control program to 34 States, and shares program responsibilities
with 6 other States. Primary responsibility for the hazardous waste base
program under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act has been
delegated to 48 States, the District of Columbia, and Guam.
Before a State can apply for delegation of the biosolids program, it must have
laws and regulations equivalent to the Federal requirements. These State
laws and regulations must include authority to: regulate all sewage sludge
management activities subject to the Sludge Rule, unless the State is
applying for partial delegation; issue permits; regulate use or disposal of
sewage sludge by non-permittees; require and ensure compliance; abate
violations; and take actions to protect public health and the environment.
Obtaining biosolids program delegation can be a lengthy process. The five
States that obtained delegation, as well as the time frames, follow:
Approval Time Frames for Delegated States
State Application Date Approval Date Days To Process
Oklahoma 6/10/96 11/19/96 162
South Dakota 8/12/98 10/22/01 1167
Texas 2/5/98 9/14/98 221
Utah 10/10/95 6/14/96 248
Wisconsin 3/8/99 7/28/00 508
According to Office of Water officials, as many as 17 States may be seeking
delegation of the biosolids program. A reason given by State officials for
seeking delegation is that membrs of the regulated community prefer to
interact with the State rather than EPA.
The remaining States are not currently seeking biosolids program delegation,
and some have indicated they do not plan to do so. Some State and Regional
Biosolids Coordinators noted that their States had not applied because the
application process was costly; EPA was not providing funds to States to
implement the Federal program; and they thought they had sufficient authority
under their own statutes to carry out the program. As one official from New
Jersey stated, " resources required to put together a delegation package, and
the resources required to report information to USEPA once delegation is
obtained, may exceed any perceived benefit in receiving delegation." Also, an
official from Oregon estimated that, since 1989, his State has spent more than
$100,000 on delegation issues, which shifted resources away from biosolids
program management for long periods of time.
On October 3, 2001, the OIG received a written statement, from one of the
nation' large land application companies, on many of the biosolids issues
under review. About delegation the land applier stated:
We support the proposition that more states should seek delegated
authority. In this vein, we suggest that EPA should promote, at the
very least, more partial delegations because many states meet or
exceed parts of the [Sludge Rule].
EPA' Office of Water does not see delegating the program to the States as a
high priority. The Assistant Administrator for Water, in responding to the draft
of our March 2000 audit report, stated that the Office of Water:
. . . does not expect to devote significant effort to encouraging the
Regions to delegate the biosolids program to the States. At the
present time, there is little incentive for the States to seek
delegation, and some States see impediments to delegation,
e.g., the effect of State self-audit statutes, and issues related to the
Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy
The Federal biosolids program is being implemented in five States. Although
State biosolids programs may be implemented in the remaining States, they
may not mirror the Federal program. Given EPA' lack of resources devoted to
the Federal program and the small number of delegated States, EPA cannot
be certain that all citizens in non-delegated States are provided at least the
same level of protection as in the Federal program.
Responding to Alleged Complaints
Although EPA has sometimes addressed health effects in response to
biosolids complaints, EPA responses tend to involve compliance issues. EPA
officials said investigating health impacts from biosolids is not an EPA
responsibility; rather, they believe it is the responsibility of the National
Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the Centers for Disease Control,
and local health departments.
Furthermore, EPA does not have a formal process to track health-related
complaints as we discuss below. In general, we did not obtain information on
the types of investigations conducted by State agencies. However, at least
some of the State investigations, and the one done by the county, involved
Risk Assessment and Pathogen Testing Concerns
Uncertainties in the risk assessment for the Sludge Rule and questions about
pathogens in biosolids have contributed to the controversy regarding the
safety of the land application of biosolids.5 Whether research is needed to
address risk assessment uncertainties and pathogen issues has been a topic
of discussion since the Rule' promulgation. The National Whistleblower
Center, in its letter to the OIG, expressed concerns about the adequacy of
the risk assessment supporting the Rule, and risks from pathogens in Class B
Risk Assessment Supporting the Sludge Rule
EPA acknowledged this commitment in the Preamble and also acknowledged
that, depending on research results, revisions to the risk assessment
decisions for the Rule may be necessary. However, due to competing
priorities and EPA' determination that biosolids were low risk, only one major
study, known as the Oak Ridge Study, was initiated as a result of the
commitment. The final draft of the Oak Ridge Study report8 was not peer
reviewed and is not officially endorsed by EPA although it was released to the
public at the request of a U.S. Senator. An EPA official said that more work
was needed on the study, but the additional work was not funded. As a
consequence, the questions on ecological risks from sewage sludge that
prompted the study were not satisfactorily answered.
