National Sludge Alliance
NSA Public Fact Sheet 131
Farms And Public Health Destroyed -- For Removal Credits
In 1995, John Stauber and Shelton Rampton published Toxic Sludge Is Good For You! Lies, Damn Lies and the Public
Relations Industry. They exposed the EPA's public relation campaign to change the name to biosolids and sell sludge
as a safe fertilizer. EPA and its partners went to great lengths to discredit the book and asserted that there was nothing
toxic about sludge.
However, the NPDES permit requirement, part 122.2 states: "Toxic pollutant means any pollutant listed as toxic under
section 307(a)(1) or, in the case of "sludge use or disposal practices," any pollutant identified in regulations
implementing section 405(d) of the CWA.
This would appear to exclude the possibility of the part 503 sludge rules being created to implement section 405(d) of
the Clean Water Act. It doesn't mention anything about toxic pollutants. Nor does it include all of the toxic pollutants
listed under section 307(a)(1).
EPA's Dr. Alan Rubin, who claims to have written part 503 says sludge is neither toxic or hazardous. Yet, he just can not
bring himself to the point of using EPA's proper Environmental Terms. He does admit exposure to toxic / hazardous
"Pollutants" in sludge can cause death. In December of 1999, the EPA Administrator was asked to clarify the definitions
used in the part 503 policies. Dr. Rubin, replied: "The definition of "pollutant" in section 503.9(t) of the 40 CFR Part 503
Biosolids Rule is taken directly from the definitions section of the governing statute, the Clean Water Act. This definition
of "pollutant" indicates the type of impacts that these materials (inorganics, organics, pathogens) could cause to
humans and other species if humans and other species are exposed to these materials at sufficient doses and over a
sufficient period of time. The main classes of these pathogenic organisms are bacteria such as salmonella, viruses such
as polio, protozoa such as giardia, and helminthes such as ascaris. EPA or "The Administrator" has enormous amounts
of information on these "pollutants" compiled over decades of studies and research. This information clearly indicates
that if humans and other living species are exposed to these materials at sufficient doses and over sufficient periods of
time, there is a potential for adverse effects to be observed" (NSA FS 123).
As chief scientist, sludge salesman, and regulator for the EPA Office of Water, Rubin should have known better. Rubin
actually refers to the Clean Water Act definition for a "toxic pollutant." A "Pollutant (Under the Clean Water Act
definitions) means dredged spoil, solid waste, incinerator residue, filter backwash, sewage, garbage, sewage sludge,
munitions, chemical wastes, biological materials, radioactive materials (except those regulated under the Atomic Energy
Act of 1954, as amended (42 U.S.C. 2011 et seq.)), heat, wrecked or discarded equipment, rock, sand, cellar dirt and
industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste discharged into water."
"Is there more to the toxic /hazardous pollutant contaminated sludge/biosolids debate than meets the eye? It would
appear that the sewage sludge regulation has less to do with the protection of public health and the environment, than a
1986 court decision, which found that, "EPA cannot, in the absence of section 405(d) regulations (part 503) authorize
the issuance of removal credits under section 307(b)(1)." This was a court decision which invalidated EPA's
pretreatment regulations on four aspects.")" (Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA, 790 F. 2d 289 (3rd Cir. 1986)
(FR. 58, p. 9261)
"The 10 pollutants [originally] regulated by part 503 for land application are the same ones listed in Appendix G to Part
403 - "Regulated Pollutants in Part 503 Eligible for a Removal Credit." Only three of the pollutants, Arsenic, Chromium
and Nickel, would be eligible for removal credits under the part 503-landfill disposal subpart. (1993-FR. 58, P. 9386)"
(NSA Fact Sheet #108)
"Chromium is one of only three toxic substances that allow removal credits be granted to industrial polluters when
sewage sludge is placed in a part 503 landfill. Therein lies the true purpose of EPA's Sludge Use and Disposal
Regulation. Part 503 is the court ordered authority EPA used for granting removal credits to industrial polluters under
the Pretreatment regulation 40 CFR 403. " (NSA Fact Sheet #107)
EPA's part 503 Sludge policy currently suggests that only (9) of the toxic/hazardous substances released into the
environment be reported. However, EPA misused the Environmental Terms and listed them as "Pollutants". The
Environmental Terms also identifies the group as very dangerous: "Heavy Metals: [are] Metallic elements with high
atomic weights; (e.g., mercury, chromium, cadmium, arsenic, and lead); [which] can damage living things at low
concentrations and tend to accumulate in the food chain. "
To get past this obstacle, in 1989, "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. 9252) (NSA Fact Sheet #104)
In effect, the regulation is based on the fact that the public is not supposed to be on a sludge disposal site. It is also the
EPA's position that the damage to a farm environment and farm family is not significant and the health effects would not
be widespread. EPA and its partners could only get a way with this, if farmers and the public thought sludge was a safe
fertilizer product. To do this, EPA and its partner, WEF, hired a public relations firm to spread the gospel.
