By Jim Bynum                                                                                                         7/26/2007

In looking for a cheap way to disposal of contaminated sewage sludge, Milwaukee Metropolitan
Sewage District (MMSD)has turned five public parks and about 25 school yards into
waste open dumps. After 80 years of dumping contaminated sewage sludge (biosolids) on the
public as Milorganite, MMSD final got caught creating a superfund site. For the past 25 years, EPA
has actively promoted dumping sludge on farms, parks, school yards and home lawns as an
unlabelled fertilizer with PCB levels of up to 50 ppm. The public spin for this was that the nation was
running out of landfill space. The reality was that EPA couldn't stop the practice without exposing
most large cities like Milwaukee to serious financial liability for putting public health in harms way.

The current claim is that EPA only allows a PCB level of 10 ppm in Milorganite. That would be true if
Milorganite was regulated under the part 257 solid waste rules for sewage sludge.  However, since
1993, Milorganite has been regulated under the part 503 sludge use rules which allows levels not to
exceed 50 ppm. The question then becomes, what was really so dangerous in the sludge that no
one wants to discuss it?

MMSD claims the PCBs could not be from current contamination because PCBs have not been
manufactured for 30 years.  Doesn't really matter, the electrical transformers using PCB
contaminated cooling oil were not taken out of service 30 years ago.

MMSD claims Milorganite PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, contaminated sludge was given to the
City Parks Department because it didn't have enough nitrogen it to be sold as a fertilizer. MMSD
originally claimed someone illegally dumped PCB's in a sewage line. However, we need to consider
that EPA and the state have a history of permitting sludge with high levels of PCBs to be dumped as
a fertilizer on the unsuspecting public. The less nitorgen in it, the more could be dumped.

bright young Ph.Ds also seem to be clueless about the nature of PCBs which are not
biodegradable. In 1992, the Madison (Wisconsin) Metropolitan Sewage District (MMSD) proposed
to EPA that it would clean up a PCB contaminated sludge lagoon on the Superfund list by using
the toxic sludge as a fertilizer on farmland. According to MMSD, it had mass-loaded soil with 170
ppm PCBs and found that they disappeared from the soil. It claimed there was no plant uptake or
groundwater contamination. (EPA weighs PCB levels, (Sept. 7, 1992), ENR `Engineering News

These bright young Ph.Ds don't know what caused the PCBs to disappeared or where they went,
but still claim the documents prove it's safe.

"It (the research) documents that land treatment can be done in a way that is still protective of
human health and environmental quality," says David Taylor, manager of MMSD's Superfund
clean-up and its Metrogro fertilizer program." Not only that, "But signs already indicate that EPA's
future regulation of PCBs in soil will focus less on TOSCA's rigid 50 ppm limit and more on MMSD's
type of risk based, mass-loading criteria of pounds per acre." The MMSD and it's Metrogro
program have been furnishing farmers with TOSCA "approved" sludge since 1979.

MMSD's request for the use of hazardous PCBs contaminated sludge on food crop production land
has the backing of Rufus Chaney. "Public interest and common sense dictate that [MMSD's
request] be granted," says Rufus Chaney, a research agronomist and consultant to the
U.S.Department of Agriculture."

PCB's may not be the worse of the problem. In the past, there have been high levels of chromium
and selenium in MMSD's Miorganite. MMSD and EPA conspired in Federal Court to remove toxic
chromium from regulation.
Perhaps it is time to take immunity away from the people who have been regulating the poisoning of
our environment and the waste industry who do it.


It appears that EPA, USDA and WEF are placing the entire blame for food and waterborne outbreaks
of diseases on contamination from animal manure to draw attention away from  sludge. Their backup
PR spin is that the home cooks fail to wash their hands before handing food. EPA blamed the 1993
Milwaukee crytosporidium outbreak on animal manure contaminating the drinking water supply.
However, that was to divert the focus away from sewage and sludge because,  according to
researchers, "When disease case estimates were adjusted for normal background diarrheal disease
rates, investigators estimated that 403,000 residents of the five-county area experienced illness
caused by the cryptosporidiosis outbreak (6). Of this group, an estimated 354,600 persons (88%)
did not seek medical attention; 44,000 persons (11%) were seen as outpatients; and 4,400 persons
(1%) were hospitalized."  Various estimates for deaths have ranged from just a few to over 400.  
Most writers have put deaths at over a hundred.

