1978 Sludge Wars at EPA
by William Sanjour
Keep in mind that the purpose of a sewage treatment plant is to capture the toxic substances and other bad stuff in
sewage and to concentrate it in the sludge. To start with, let me give you an idea of the kind of pressure EPA was (and
is) under to try to find some use for the millions of tons of sewage sludge being and expected to be emitted by the waste
water treatment plants funded by the EPA Construction Grants Program, the largest public works project ever in America.
1978 EPA memo by John Walker
If management of wastes under Subtitle C and sludge management under 405/4004 must be entirely equivalent and
consistent, then we cannot live with 3004—250.55-5 Land Farms, pp. 103-111 and 250.56-2 Soil Conditioning
Products. These subsections of 3004 would essentially preclude the utilization of sludge as a method of disposal.
1992 EPA proposed 503 sludge rule change memo
The sludge rule discussions with OW are on hold waiting for Ryan and Chancy' s rewrite. Meanwhile, with the clock still
ticking on the court deadline, OGC is asking ORB to co-sign an affidavit that resolving our concerns will require more
time and that they can be resolved within the requested three-month extension.
Committing to success raises the horizon of our discussion.
Options facing the Agency if the problems persist in the next
edition include boldly publishing on admittedly weak science,
using a factor of safety to compensate for any weakness, or
scrapping the whole exercise, promulgating the Feb 89 proposal
California farmer Jane Beswick's testimony to Congress
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.