They changed the name to biosolids. Then petitioned to get the word biosolids included in Webster's Dictionary. To top
it off, these gentlemen now have biosolids included in the latest Prentice Hall's, Environmental Science and Techniology
Text book as a safe organic fertilizer.(i.e. "biosolids--The dried remains of wastewater treatment used as organic
fertilizer") Change Public Perception
The multi-million dollar EPA/WEF PR campaign to sell sludge as a safe soil amendment (fertilizer) seems to have worked
in places. EPA's attempt to cover up the damage did not work. Nor did changing the name to "biosolids" remove any
danger to the farmer or the public health. "Just how clean are the biosolids? Even the EPA does not know what is in it.
The best guess of the EPA group responsible for the Community Right to Know Act estimates there are over 500,000
reportable chemicals. Any or all of them could be in sludge at varying levels on any given day. Using standard tests,
EPA doesn't even know how many pathogenic disease organisms survive the treatment process or "regrow". In reality,
EPA knows that the treatment processes causes the pathogens to create viable spores which are non-detectable. EPA
also knows the [toxic/hazardous] "pollutants" will kill or at least make you wish you were dead". (NSA Public Fact Sheet
Yet, EPA and its partners paid for a report from the National Academy Science's NRC Committee, which claimed the
laws would keep us safe, if everyone understood the complex system. EPA furnished the documents and controlled what
could be reviewed. Science was not an issue, "According to the  NRC study, "The suite of existing federal
regulations, available avenues for additional state and local regulatory actions, and private sector forces appear
adequate to allow, with time and education, the development of safe beneficial reuse of reclaimed wastewater and
What it really did was convince some courts that EPA actually enforced the rules, and was protecting public health. The
scientists would like us to believe sludge was not a toxic waste regulated by part 503. The study also notes, "Related
regulations pertain to toxic waste handling and treatment, surface and groundwater protection, and public health. These
regulations and their overlapping authority are complex and need to be adequately explained to both the regulatory
community and the interested public to avoid confusion and the perception that beneficial use is a disguise for the
dumping of waste." (p.172)
Actually under CWA Section 405, the part 503 was supposed to accomplish everything NRC claims other related
regulations cover. The study is qualified, "If it were not for this regulatory framework and investment by industry,
beneficial use sludge would not be a viable option." (p. 165)" (NSA Fact Sheet #109)
The EPA OIG Report has stated the laws and rules are not working. Basic scientific research isn't even working here.
Both the NRC Committee and the EPA OIG Report referenced document EPA 600/Z- 85- 062. This documented
purported to be a human health study attributed to: Brown, R.E, and titled, Demonstration of acceptable systems for
land disposal of sewage sludge. Water Engineering Research Lab. EPA 600/Z- 85- 062. Cincinnati, Ohio: U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.
This was flat out deception. The Brown paper [referenced] was a third party two page abstract of the actual "OHIO"
study. The real study noted the World Health Organization (WHO, 1981) reported a positive association and a cycle of
infections of Salmonella from humans to sludge to animals to humans, where cattle grazed on sludge treated pastures.