CDC's Emerging Infectious Diseases/Volume 3 Number 4/October-December 1997, reported that
some samples that were taken from infected people during the 1993 Milwaukee outbreak showed a
human type of crytosporidium. CDC has identified 2 strains of crytosporidium, one animal and one
human. According to the report: The genotypic and infection data from the four isolates we examined
suggest a human rather than bovine source...

Furthermore, of the isolates tested in experimental infection studies, none could successfully infect
laboratory animals. These results lead us to suggest the possibility of a second transmission cycle
that is anthroponotic and maintained through person-to-person contact or through human sewage
contamination of the water supply." (pp.7-8)

The human type of crytosporidium were also found in a Georgia water park outbreak in 1995 as well
as a Florida outbreak in 1995. The October 20, 1997 issue of Sludge reported the pfiestria organism
outbreak in Chesapeake bay is linked to municipal waste discharge sites and swine effluent

Milwaukee has led the charge to put the public health at risk with the use of sludge as a fertilizer. It
even conspired with EPA to remove chromium from the part 503 guidelines by misleading a federal
court. That didn't quite work, so EPA lied about the courts act.

If you remember, ocean dumping of sewage sludge was stopped because the ocean environment
and its inhabitants were being destroyed. The
Public Relations (PR) spin at the time was that it
would be safer to use sewage sludge as a fertilizer. There appears to have been a lapse of common
sense here because this use violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
(RCRA). Even
some environmental groups bought into the PR campaign and promoted its use. The major
environment groups even signed a consent agreement that they would not sue EPA over use of
sludge on land.

It would appear none of the environmental groups bothered to read the warning in the laws which
said there would be
deaths, cancer, diseases, genetic mutations, etc., from exposure to the
pollutants in the concentrated sewage sludge through the air, water and food chain when it was
disposed on farms, parks and lawns. Now we have plagues upon the land that effects half the
population each year. It would appear that no one involved in this mess ever considered that they
would have to eat the contaminated food, drink the toxic water or breathe the polluted air. Those
environmental groups who made peace with EPA in order to stop ocean dumping of sludge should
take the advise of Mr. Nichols' (NVIRO) partner, Eric Dezenhall, who said: "If you live by the sword,
you may die by the sword, but if you live by the olive branch, you may still die by the sword."

What we tend to forget is that the original PR spin was to protect municipalities who had been selling
contaminated sludge as a fertilizer. Some of them such as Milwaukee, had been selling sludge as a
fertilizer since 1926. Some of it was heat-dried, but more often it was composted. Even the last
National Academy of Science Committee who looked at the sludge regulation acknowledged
composting sludge to create the so called
Class A, doesn't kill the pathogenic disease
organisms. What's more, they let stand without comment, the EPA's opinion, that the compost was
probably still safe for unrestricted use. Probably safe is not a very scientific opinion considering the
history. However, this is the
"sound science" we have to deal with today.

Hazardous waste in fertilizer is not new. Milwaukee has been selling this dangerous material to the
public since 1926. Before 1985, the tannery waste chromium in Milwaukee's sludge fertilizer,
Milorganite, was "Listed" (known & automatic) by EPA as a hazardous waste because of the high
chromium content. In 1985, EPA began promoting the use of hazardous waste as a fertilizer without
warning the farmers or the public of the adverse human health effects associated with the dangerous
materials. In the preamble to the proposed part 503, EPA listed
21 inorganic and organic
chemicals known to cause cancer in humans. Five of the inorganic chemicals (metals) are known to
cause cancer when inhaled on dust. In 1995, EPA admitted that it did not include any of these
chemicals in its 14 pathway risk assessment. See

When EPA released the final 40 CFR part 503 in February 1993, it had to include one small hazard
warning as the definition for a pollutant. EPA admits in
part 503.9(t) that the Administrator has the
documents on file which show that exposure to any of the chemicals or
disease causing agents in
sludge through air, water or food could cause death, disease, cancer or worse.

