Retired EPA Sludge Salesman Alan Rubin on Marketing and Distribution of sludge/biosolids in Sludge Watch

Questions Rubin Would not Answer
Message: 5
Date: Tue, 04 Apr 2006 00:43:12 +0000
From: <>
Subject: Sludge Watch ==>  New England Fertilizer Company - sludge
pellets    often exceed metal limits
Message-ID: <BAY15-F619E3B4E3B9C143A990FDFDCA0@phx.gbl>
Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed

Sludgewatch Admin:

Former EPA sludge bureaucrat Al Rubin posts the following comment and story.
Unfortunately, I fail to see how switching a Utah backup plan to a local
backup plan is any huge endorsement for pellets. Nor do I see that
'distributing them' (*pr speak for giving away or paying someone to take
them) is an indication of a 'market'.

Note again that according to Milwaukee's auditor reports making Milorganite
(and paying to promote it and 'distribute it') is the MOST EXPENSIVE option
that Milwaukee could have chosen to get rid of their sludge.  So it is not a
'product'  - it is bilking one set of urban taxpayers to market their sewer
wastes to another largely unsuspecting group of people by confounding them
with the term 'organic' - so they think the material is clean and chemical

The Massachusets Water Resources Authority is the sewage district making the
sludge that becomes sludge pellets.  Below the story Al posted is some
information from the MWRA about how these sludge pellets are often too high
in molydenum, copper, and lead to be distributed to the public within the
state of Massachusetts...which certainly makes it appear that the Boston
distribution is often illegal.  (so grab a bag of Bay State Fertilizer and
run up a test on the heavy metals and see if the batch  you bought is
illegal..then call me)

As to the marketting of pellets in Philadelphia...Synagro has asked the
taxpayer to pick up the whole cost of drying the pellets - to the tune of
millions of dollars per year....This is ridiculous waste of taxpayers
money..especially as energy costs are likely to spiral out of control.

Al Rubin comments:

Please see the attached article and post it.   Once again, it shows the
success of the production of biosolids pellets in the management of
biosolids in the US.  In addition, Milorganite is totally subscribed.  Your
negative stories on the failures to market these materials in Canada may be
due to insufficient marketing expertise of Canadian pellet producers.

I sense that the production and success of biosolids pelletization is
increasing in the US.  To wit, the proposed production of pellets in
Philadelphia, PA.



(From the most recent edition of NEBRA News)
MWRA recently expressed its confidence in its ongoing, long-term biosolids
recycling program by terminating a long-standing contract with a landfill in
Utah.   That contract reserved space for sewage sludge disposal in case the
utility’s Quincy, MA heat-drying facility or another part of the MWRA
biosolids recycling program failed.  According to a Boston Herald report
(1/23/06), the landfill contract cost MWRA $817,000 a year.   If a failure
had occurred, MWRA’s large volumes of digested sewage sludge would have been
hauled by railroad to the Utah site for disposal. However, the consistent
track record of the pelletizing facility, run by New England Fertilizer
Company (NEFCO), convinced MWRA that spending so much public money for an
unused back-up service was no longer necessary.  MWRA and NEFCO have
developed alternate, more local plans for back-up disposal of MWRA biosolids
in the case of a short-term emergency disruption. NEFCO has successfully
sold and distributed MWRA pelletized biosolids fertilizer for more than a
decade. In the Boston area, it is available in bags under the brand name
“Bay State Fertilizer.”


Evidence of excessive metals in the New England Organic Fertilizer sludge
pellets from the Massachusets Water Resources Authority at:

Molybdenum is a metal which is commonly used as a corrosion inhibitor in
industrial, commercial, and residential cooling towers, and has been
measured at elevated levels during the cooling season in MWRA fertilizer
pellets. While these levels are well below current federal standards, they
exceed the Mass. DEP highest-quality levels for unrestricted land

Mercury is a heavy metal which (in certain chemical forms) can be highly
toxic and is known to bioaccumulate (build up) in fish and (potentially)
humans and marine mammals who consume these fish.

While mercury is found in very small amounts in a number of products, MWRA
has identified hospitals, dental facilities (using dental amalgams) and
several commercial and household products (cleaners and disinfectants) as
key sources to our system. Mercury also is contributed in significant
amounts by rain events, through atmospheric deposition of mercury which is
released as a result of municipal incinerators and fossil fuel plants.

Copper levels in MWRA's fertilizer pellets have sometimes exceeded the
most-stringent state standards for reuse. Because MWRA's water supply is
somewhat corrosive to water pipes, copper is leached from residential and
other service pipes, eventually ending up in MWRA's wastewater. Copper can
also be contributed through improper treatment and discharge of vehicle
washing and cleaning activities. It is also found in many commercial and
industrial chemicals, such as root-killers and paint pigments.

Lead is a heavy metal which has been found in MWRA pellets at concentrations
which sometime exceed the Mass. DEP's most stringent standards for reuse.
Lead, like copper, is commonly used in older residential and service pipes,
and is thus susceptible to leaching into the water supply. Lead may also be
contributed from storm water runoff as well as some types of metal
processing operations