(Municipal Sewage Sludge Application on Ohio Farms: Health Effects. Dorn, R.C., et al, Environmental Research 38,
332- 335)." (NSA Fact Sheet #109)
Recent information released by the National Whistleblower Center indicates that the confusing nature of the part 503
was further compounded in late 1992, when scientists (EPA ORD's Jim Ryan and Department of Agriculture's (USDA)
Rufus Chaney) hastily revised the final part 503. Apparently what these changes did was remove all information relating
to the 25 primary groups of death and disease causing agents and 21 cancer causing agents in sewage sludge that
were listed in 1989. (FR. 54. 23, pp. 5829, 5777). NSA Fact Sheet #110
Rufus Chaney (USDA) has been a long time promoter of sludge use as a fertilizer. It would appear that EPA would like
us to believe that Chaney and Ryan had little or no knowledge about the uptake of pathogens by plants. It would also
appear that they had no idea that animals could be infected and passed on to humans. This is alarming since the
USDA's responsibility includes protecting our meat supply, before it gets to the slaughterhouse, as well as during the
As a matter of fact, Chaney did some of the first studies which show that toxic / hazardous chemicals in sludge could be
taken up be plants. Of course at the time, the soil scientists thought Cadmium (called a "rare earth") was the only toxic
metal of concern.
"The one limited human health study funded by EPA in Ohio noted the build up of Cadmium in the kidney of animals
grazed on pastures fertilized with small quantities (less than the recommended rate) of toxic sewage sludge. The study
also noted the documented transfer of Salmonella contamination from humans, to sludge, to animals, to humans."
(Public Facts #110)
These scientists knew animals could be contaminated by the toxic /hazardous chemicals and pathogens in sludge. They
knew sludge posed a threat to our meat supply, air and water. Yet, they chose to promote this to the farmer and public
as a safe fertilizer. The same can be said for our plant crops. What is amazing is that EPA has studied and promoted
the use of plants to clean up hazardous waste sites. Yet, it continued to promote toxic /hazardous chemical and disease
contaminated sludge for our food crops.
One other significant change to part 503 made by Ryan and Chaney was adding food crops to the 30-day grazing
restriction rule. No farmer would let his land lie fallow for 14 months after sludge use. Under the EPA rules, tobacco is a
food crop. The most critical studies that have been done on Cadmium take up by tobacco illustrate what could be
happening to the rest of our food supply.
"Actually, United States Department of Agriculture studies (1974) [by Chaney] indicated there could be very serious
problems with tobacco grown on land where toxic sewage sludge was used because of the high uptake of Cadmium.
"Chaney et al. (84)--- observed Cd (Cadmium) content in tobacco to be 15 to 20 ppm at 1 ppm in the soil, and 45 ppm
with 2 ppm Cd in the soil." (1)" (NSA Fact Sheet #112)
The science backs up Congress' RCRA position that sludge is a hazardous waste when used to grow food crops. "Food
crops take up some unknown quantity of toxic pollutants and tobacco has long been recognized as an accumulator of
Cadmium at 11 to 20 times (plus) the rate of Cadmium levels in the soil. This has been associated with the accumulation
of Cadmium in the lungs and kidney of smokers. However, when the studies were done, Cadmium was the only inorganic
toxic pollutant the EPA and scientists considered to be dangerous to human health. (1)" (NSA Fact Sheet #112)
In fact they didn't know the Cadmium was an environmental carcinogen which could get to the lungs and kidneys
through other routes of exposure. Examples are, working with sludge and the food chain.
"North Carolina State University studies found, "3. The bottom leaves of tobacco consistently had the highest Cd
concentrations. With tobacco grown on Norfolk soil at Ph 5.2 and 1.8 ppm Cd in the soil, the Cd content in the lower
leaves averaged 73 ppm compared to 26 ppm in leaves higher up the stalk." (1)
It was also noted in the studies that 5% to 20% of the Cd was readily transferred to the smoker during the burning of
tobacco. Furthermore, "40% to 80% (of the CD) enters the side stream smoke which may be passively inhaled by
nonsmokers. (1) " (NSA Fact Sheet #112)
Cadmium is just one of approximately 400 chemicals documented to harm human health. No one has any idea how
much of the other 400 chemicals will be taken up by our food crops. "If the toxics [and hazardous substances] in
sewage sludge can be transferred to humans through tobacco and animals grazing on grass, wouldn't the same hold
true for other food crops consumed by humans?" (NSA Fact Sheet #112) (LSI)