National Sludge Alliance
NSA Public Fact Sheet 110
Beneficial Use - Disease/Death: by Design or Ignorance?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA claims cow manure should be regulated as a dangerous fertilizer, according
to one EPA employee. He has used this threat twice against a vocal California farmer opposed to the use of toxic
sewage sludge as a fertilizer on food crop production land. The first threat was in a note attached to a Water
Environment Federation (WEF) letter lobbying Congress to change a Farm Bill. The WEF letter blamed farmers and the
use of cow manure for the nations water pollution problems. The second threat was contained in a personal letter to the
farmer on an EPA letterhead. Enclosed in the letter was an article on E. Coli outbreaks, which blamed cow manure for at
least one 1991 outbreak of E. coli in Massachusetts. (public Facts # 101, For whom the Bell Tolls)
The EPA Administrator has information available which proves that if any of the organic or inorganic or pathogen
pollutants in beneficial use sludge enter your body either directly by ingestion or inhalation or indirectly through the food
chain, can or will, cause your death, or cancer, or disease, or other serious health effects in you and/or your unborn
children. (40 CFR 503.9(t), FR. 58, 32, p. 9389).
President Clinton wants Congress to spend 43 million dollars to fight food contamination that have affected millions of
people, such as deadly disease outbreaks from hamburgers, apple juice, orange juice and other foods.
The disease organisms (found in beneficial use sewage sludge), which caused these health effects, Samonella, E. coli,
Cyclosporia, Hepatitis A and others, according to the National Center for Disease Control, cause approximately 50
million cases of food poisoning and 9,000 deaths annually. (Isaacs 1996).
Studies have documented Salmonella infection of cattle grazing on pastures fertilized with toxic sewage sludge and a
cycle of infection from humans to sludge to animals to humans. (Taylor and Burrows. 1971, WHO. 1981, Dorn, 1985)
Studies have also documented the acute toxicity of organic pollutants in sewage sludge (which the EPA does not
address in the beneficial use regulation) and that the pollutants in sludge may not leave any indication in the body as to
the actual cause of death. (Babish. 1981, 1985).
Beneficial use, according to two EPA funded "scientific studies" is based on the fact that "Suitable landfill sites are,
however, being exhausted. Thus sludge is now being applied to farmland by many municipalities." (Dorn, 1985). and
"The limited capacity of sanitary landfills is quickly exhausted, and communities are not providing for new landfills."
(National Research Council (NCR), 1996).
Sludge disposed of in a sanitary landfill will not harm anyone, nor will it contaminate the food or water supply. (Federal
Register (FR.) 58, 32, p. 9375).
Ocean dumping of New York City sewage sludge was stopped by Congress because it destroyed the ocean
environment where it was dumped. At the time, only 20% of New York City sludge was acceptable as EPA approved
fertilizer under the proposed sewage sludge regulation. (Schultz, 1989).
EPA now brags that 67% of New York City sludge is processed by the New York Organic Fertilizer Company for use on
citrus orchards in Florida, wheat farms in Colorado and cotton and grain farms in Arizona. Twenty-seven percent of New
York City sludge is used on Merco Joint Venture's 128,000 acre cattle ranch in west Texas. (WEF/EPA. 1995. Biosolids
Fact Sheet 1).
If sludge dumpers do not claim the right to use sewage sludge as a fertilizer for wild grass, lawns, gardens or food crops,
the sewage sludge must be disposed of in a safe highly regulated landfill under Part 503. FR. 58, 32, p. 9330.
Sewage sludge classified as a high quality fertilizer is too contaminated with toxic pollutants to be disposed of in a part
503 landfill, primarily because of the Chromium content. FR. 58, 32, pp. 9362, 9396 - Parts 503.13 & 503.23.
EPA has proposed a solution to the inconsistencies in its regulation. According to the EPA, the solution is to simply
remove Chromium from the regulation and no one will notice that it only addresses 9 of the 126 priority toxic pollutants
which can kill you or that its high quality sewage sludge fertilizer can not be disposed of in a part 503 landfill. Biocycle,
EPA did not address 116 of the 126 priority toxic pollutants in sludge that it knows will cause death, cancer, and other
acute illness, because Congress wanted it to regulate a greater number of toxic substances. (FR. 58. 32, pp. 9327,
9389 - Public Facts # 100, # 101).
EPA has acknowledged 25 groups of death and disease causing agents and 21 cancer causing agents in sewage
sludge. (FR. 54. 23, pp. 5829, 5777).
"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, 32, p. 9252).
EPA estimated its beneficial use of sludge as a fertilizer was responsible for about 500 health effects annually. (FR. 58.
32, p. 9374).
EPA's Sludge Regulation claims to give itself, the states, cities and sludge dumpers immunity from all damage and
health claims caused by the use of sewage sludge and claims to void the Congressional mandated environmental laws
(even if a Superfund site is created) as long as the sludge is called a fertilizer. (FR. 58, 32, p. 9262. - Public Facts # 101)
Under the law, States and cities are required to comply with Federal environmental laws which are very clear: sewage
sludge from a wastewater treatment plant is always a solid waste that must be disposed of in a legal landfill where it can
harm no one. (Public Laws 98-616, 99-339, 99-499)
Yet, the States no longer accept any responsibility for your protection. As an example, in a letter to Kansas City,
Missouri, the Department of Natural Resources attempted to wash its hands of the problem, "These (wastewater
treatment plant) 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 permit."
(Dettman, June 23, 1994).
The State of Washington Courts have found that the State has no responsibility to protect the lives and health of
individuals under the public duty doctrine or the law. (Zander Case, 1995).
EPA is spending 1.2 million dollars to debunk the horror stories (death and diseases) associated with sludge used as a
fertilizer and promote the use of sewage sludge on watersheds? (Walker, 1994).
The question is, how long will Congress and the American public allow the unwarranted deaths and disease to continue?
Babish, J. G., D. J. Lisk, G. S. Stoewsand, and C. Wilkinson. 1981. "Organic toxicants and pathogens in sewage sludge
and their environmental effects." Spec. Rept. No. 42, N. Y. State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Ithaca, NY.
Babish, J. G. 1985. "Health risks associated with the organic fraction of municipal sewage sludges." Bulletin 851. Criteria
and Recommendations for land application of Sludges in the northeast. The Pennsylvania State University, University
Dettman, Ellen J. 1994. Water Pollution Unit Chief, Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Official transmittal letter
to H.E. Snider, Director of Kansas City's Water and Pollution Control Department.
Dorn. C. R., Reddy. C. S., Lamphere. D. N., Gaeuman. J. V., and Lanese. R. (1985). "Municipal Sewage Sludge
Application on Ohio Farms: Health Effects." Environment Research 38. 332-359.
Isaacs, Florence. 1996. "Is your fruit safe to eat." Fitness, Oct. 1996, pp. 47-48.
National Research Council. 1996. "Use of Reclaimed Water and Sludge in Food Crop Production." National Academy
Press. Washington, D.C.
Taylor. R. J., and Burrows, M. R. (1971). "The survival of Escherichia Coli and Samonella dublin in slurry in pasture and
the infectivity of S. dublin for grazing calves." Brit. Vet. J. 127, 536-543.
Taylor. R. J. (1973). "A further assessment of the potential for calves allowed to graze pasture contaminated with
Salmonella dublin in slurry." Brit. Vet. J. 129, 354-358.
World Health Organization (1981). "The risk to Health of Microbes in Sewage Sludge Applied to Land: Report on a WHO
Working Group." Stevenage, 6-9 January 1981. EURO Reports and Studies, 54. World Health Organization.