Other studies have been conducted on sewage sludge issues since
promulgation of the Rule, but these studies were conducted for purposes
other than to address the comprehensive study commitment in the Preamble.
Further, there has been no formal process to compare results from these
other studies to the Sludge Rule' risk assessment uncertainties. There are no
plans to complete the comprehensive study, and uncertainties remain
unaddressed by further research.
EPA' Relationship with a Professional Association
The National Whistleblower Center letter stated that EPA' support of the
WaterEnvironment Federation " an appearance of impropriety." For several
years, EPA has made large dollar awards of assistance to two non-profit
organizations, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), a professional
association, and the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF). The
latter is a research organization that WEF established. During the 3 years
ending September 30, 2001, EPA awarded $3.2 million to WEF and $9.7
million to WERF, for a total of $12.9 million. However, 96 percent of the
financial support that EPA gave to WEF and WERF was Congressionally
mandated ($2.8 million of the $3.2 million awarded to WEF, and $9.6 million
of the $9.7 million awarded to WERF). Therefore, EPA had no discretion in
awarding these funds.
We reviewed automated information pertaining to assistance agreements
awarded to WEF and WERF in EPA' Envirofacts Warehouse and Financial
Data Warehouse for the 3-year period. We also reviewed the pertinent
assistance agreements, amendments, and decision memoranda. We
obtained information from the project officers for the Congressionally-
mandated awards. Information on WERF' quality management procedures for
research projects funded by EPA was obtained from interviews and a
questionnaire sent to EPA employees serving on WERF research project
subcommittees. We did not perform a financial audit of any of these awards,
nor did we look at allowability of costs for any expenditures associated with
EPA Funds Awarded to WEF
Most of the funds EPA awarded to WEF in recent years have been
Congressionally mandated for implementation of the National Biosolids
Partnership. The Partnership was formed in 1997 " promote environmentally
sound and accepted biosolids management practices." In addition to WEF and
EPA, the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, a national trade
association, is also a partner. WEF is the managing partner for the
Partnership. During fiscal years 1999 through 2001, $2,752,800 of the
$3,247,800 that EPA awarded to WEF was Congressionally mandated.
Further, of the remaining $495,000 in discretionary funds that EPA awarded
to WEF, assistance award documents show that $190,000 was awarded
The Congressionally-mandated funds to WEF are being used for an
Environmental Management System (EMS) project. According to the National
Biosolids Partnership' web site, EMS is being developed to " organizations
that manage biosolids activities assure compliance with applicable Federal,
State, and local regulatory requirements and address other environmental
issues such as odors that could cause community concerns." Facilities
participating in the EMS program must communicate actively with the public
and publicize results of EMS audits. According to EPA officials, 27 facilities
participated in the initial EMS pilot demonstration, 13 are in the process of
being added, and the Partnership hopes to add 60 more facilities by the end
EPA Funds Awarded to WERF
WERF' stated mission is to provide a " water quality research program
addressing current wastewater research needs and forecasting future
directions." For fiscal years 1999 through 2001, $9.6 million of the $9.7
million that EPA awarded to WERF was Congressionally mandated. With
funds provided by EPA, WERF subcontracts to other organizations to perform
the research. Some of the recent biosolids-related research projects
included: Assessing Bioavailability of Metals in Biosolid-Amended
Soils: Root Exudates and their Effects on Solubility of Metals, Nitrogen
Management Protocols for Biosolids Beneficial Use, and Pathogen
Destruction Efficiency in High Temperature Digestion.