Yet, according to a 1995 paper entitled "The Biosolids (Sludge) Treatment, Beneficial Use,
and Disposal Situation in the USA" by Robert K. Bastian of the Office of Wastewater Management of
the EPA, there will be more exposure to sludge in the future. He says:
    A wide range of land application practices for
    beneficially recycling biosolids {sewage sludge} have
    been investigated and employed to date, including
    application to many urban parks and golf courses,
    cropland, rangeland, forests, and a variety of disturbed
    and marginally productive areas (e.g., strip mined areas,
    construction sites, etc.). Land application projects
    are underway involving biosolids from many large
    metropolitan areas (including Washington, D.C., New York
    City, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Chicago, Milwaukee,
    Minneapolis, St. Paul, Denver, Albuquerque, Seattle,
    Portland, and Los Angeles) as well as thousands of
    smaller cities and towns across the U.S., especially in
    the Midwest. (p. 3)

According to Collongs in his book, Commercial Fertilizers, (1955). "It would be expected that the
`rare earths' (hazardous metal pollutants) would remain in the soil more tenaciously than the
common elements,--."

Collings (1955) noted that the rare earth elements, "Aluminum, Arsenic, barium, chromium, flourine,
lead, molybdenum, selenium, and thallium have been shown to be toxic to plants or animals at
relatively low concentrations." (p. 163)

Furthermore, Collins noted that, "Rehling and Truog (1939) found that milorganite (Milwaukee's
commercial sludge fertilizer) contained many of the rarer elements (Hazardous metal pollutants)."

According to Collings, while sewage sludge has been used as a mixture in commercial fertilizer since
1927, the milorganite sludge was, "freed from grit and course solids and aerated after being
inoculated with microorganisms. The resulting flocculated organic matter is filtered, dried in rotary
kilns, and then ground and screened." (p. 130, Commercial Fertilizer, Fifth Edition, 1955, Mcgraw Hill)

The NRC Committee appears to have based their opinion that sludge is safe for use on crops on the
same type of processed sludge, which would have an reduced pathogen level. However, the
treatment process would not effect the toxic and carcinogenic heavy metal levels in the sludge.

Furthermore, according to recent media reports, milorganite is banned in Maryland, yet, it is a far cry
from EPA's current part 503 "Commercial Fertilizer" which may contain 98 percent liquid, disease
causing agents
(25 acknowledge pathogen (disease) groups) and 21 acknowledged cancer
causing agents, and over 126 priority pollutants (extremely hazardous substances).

The EPA Office of Water refers to all substances that can cause health problems, deformation of
fetuses, disease and cancer or death as
Pollutants. The ten inorganic chemical pollutants  which
were listed in Part 503 were reduced to nine when chromium was deleted. Although the pollutant
limits for molybdenum in sludge applied to land were deleted, the molybdenum ceiling limits were

In December 1992, before the final Part 503 was released, the Water Environment Federation's
Washington Bulletin published Milwaukee's complaint about EPA's limits on molybdenum and
chromium. It was Milwaukee's contention that "A limit of 1,200 mg/kg on chromium will necessitate
pretreatment of this wastewater if Milwaukee is to continue marketing its Milorganite product."
According to Tom Crawford, "Landfilling our sludge would be a much more costly option." (p. 3)

Milwaukee also had another major public relation's problem with the Milorganite sludge product. In
1987, it was associated with an unusually high number of cases of Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) in the
Milwaukee area and on ball fields. Lou Gehrig's disease has been associated with exposure to
selenium. EPA also had a public relation's problem with the beneficial use section of its regulation:
more chromium could be put on your lawn than could be  disposed of in a Part 503 surface disposal

While the Court could only address those points in question, chromium and selenium limits, it did
point out the limits of EPA's statutory authority, "Although the EPA is not held to a standard of
precise refinement, it is held to one of rationality and it must supply a reasoned basis for its
regulatory choices." (p. 405)

When EPA's Alan Rubin, was asked about the court action on
chromium, he said, "you just
couldn't defend it." So in 1996, EPA removed Chromium limits from the beneficial use section of the
503 regulation. However, Chromium was still restricted at a very low limit in a part
503 surface
disposal landfill

The only other heavy metal addressed by the suit was selenium. According to the court records, in
order for the City of Pueblo, Colorado, to use its sludge on the highway meridians, the selenium limit
needed to be raised. In the suit the court ruled: "We conclude, however, that the EPA has failed to
show that the 99th percentile caps are risk-related, and thus that they accord with the express
mandate of the statute." (p. 400)

Using the findings of the court as a justification for its actions, EPA arbitrarily raised the selenium limit
to 100 mg/kg to accommodate the City of Pueblo in their beneficial use of sludge on the highway
meridians. In taking this action they ignored the selenium limit recommendation of the USDA.

