Testimony of Jane Beswick
Committee on Science
EPA’s Sludge Rule: Closed Minds or Open Debate
March 22, 2000
House Science Committee Hearing
EPA’s Sludge Rule: Closed Minds or Open Debate
Honorable Chairman and Distinguished Members:
My name is Jane E. Beswick. I am the coordinator of the Coalition for Sludge Education and a member of the
National Sludge Alliance. Both organiztions gather and disseminate information about the risks associated with land
application of sewer sludge (biosolids). My husband and I have been dairy farmers in Stanislaus County, California
since July 1966. Until last year, I fed the calves.
In May of 1993 my life changed dramatically. I heard a neighbor was planning to spread sludge on land he rents
next to our farm. In 1992 I had read an article in Farm Journal magazine about bad results farmers had experienced
after spreading sludge. That article was the starting point of my research and education.
About the same time, there had been an experiment approved in Stanislaus County to pasteurize sewer sludge,
and then spread it on pastureland. To make a long story short, the experiment turned out terribly. As a result of that
episode, county officials wanted to research the issue to determine if they should draft an ordinance to regulate the
practice locally. Since I had begun to gather information, I was asked to serve on the task force that would report back
to the Board of Supervisors. I wrote several articles which were published and began receiving requests for information
from other parts of the state and even other parts of the United States.
Tulare County, California, held an informational meeting in January 1996. Dr. Rubin and I were two of eight
persons invited to speak. The California Women for Agriculture invited me to speak at a forum in February 1996 at the
Tulare Farm Show. When I arrived the day of the meeting, I was informed that Dr. Rubin would also be a presenter. He
had called saying he was coming--though not invited.
Following that event, Dr. Rubin wrote a threatening letter to me and Carolyn Richardson, an attorney for California
Farm Bureau. He objected to two specific items in my paper, “Some Misconceptions Concerning Sludge.” The first was
the distinction I made between manure and biosolids; while the second concerned the transfer of liability to the
landowner who applies sludge. He said, “I do not mean this as a threat.” However, I took that to mean, Jane, just in
case you hadn’t thought about it, this is a threat. He then went on to ask, “Jane, when was the last time either a Federal
or State inspector was out at your farm to inspect your dairy manure lagoon for integrity and to measure nitrate levels in
your groundwater and surface waters adjacent to your land? When was the last time that a regulatory official asked for
a determination of pathogen levels in either your manure or soils?” Further, he said, “...continued presentations like
yours can only focus the public’s and eventually the regulators’ attention on . . . traditional agricultural practices such as
the use of manures and fertilizers.” This was the first of ten unsolicited mailings I received from Dr. Rubin. To me, he
was saying that if I didn’t stop speaking out about the risks of using sludge, there would be closer scrutiny of animal
manure by Federal and State inspectors--which has happened.
The second mailing arrived a couple days later. It was written on Water Environment Federation letterhead and
addressed “Dear Member of Congress.” A sticky note was attached which said, “Jane, Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it
tolls for thee!” signed, Alan Rubin. That note gave me a queasy feeling because I knew it use to be a practice in rural
communities to toll the church bells when someone died. My husband and a neighbor told me I better watch out.
Farmers are aware of the power US EPA possesses. I was beginning to wonder why a person of Dr. Rubin’s stature was
so preoccupied with a calf feeder from Turlock. Why was EPA after me? Since then, I always take someone with me
when I go to speak.
As I continued to speak at meetings in other counties, additional mailings arrived from Dr. Rubin. In fact, after
almost every decision to either ban the application of sludge or to impose more stringent regulation than the 503’s
required, I would receive another envelope.
The third mailing contained a mock up of a letterhead for the Coalition. My name was misspelled and the word
“sludge” had been changed to “biosolids.” My take on this was that Dr. Rubin was being antagonistic and attempting to
provoke me to respond--which I did not do. I continued to file the envelopes away never dreaming I would some day be
sharing them with a committee of Congress.
The fourth (5-14-97) mailing, on Office of Water notepaper, informed me that 1,000 copies of the enclosed 55-
page report had been released to the public and news media. All references to animal manure were underlined.
Mailing 8 was a letter from US EPA Assistant Administrator, Robert Perciasepe, to the Honorable Richard
Rominger, Deputy Secretary, USDA. Mr. Perciasepe wanted biosolids to replace animal manures in the National
Organic Standards Rule as a recognized suitable material for organic food production. You probably heard about the
overwhelmingly negative response this proposal evoked among farmers and consumers of organically grown food.
Mailing 9 contained a newspaper article with a handwritten message. “MANURE = MISCARRIAGES OR BABY
DEATHS. THE BELL IS TOLLING!!” Mailing 10 was the culmination of EPA’s effort to regulate animal manures. It
contained a copy of a letter addressed to Helane Shields, another member of the NSA. Also included was a bill (HR
3232 IH) introduced by California Congressman George Miller and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.
Since organizing the Coalition, I have determined that I would not act in an outrageous manner and I would tell the
truth. Even though I have adhered to these principles, I have been subjected to EPA’s attempt to silence me and also to
threaten the industry which provides my livelihood. From my experience, I feel that the US EPA is an agency which
needs to be reined in by Congress.
Thank you for your attention and help in remedying the less than acceptable tactics of Dr. Alan Rubin and the US