Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) implied lack of knowledge about environmental law as well as 800 hazardous substances and 126 toxic priority pollutants is the magic which transforms sludge into biosolids. The VDH Biosolids law refers to nine metals (hazardous substances - toxic pollutants) as trace elements (five are inhalation carcinogens). Even EPA, who based the part 503 sludge policy on exclusions in federal law, listed the nine metals as pollutants in part 503, and noted in part 503.9(t) that either direct exposure or indirect exposure to the pollutants through the air, water or food chain could cause death, disease, cancer or worse. Even though part 503.4 states that part 258 is the legal sludge disposal regulation meeting minimum RCRA/CWA human health and environment requirements, VDH is issuing permits for disposal where you could be exposed to the pollutants through the air, water and food chain. However, according to EPA’s senior sludge scientist, Robert Bastian, (12/2005), Virginia has never received EPA approval to issue disposal permits for beneficial biosolids use.
The legal authorities (federal, state, county and municipal) are quick to tell you that ignorance of the laws is no excuse for violating the laws and regulations. It is even against the law for you to lie to these authorities. . However, it appears to be acceptable for third parties with little or no knowledge about sludge to mislead you, contractors and state legislators.
As an example: In 1997, Virginia Tech’s Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Cooperative Extension, did a sludge/biosolids rainfall pollution runoff test on plots 25 feet wide by 55 feet long in Louisa County. It was the unscientific opinion of the authors, G.K. Evanylo, et al., that “The high amounts of E. Coli transported in the runoff likely emanated from the animal manure on the pasture.” Why would Evanylo assure you E. coli runoff from a carefully controlled scientific sludge test site was from animal manure, when he listed E. coli in “A partial list of pathogens that can be found in municipal wastewater and solids and diseases or symptoms they cause”? In fact, VDH’s sludge law on unlabelled sludge/biosolids sold to the public allows 1,000,000 cfu of E. coli per kilogram.
Furthermore, in spite of the fact that domestic wastewater comes only from home residences without hospital and industrial pollutants in it, Evanylo claims, “Biosolids are produced primarily through biological treatment of domestic wastewater.”
Moreover, federal law defines sludge from the treatment of household domestic sewage as a solid waste; states it does not have data on most pollutants; and states exposure to the pollutants in sludge could cause death, disease, cancer, etc.. Yet, Evanylo claims, “Biosolids are solid, semi-solid or liquid materials, resulting from treatment of domestic sewage, that have been sufficiently processed to permit these materials to be safely land-applied.”
Yet, in 1995, EPA acknowledged it did not do a risk assessment on the ten metal pollutants, or pathogens, and the risk assessment it did for the 13 cancer causing organic pollutants (VDH -Table 13) was not included in the regulation. Yet, Evanylo assures you that “Quality standards and limits for pollutants in biosolids were developed from extensive environmental risk assessments conducted by scientists at the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
The Jekyll and Hyde syndrome at VDH: While VDH’s Division of Wastewater Engineering is putting your health at risk by forcing you to accept sludge/biosolids use with no regulatory control over the total pollutants, VDH’s Office of Environmental Health Services may be trying to redeem itself by expanding the range of deadly pollutants in biosolids: “Biosolids are a complex mixture that can contain pollutants from household, commercial and industrial wastewaters such as metals, pathogens (which are disease-causing organisms), and chemical pollutants such as medicines and synthetic organic compounds like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). At uncontrolled levels, these pollutants could accumulate in soils or crops, which could potentially affect our health and the health of animals, as well as the long standing health of our lands and waters.”
In the air, according to VDH’s Division of Health Hazards Control, “Bioaerosols include microbial cells (microorganisms), their reproductive units, and associated metabolites that are volatile or small enough to sufficiently achieve aerial dispersion. Categories of bioaerosols include viruses, bacteria, fungi, algae, and protozoa and their products (Burge, 1990a). ----- Under certain environmental conditions, many bioaerosols can cause varying symptoms, disorders, and diseases in humans, and they can survive for extended periods.”
Like Dr. Jekyll, VDH has made a minor confession about the dangers of sludge/biosolids being forced on Virginia citizens. However, it is unlikely that VDH will commit suicide like Mr. Hyde. Virginia citizens will have to bring pressure to bear on the legislators who allowed VDH to put your health and the environment in danger, based on an EPA policy..