On page 56 of the Part 503 Risk Assessment Document, it states, "USDA recommended limiting the
addition to soil of selenium in biosolids to 28 kg/ha to avoid excessive plant uptake and possible
poisoning of certain sensitive livestock or wildlife." If selenium is taken up by food crops it could
poison sensitive humans also.

page 110 EPA admitted there was no risk assessment for pathogenic disease organisms or
chemicals. Not only that, but EPA did not consider any of the cancer causing inorganic metals to be
cancer causing in sludge products such as Milorganite.

As noted earlier,
selenium has been linked to Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). In 1987, a series of
Milwaukee Journal articles from January and February, focused on the connection between three
San Francisco 49ers playing on fields spread with Milorganite sludge fertilizer, who contracted Lou
Gehrig's disease and two MMSD Milorganite plant employees who died of the disease. By February
10, 1987, the reporters found an additional 39 ALS patients who had some exposure to Milorganite.

According to the articles, as many as 115 PEOPLE had died from ALS in the past eight
years. The ALS death rate for Milwaukee County was 1.6 %, one percent higher than the state
average. Two out of the 155 documented MMSD employee deaths were caused by ALS...

The normal rate for ALS is about 2 in 100,000. According to the article "The son [of one of the
victims] said that the father knew of "four or five" ALS cases at the plant over the last 25 to 30 years."

According to the Milwaukee Journal article titled "EPA LAUNCHES MILORGANITE PROBE, dated
February 12, 1987, the EPA planned a scientific investigation into a possible link between Lou
Gehrig's disease (ALS) and the cadmium, chromium or other substances in MMSD's Milorganite
fertilizer. In the article, Rubin, "conceded that there were not many studies about the possible health
hazards of sludge and sludge products."

While EPA claimed it would start a scientific investigation of the connection between Lou Gehrig's
disease and Milorganite in 1987, it did not happen. EPA had no intention of investigating any harm
from sludge. Instead EPA gave the Water Environment Federation (WEF) a public relations grant to
debunk the story and others.
(National Sludge Alliance, Public Facts #101)

Ten years later, 1997, an
EPA funded "fact sheet" was produced by the WEF which of course
debunked the connection between Milorganite and Lou Gehrig's disease.

The numerical limits for the
ten heavy metals set by the EPA, which were the highest ever set in
the United States and several magnitudes higher than the limits in Europe, were determined based
on several assumptions that have been disputed by some soil scientists. One of these assumptions
is that heavy metals are adsorbed to the sewage sludge matrix and are less available for uptake into

EPA chose an indirect method to take care of the regulatory problems and protect Milwaukee and
other municipalities from the liability of handling sludge with high chromium content as well as the
Milwaukee's public relation's problem with selenium. EPA let the courts set the stage for completely
removing chromium from the beneficial section of the regulation and raising the selenium limits.

It is clear that EPA engineered the lawsuit to assist its partners (the Association of Metropolitan
Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District) under the shelter of
Leather Industries of America, Inc., to completely remove chromium from regulation. If chromium was
not removed from the regulation, Milwaukee's Class A Milorganite sludge fertilizer would have
exceeded the Part 503 limits for chromium with the associated liability and the Leather Industry would
have had the additional expense for pretreatment of its wastewater containing up to 30,000
mg/kg of hexavalent chromium in it.

In 1994, the Leather Industries of America, the City of Milwaukee, and the Association of
Metropolitan Sewage Agencies challenged EPA's National Sewage Sludge Survey (NSSS) in a court
case, because it didn't include any treatment plants where tannery waste chromium is received in
excess of 30,000 mg/kg (ppm).