According to the 1999 Annual Report that WERF provided to EPA, 58 EPA
employees were participating on 100 project subcommittees at the end of
1999; however, not all of these projects were funded by EPA. For each
research project, a project subcommittee is formed of five to six outside
experts –including representatives from universities, municipalities, industry,
and sometimes EPA. At least one member from EPA must be on the
committee when EPA funds are used for the project. We surveyed or
interviewed 19 EPA employees, serving on a total of 25 project
subcommittees. The results of the interviews and survey did not indicate a
lack of quality management procedures in WERF research projects; however,
our survey instrument did not allow us to reach definitive conclusions about
quality management procedures in WERF Projects.
Public Acceptance Concerns
Despite Federal regulatory safeguards, public acceptance of land application
of biosolids has been mixed, and public scrutiny of the practice continues.
There are public concerns regarding the impact of biosolid land application
on health, quality of life, and protection of natural resources. These concerns
have led a number of counties and municipalities to ban or restrict the land
application of biosolids. Public perception regarding biosolids land application
can have a significant impact on the implementation of the program.
Due to public concerns about possible consequences, such as odors, health
effects, and environmental impacts from biosolids, there has been opposition
to land application in some locations. Several municipalities and counties in
the United States have enacted bans and restrictive ordinances against the
land application of biosolids. In California, nine counties issued bans or
restrictive ordinances. In Florida, two counties placed restrictions on the use
of Class B biosolids. In addition, 67 municipalities in Maine, Massachusetts,
New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania have instituted bans or restrictive
ordinances on biosolids land application. Several counties in Virginia also
passed restrictive ordinances, although the State Supreme Court later ruled
against such Restrictions.
EPA' position, explained in a 1995 guide to the Sludge Rule risk assessment,
is that pathogen levels for Class B biosolids, when coupled with crop
harvesting and site access restrictions, have been demonstrated to be
sufficient to protect public health and the environment.10 While we did not
attempt to evaluate this position, we noted in our prior audit report of March
2000 that EPA does not have an effective program for ensuring compliance
with land application requirements, e.g., crop harvesting and site access
There is another concern related to Class A biosolids. Sewage treatment
plants are allowed six alternatives for meeting Class A pathogen requirements
(i.e., reduction of pathogens to below detectable levels). Of the six
alternatives, two of those (Alternatives 3 and 4) have been criticized by some
EPA and State officials, as well as by a land applier, for not being sufficiently
protective. When Class A Alternatives 1, 2, or 5 are used for meeting
pathogen requirements, treatment methods are described and required by
the Rule. When Alternative 6 is used, the treatment method must be
approved by the permitting authority. However, for Alternatives 3 and 4 a
treatment method is not specified. A facility can designate its biosolids as
Class A based on the absence of fecal coliform or salmonella and
the absence of enteric viruses and viable helminth ova. These two
alternatives have been criticized because the absence of enteric viruses and
helminth ova may not indicate the absence of other disease-causing ----->>>
organisms in the biosolids.
Concerns About Protection of Natural Resources
Others have expressed concerns about the impact of biosolids on natural
resources. Members of some communities worried that the run-off from
biosolids could contaminate ground water and surface water. Four counties in
California and two in Florida have restricted land application of biosolids due,
in part, to concerns about contamination of the water supply. Biosolids
contain significant amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. Run-off of these
nutrients into surface water may impair its use for fisheries, recreation,
industry, and as a drinking water source. Nitrate leaching from biosolids into
groundwater can impact local wells or eventually discharge to surface waters.
Public Perceptions and the Future of Land Application
Public perceptions may not always be accurate, but they should not be
ignored. At the 2001 National Biosolids Conference, State Biosolids
Coordinators discussed the importance of public perception and public
acceptance and made the following points:
• The news has little information about biosolids, and the public needs
• Pathogens, which have been linked to recent publicized deaths, are a
• Odors are also an issue, plus odors trigger concerns about pathogens.
• Lack of public acceptance makes the program vulnerable to collapse.
• We are losing the public acceptance battle.
• How can we alleviate public concerns?
The importance of public perception is acknowledged by EPA in the
September 1999 report.
Overcoming public resistance to the beneficial use of biosolids
involves a combination of sensitivity to public perception issues, a
framework within which the concerns can be addressed, and a
willingness to address these issues through management practices
and technologies, effective outreach programs, and active
marketing of biosolids products.
At the same time that EPA' resources for the biosolids program are
decreasing, some members of the public and the media continue to question
the safety of biosolids land application. However, EPA' determination that the
program is low-risk and low-priority translates into few EPA funds available to
address public concerns. In addition, the Agency does not have a centralized
system to keep track of the complaints of adverse health effects that are
reported. Not addressing public concerns about safety, gaps in the science,
fear of long-term impacts, or any other real or perceived concern may result
in severely limiting or halting the practice of biosolids land application.
EPA's mission is to protect human health
and to safeguard the natural environment—
air, water, and land—upon which life
pollutant's impact may range along a
continuum from no effect to mild symptoms
to serious acute or chronic impacts. Different
people have different vulnerabilities, so
some may experience effects at ambient
pollutant levels while others may not
it is not surprising that chronic health
problems, which are often associated with
aging (e.g., heart disease, cancer, stroke,
and lung disease), are among the leading
causes of illness and death.
Serious illnesses, including deaths, and
adverse environmental impacts have been
linked to land application of sewage sludge.
EPA and the wastewater treatment
industry have worked with Congress to fund
wastewater trade associations to promote
land application, supporting industry-friendly
scientists and discouraging independent
research, to prevent local governments
from restricting land application and to
thwart litigation against municipalities and
According to Bob Bastian, December 23,
1997 "Until a state applies for and is
approved to carry out a delegated program,
all TWTDS in the state will be dealing directly
with their U.S. EPA Regional Office regarding
federal permits, compliance monitoring and
enforcement issues associated with
implementation of the Part 503 requirements
In an inspection report to Kansas City, dated
June 23, 1994, Ellen J. Dettman, DNR Water
Pollution Unit Chief, stated, "These
inspections did not address compliance with
EPA sludge regulations under 40 CFR 503.
These regulations are self-implementing and
directly enforceable without being included in
your state operating permits." In a letter dated
December 18, 1997, Arnold said, "Issues
regarding 503 rules are referred to John
Dunn at the EPA Region VII office. When
state issues overlap with 503 rules, EPA
normally takes the lead."
In 1988 EPA Study: "Although the use of
sludge as a soil amendment is attractive, it is
not without potential health risks. Toxic
chemicals, including heavy metals and
industrial organics, may enter the food chain
and present long-term health risks."
significant increases in bacterial
populations, including salmonellae, occurred
during subsequent production of commercial
soil amendment products.
According to EPA, The National Biosolids
Partnership (NBP) is a voluntary program to promote
effective biosolids management involving the Water
Environment Federation (WEF), the Association of
Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA), and U.S.
EPA. EPA serves as an advisory member to the
Partnership. More information about the NBP can
be found at
1988 EPA study: "Efforts to characterize major
unknown organic components were limited to
computer comparisons of GC/MS peaks to the NBS
mass spectral library. In none of the cases was a
tentative identification made. Manual review of
those components with a high degree of fit with an
NBS library compound (>8O%) allowed probable
compound class assignment for many peaks.
Virtually all of the major components classified
appeared to be aliphatics or carboxylic acid type
compounds. A majority of the sample extracts
exhibited a hydrocarbon "hump" in the ion
chromatograms. The peaks reviewed, therefore,
were superimposed on this background. As a result,
a significant portion of the major peaks were multi-
component peaks whose identities remain
EPA claims that if sludge is simply
considered a fertilizer, it is exempt from the
liability provisions of Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation
and Liability Act (CERCLA), even if a
Superfund site is created (FR. 58, 32, pp.
9326, 9263, February 19, 1993).
"Sewage sludge with high concentrations of
certain organic and metal pollutants may
pose human health problems when
disposed of in sludge only landfills [units]
(often referred to as mono-fills) or simply left
on the land surface, if the pollutants leach
from the sludge into ground water. Therefore,
the pollutant concentrations may need to be
limited or other measures such as
impermeable liner's must be taken to ensure
the ground water is not contaminated" (FR.