It would appear none of the larger treatment plants were included in EPA's National Sewage Sludge
Survey. (NSSS)

According to the court record, the highest level of chromium reported in the EPA's NSSS  
was 3,750 mg/kg (p.401). (United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, Nos. 93-1187,
93-1376, 93-1404 and 93-1555)  
(EPA now allows chromium at 100,000 ppm)

The court found several problems with the data base for chromium limits in Part 503 sludge rule.
According to the Court records, which only refer to heat-dried sludge, EPA could not document
whether it had actually performed sampling and analysis at 208 or 180 of the 479 treatment plants in
the survey (both numbers were given) -out of a national total of 11,407 (p.395).

According to the Judge:
    ... The AMSA challenges the risk-based caps in Table 3. It argues that the assumptions
    about the rate and duration of sludge application underlying the risk-based caps in
    Table 3 are irrational with respect to heat- dried sludge, which is applied at lower rates
    for shorter duration. For what ever reason, the EPA chose not to respond to this
    particular claim, and the AMSA has been less than totally clear about what parts of the
    regulation are allegedly infected by the use of these assumptions. We are, accordingly,
    somewhat handicapped in evaluating the challenge. Nonetheless, on the record, we
    conclude that EPA has not adequately justified its use of the assumed rate and duration
    of application to apply the risk-based caps in Table 3 to heat-dried sludge. (40 Federal
    Reporter, 3d series, p. 402)

Primarily, the Court ruling only concerned Chromium in heat-dried sludge (Milorganite), a product of
the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. It appears that the Court was led to believe by both
the challengers and EPA that all "clean" (EQ) sludges in 40 CFR 503.13(b) were heat-dried and
EPA's enforcement of the regulation was primarily directed at Milwaukee's "Milorganite fertilizer",
which has extremely high levels of chromium in it. (40 Federal Reporter, 3d series p. 402

Actually, part 503 does not list a
Table for "clean "or EQ sludge. It doesn't exist.

According to the Court:
    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to supply rational basis for its assumed
    application duration and rate underlying regulatory safe harbor for land application of
    "clean" sewage sludge, in light of the available information that actual application rate
    and duration of use for heat-dried sludge were well below EPA's assumptions. 40 CFR
    503.13(b)." (p. 392)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also found that the 503 Regulation was
not scientifically risked based as claimed by the EPA. The Court noted that, "while EPA "may `err' on
the side of overprotection," it "may not engage in sheer guesswork (p.408)."

According to the Court, EPA did not adequately defend the science behind the chromium limits in
Part 503. They ruled due to, "(4) the lack of data to support the risked-based cap on chromium
(3,000 ppm), we remand those parts of the  regulation to the EPA for modification or additional
justification." (p. 394)

Evidently John Walker and EPA have a problem with understanding what the court meant by the
words remand and modification. According to Webster's New World Dictionary, The word Remand
means to send back. The word Modification means to alter or change. Neither one of these means

What the court wanted them to do was either revise or justify their position based on the fact that
hexavalent tannery chromium was being dumped into the treatment plants at 30,000 ppm. The Court
did not order EPA to drop chromium from the regulation as John Walker claimed in the 1995 Guide
to the Part 503 Risk Assessment.

Walker lied when he wrote:
    The court stated that EPA should drop chromium from the
    Part 503 rule because the biosolids risk assessment did
    not identify any chromium level associated with risk to
    public health or the environment. EPA agrees and plans
    to delete all chromium limits for land-applied biosolids
    from the Part 503 rule. (p. 56)

What the Court also found was that EPA had failed to fulfill the statutory requirement of the law to
create regulations "adequate to protect public health and the environment from any reasonable
adverse effects."

The Court noted that there are two forms of Chromium (hexavalent and trivalent) and that EPA had
"delisted' chromium (removed it from the hazardous waste list) in the tanning industry because this
chromium is in the trivalent form." (p.406)

The Court also noted, "there are several studies cited in the record showing that trivalent chromium
can oxidize to hexavalent chromium." (p.406)

According to EPA, although there are only
2 types of chromium, Trivalent (chromium III) and
Hexavalent (chromium VI), due to the sewage treatment process, only the Trivalent form is found in
sewage sludge. For this reason, supposedly EPA was trying to take chromium out of the regulation.
Yet, in a sludge analysis given to the State of Texas by Merco, dated 14 August 1991, New York City
specifically listed Hexavalent chromium in sludge from all of its 14 treatment plants.