58, 32, p.9259
EPA has never enforced the rule when it was
brought to its attention. One example of this
discrepancy in Kansas City, Mo. is the land
loading records for Site No. LFF1P1, which
indicated that no arsenic, selenium, mercury
or molybdenum had been applied to the site
prior to 1995---in spite of the 177 pounds of
lead which had been applied to the site. In
1995, disposal rates were, Arsenic--20.056
lbs. per acre, selenium--34.711 lbs. per acre,
and lead was 51 lbs. per acre
Lack of Enforcement and Compliance for
1992 - January 28/ Letter from
Environmental Protection Agency Inspector
Generals Office, The project's compliance
with the URA is determined by the City's
response to all issues raised concerning
real property actions by the City, including
those actions involving the Minter land. In
these terms, compliance with the URA has
not yet been achieved. The project's lingering
disputes of public access and property value
of the remaining Minter land are serious
concerns that must be resolve before the
Federal grants on the project are closed out.
According to the National Research Council
Chromium [3,000 ppm] was deleted from
regulation in 1995. This amendment was the
result of a petition filed in 1993 by the Leather
Industries of America, Inc. to the U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit seeking review of the pollutant limits
for chromium. The court remanded the
request to EPA for additional justification or
modification of its chromium regulations in
the Part 503 rule. The Agency subsequently
determined that there was “an insufficient
basis at this time for the regulation of
chromium in sewage sludge that is applied
to land” (EPA 1995).
Under part 503.23, chromium placed on the
land is restricted to 600 ppm over 150
meters from the boundary site.
Only seven states are authorized to have
oversight programs: (UT, OK, SD, WI, TX, AZ
& OH) (December 2005)
Bob Bastian states:
"Concerns raised over emerging pathogens
and chemicals for which little or no data are
available tend to be put off for future
consideration when more adequate data are
generated." (December 2005)
" A. fumigatus is not covered in the
Bob Bastian states,
Participate in an Incident Tracking Workshop
Aimed at Development of Response
Mechanism. (December 2005)
Bob Bastian states:
"Less active EPA oversight, but continued
program support," (December 2005)
Office of Enforcement and Compliance
Assurance (OECA) has disinvested in the
biosolids program because it can not
enforce a regulation based on exclusions in
according to Ken Arnold, until 1997, EPA had
funded the Missouri State Sludge Coordinator
positions to monitor the sludge application
projects. Since EPA cut the funding, the State
of Missouri does not now have anyone
responsible for inspecting the sludge
disposal sites or enforcing the State rules
concerning the sludge sites
Four people in the 10 EPA Regions to
promote sludge and do "enforcement and
John Dunn, EPA's Region VII sludge
coordinator, did have responsible for four
states. An impossible job for one person,
since Missouri alone has 3,000-4,000 sites
and 1,000 facilities which are not
permitted, as well as the 1,000 which are
permitted. According to 1995 notes from a
National Sludge Coordinators' meeting,
Dunn, stated, "I am part time on sludge for
1/3 of my time for the States; Nebraska won't
come in for delegation so I have to cover all
of those state facilities; I only have one AARP
to help me for the next two years." Now he
has Missouri too who has refused to accept
According to this OIG report Missouri now
has 1/10 of a full time Regional EPA
According to the OIG G. Tracy Mehan, III /S/
Assistant Administrator, stated " States
have excellent oversight programs."
Mehan was the Director of the Missouri
Department of Natural Resources when the
letters were written stating the DNR did not
inspect sludge sites.
The states have a problem with EPA's
"Terms of Art" placement of sludge on the
land is disposal, whereas, sludge
application to the land is beneficial use.
Under the RCRA/CWA regulation for
minimum national criteria to ensure the
protection of human health and the
environment Part 258 sludge/biosolids is a
solid waste. Part 503.4 states sludge
disposed of under part 258 complies with
section 405(d) of the CWA.
The 220 Hazardous inorganic and organic
constituents, the 188 Hazardous airborne
pollutants, the 126 toxic priority pollutants
and the infectious disease causing
organisms make sludge/biosolids at best a
EPA's self-permitting part 503 does not
qualify as a federal permitted release as
stated in the preamble to part 503:
"If the placement of sludge on land were
considered to be "the normal application of
fertilizer," that placement could not give rise
to liability under CERCLA." (Comprehensive
Environmental Response and Liability Act) ---
"Under CERCLA, protection from liability is
also provided when there is a release of a
CERCLA hazardous substance and the
release occurs pursuant to Federal
authorization. Thus under CERCLA, in
defined circumstances, the application of
sewage sludge to land in compliance with a
permit required by section 405 of the Clean
Water Act is a Federally permitted release as
defined in CERCLA." ---"Consequent,
releases of hazardous substances from the
land application of sewage authorized under
and in compliance with an NPDES permit
would constitute a Federally permitted
release." (FR. 58, p. 9262 - 40 CFR 257 et al.)
40 CFR 257 et al. is the cover name for part
EPA has conned 7 states into taking
responsibility for creating open dumps. Other
states have taken responsibility by allowing
the creation of open without an enforceable
the studies done on the Milwaukee outbreak
of Cryptosporidium showed that it was due to
the human type coming from human fecal
material and human-associated wastewater
EPA has to be neutral since it was
discovered it had no risk assessment
In A Guide to the Biosolids Risk Assessment
for the EPA Part 503 Rule,(96) Chapter 6, p.
110, co-author John Walker noted, "that
pollutant limit determinations based on 1 x
10 -4 cancer risk level were made for
potentially toxic organic pollutants that could
occur in biosolids" [but], "the pollutant limits
determined in this way were not included in
the final rule."[and] "the Part 503 metals were
considered noncarcinogens (they do not
cause or induce cancer for the exposure
pathways evaluated)." EPA (188) said that for
most chemicals, "a positive determination
was made -- that EPA lacked sufficient data
to establish a safe level."
Wisconsin is one of the states that changed
its solid waste regulations to comply with the
part 503 sludge policy. There is a serious
concern that when sludge superfund site are
created the state has given up the right under
CERCLA to federal money for clean up of the
THE HAZARDOUS AIRBORNE
POLLUTANTS EPA is required to control 188
hazardous air pollutants.
220 Hazardous Inorganic and Organic
Constituents of concern in the real sludge
Only nine of the hazardous inorganics
pollutants are addressed when sludge is
applied to the land.
Removal credits can only be issued to
polluters when these nine hazardous
inorganics are applied to the land.
Only three of the hazardous inorganics
pollutants are addressed when sludge is
placed on the land in a landfill unit.
503.4 Disposal of sewage sludge in a
municipal solid waste landfill unit, as
defined in 40 CFR 258.2, that complies
with the requirements in 40 CFR part
258 constitutes compliance with
section 405(d) of the CWA
EPA will "Increase the resources
devoted to EPA's biosolids program,"
i.e. WEF. December 2005)
Seven states are formally delegated
(UT, OK, SD, WI, TX, AZ & OH)
(December 2005) But are they issuing
NPDES permits for sludge disposal?
The federal requirements are included
in the RCRA, CWA, & CERCLA
In effect, states must change the solid
waste rules to comply with a sludge
rule based on perceived exclusions in
Most politicians would not put in writing
that they changed the state solid waste
laws to expose there constituents to
503.9(t) Pollutant is an organic
substance, an inorganic substance, a
combination of organic and inorganic
substances, or a pathogenic organism
that, after discharge and upon
exposure, ingestion, inhalation, or
assimilation into an organism either
directly from the environment or
indirectly by ingestion through the food
chain, could, on the basis of
information available to the
Administrator of EPA, cause death,
disease, behavioral abnormalities,
cancer, genetic mutations,
physiological malfunctions (including
malfunction in reproduction), or
physical deformations in either
organisms or offspring of the
National Environmental Policy
The purposes of this Act are: To declare a
national policy which will encourage
productive and enjoyable harmony between
man and his environment; to promote efforts
which will prevent or eliminate damage to the
environment and biosphere and stimulate
the health and welfare of man; to enrich the
understanding of the ecological systems and
natural resources important to the Nation
calculated to foster and promote the general
welfare, to create and maintain conditions
under which man and nature can exist in
productive harmony, and fulfill the social,
economic, and other requirements of present
and future generations of Americans.
Protecting the health of Americans from
environmental pollutants has always been a key
goal of EPA policies and programs.
pollutant: Generally, any substance introduced into
the environment that adversely affects the
usefulness of a resource or the health of humans,
animals, or ecosystems.
pollution: Generally, the presence of a substance in
the environment that, because of its chemical
composition or quantity, prevents the functioning of
natural processes and produces undesirable
environmental and health effects. Under the Clean
Water Act, for example, the term has been defined
as the manmade or man-induced alteration of the
physical, biological, chemical, and radiological
integrity of water and other media.
A pollutant's impact may range along a continuum
from no effect to mild symptoms to serious acute or
chronic impacts. Different people have different
vulnerabilities, so some may experience effects at
ambient pollutant levels while others may not.
Many studies in people have demonstrated an
association between environmental exposure and
certain diseases or other health problems. Examples
include radon and lung cancer; arsenic and cancer
in several organs; lead and nervous system disorders;
disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli O157: H7
(e.g., in contaminated meat and water) and
gastrointestinal illness and death; and particulate
matter and aggravation of heart and respiratory
Elucidating the linkage between environmental
pollution and disease is challenging. We understand
this linkage fairly well for some pollutants, such as
those listed above, but poorly for others.
several segments of the population may be at higher
risk for damage or disease from environmental
pollutants. Potentially sensitive groups include
children; older Americans; people with existing
health problems such as diabetes, respiratory
disease, or heart disease; and persons with
compromised immune systems, including those who
have HIV/AIDS or are undergoing cancer
chemotherapy. Poor or other disadvantaged
populations may live in more polluted environments
that expose them to higher concentrations of
older Americans may have preexisting conditions—
such as heart ailments, diabetes, or respiratory
disease—that reduce their tolerance to pollutants.
Even relatively healthy older people may, merely as
a result of age, have a diminished capacity to fight
infections, pollution, or other causes of stress to their
systems that might have posed little risk when they
Air pollution has been associated with several
health problems, including reported symptoms
(nose and throat irritation), acute onset or
exacerbation of existing disease (e.g., asthma,
hospitalizations due to cardiovascular disease),
and premature deaths.
EPA and WEF have been running a
debunking public relations
program since 1995 to cover up
DID SLUDGE EXPERTS SET OUT TO
Bad public Relations Campaign
Particulate air pollution is associated with
increased daily mortality in many U.S.
communities and other countries. The elderly and
those with preexisting diseases are particularly
vulnerable.47 Exposure to ambient particulate
matter has also been associated with an
increased number of hospital admissions and
visits to doctors due to cardiovascular problems
and respiratory disease.48 Some studies show
that exposure to particulate matter exacerbates
asthma. Long-term exposure to particulate matter
has been associated with increased deaths from
heart and lung diseases, increased respiratory
disease and bronchitis and with decreased lung
function in children.49
Congress enacted RCRA to achieve three
primary goals: (1) protection of human
health and the environment; (2) reduction of
waste and conservation of energy and
natural resources; and (3) reduction or
elimination of the generation of hazardous
waste as expeditiously as possible.
Part of the money was spent the
WEF/U.S. EPA Biosolids Fact Sheet Project
Biosolids in Northern Washington State:
Biosolids Fact Sheet
EPA'S PUBLIC RELATIONS CAMPAIGN
FRONTED BY THE WATER ENVIRONMENT
FEDERATION CLAIMS THEIR HAS NEVER
BEEN A DOCUMENTED CASE OF HARM
ONE SIDED EPA/WEF FACT SHEET
ON RAYMOND AND LINDA ZANDER
OF WASHINGTON STATE.
Their family was tested.
Based on results of the
Neurotoxicity Screening Survey,
symptoms consistent with
neurotoxicity were found in all who
completed the test. The two
children born and raised on the
farm have been classified by their
schools as mildly retarded and
having attention-deficit disorders,
although there was no family
history of these illnesses.
Congress mandated EPA develop comprehensive
regulations under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for
the control of toxic pollutants in sludge and
cautioned, "These regulations must be "adequate
to protect human health and the environment from
any reasonable anticipated adverse effect of each
pollutant." Section 405(d) (2)(D)." (1993-FR. 58, p.
"The term "toxic pollutant" is not used in
the final part 503 regulation because this
generally is limited to the list of priority
toxic pollutants developed by EPA. The
Agency concluded that Congress intended
that EPA develop the part 503 pollutant
limits for a broader range of substances
that might interfere with the use and
disposal of sewage sludge, not just the 126
priority pollutants." (FR. 58, 32, p. 9327)
"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
identified Priority Pollutants in regulations that
deal with municipal and industrial wastewater
(EPA, 1984) due to their toxicity to humans and the
aquatic environment. These Priority Pollutants are
divided into four classes; (1) heavy metals (often
times referred to as trace elements
or trace metals) and cyanide, (2) volatile organic
compounds, (3) semivolatile organic compounds,
and (4) pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls
(PCBs). In addition, nontoxic organic compounds
in wastewater can be transformed into potential
toxic chlorinated compounds, such as
trihalomethanes, when chlorine is used for
disinfection purposes (National Research Council,
1980)." (National Research Council Study, Use of
Reclaimed Water and Sludge in Food Crop
The Agency only included 10 metals eligble for
removal credits under part 403.
"The Agency recognizes that today's rule [part 503]
may not regulate all pollutants in sewage sludge
that may adversely effect public health and the
environment." (1993-FR. 58, 9253)
"EPA concluded that adequate protection of public
health and the environment did not require the
adoption of standards designed to protect human
health or the environment under exposure
conditions that are unlikely and where effects
were not significant or widespread." (FR. 58, p.
James D. Oliver,(48) Department of Biology,
University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2005,
notes, "Since the original 1982 paper from the
laboratory of Rita Colwell (Xu et al., 1982), over
400 papers have appeared which describe
various aspects of the phenomenon most
commonly referred to as the " but nonculturable
(VBNC) state" Futhermore, he said, "The number of
species described to enter the VBNC state
constantly increases, with approximately 60 now
reported to demonstrate this physiological
response. Included are a large number of human
pathogens, including Campylobacter spp., E. coli
(including EHEC strains), Francisella tularensis,
Helicobacter pylori, Legionella pneumophila,
Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium
tuberculosis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, several
Salmonella and Shigella spp. and Vibrio cholerae,
V. Parahaemolyticus, and V. Vulnificus."
One of EPA's many claims for the safety of sludge
used as a fertilizer is that the regulated metals do
not move through the soil. The Kansas City test well
reports for 1996 and 1997 appear to bear this theory
out, until we look at other metals which EPA does
not regulate. As noted, arsenic and aluminum were
above the permitted level in a number of the test
wells. But other chemicals of concern, iron,
magnesium, Manganese, silver and sodium appear
to move through the soil very quickly. The levels
varied from very low to very high levels in the 14
wells. Total nitrogen (TKN) was above the permit
limits in all 14 monitoring wells. In the June 1997
report one well had a nitrogen level of 63.76 mg/l vs
the regulated level of 10 mg/l.
According to the University's soil test reports
on calcium, the calcium varied by 3000 lb per
acre between the four samples. The lowest
exposure to runoff from the sludge site was
recorded as 3,428 lbs. per acre, while the
section with highest exposure to run-off from
the sludge site was recorded at 6,703 lbs.
per acre. The high levels of calcium
in surface water run-off could be expected
since, according to EPA documents, Kansas
City has been disposing of sludge with
calcium levels at 28,000 mg/kg since 1988.
The 1997 second quarter report showed
that permit numbers for fecal coliform
were exceeded in 4 of the 14 test wells.
Four different soil test samples were taken on
Trust property that had been subject to surface
water run-off. All four samples were tested for
fecal coliform bacteria. The test results revealed
coliform bacteria levels of 3000, 9000 and one
with 650,000 per 100ML. The samples with the
lowest fecal coliform bacteria levels had also
been tested for Salmonella and E. coli. , the
results of those two tests revealed levels of both
Salmonella and E. coli at 800,000 colony forming
units per 100ML.
HELANE SHIELD'S website listing Sludge
Clustering of Reported Health Incidents
THE EPA CLAIM:
Protecting human health is an integral part of EPA's mission. EPA conducts numerous research programs throughout
the world that study the effects of pollution on the human body. Research efforts include studies on how pollution affects
children and people with asthma and other illnesses and water contaminants may affect swimmers and beachgoers.
Monitoring environmental quality also plays an important role in protecting human health. EPA works with state and local
agencies, as well as volunteer and other citizens groups, to monitor air and water quality and to reduce human exposure
to contaminants in the air, land, and water. HOW COME THIS NEVER HAPPENED WITH SLUDGE/BIOSOLIDS?