The News and Farmer -- The Jefferson Reporter -- and Wadley Herold
P.O. Box 487 Louisville, GA 30434
(478) 625-7722 or (706) 547-6629 - (478) 625-8816 fax
E-mail us at: [email protected]

Sludge researcher shares data on national fight
Sludge fighter tells EPD director applications aren't safe

August 4, 2005 Issue


Let's choose our sludge wisely
For a number of reasons, it's easy to oppose spraying partially treated sewage sludge on farms near
your home. A contingency of Jefferson County residents have spent years fighting one local farm's
decision to use this nitrogen substitute on its nearly 1,000 acres of hayfields.

According to local environmentalists, it was political pressure that pushed a permit through the
Environmental Protection Division (EPD) five years ago, flying in the face of many in the agency's own
recommendations against it that first allowed biosolid sludge from Augusta-Richmond County
treatment plants to be sprayed on the property.

Last week, the vast majority of those attending a meeting/public hearing on Columbia County's plans
to take over most of the fields on Horseshoe Road for their own sludge expressed a nearly
unanimous "we don't want it."

The primary reason for local opposition involves the perceived threats to ground and surface water,
as this farm site sits on top of an aquifer recharge area that supplies water to south Georgia and
northern Florida.

EPD officials say the Columbia County sludge, produced in a much more residential area, is much
safer, containing far fewer heavy metals than Augusta's sludge. And, to be fair, they say the plan
Columbia County is proposing is more conservative than most. It involves the installation of six ground
water test wells, reduced application rates, segregated fields and other protections that do not exist
on any other sludge site in the state. They have been to the property in question, walked over it and
say they don't see the danger.

Still, local residents are not satisfied. They called for increased testing and monitoring, including
expensive soil tests that are not included in the plan at all. They seem to be distrustful of EPD, not
necessarily because they believe they are purposefully planning to poison our land and water, but
because they say they don't feel the agency has adequate funding or manpower to properly police
the site or the sludge that will go on it.

Over and over again, those fighting sludge on a national level, even the EPD's current director, have
said that it is going to take local legislation to block this sort of sludge application. The county has
already worked with some local environmentalists on a solid waste management plan that could
restrict any future permits for land application to areas that are not over an aquifer recharge area.
Still, more can be done.

The problem here is the site and the law, not Hudson Grassing Co. who is simply using a
government-approved process to find a cheaper form of fertilizer for its hay crops. We can't blame the
Hudsons. Experts are telling them it's safe and in their experience, sludge does grow beautiful
pastures of very green grass. In theory, reusing sludge instead of putting it in landfills or pumping it
into the ocean is a good one. Something has to be done with it, but many believe that an aquifer
recharge area isn't the place to experiment.

Environmentalists say local legislation is the answer. But a number of those fighting the permit were
disheartened when the majority of our elected officials who did show up for the initial meeting left
before the hearing portion where local citizens gave their statements. Officials, you should know that
people noticed you had left and even made mention of the fact from the front of the room, with the

There's at least one thing that did not come out in the meeting or the hearing that all concerned
citizens need to know.

While there has been no Augusta sludge on this particular tract since 2001, the Hudsons do still have
a permit to put it there. If this new permit, the one that will replace the Augusta fields on this tract with
Columbia County sludge, does not pass, then the Augusta sludge is going right back out there.

And worse, not only will we start getting the "problem" sludge again, but we will also get it without all
the special provisions, without the six test wells, without the reduced applications, without the other
special protections EPD and Columbia County have proposed. All of these measures are part of the
Columbia County plan.

Sludge is a scary thing, one we wish we didn't have to deal with, but without any obvious means to
bring about the repeal of the original permit, thus blocking the Augusta sludge from the site, then we
believe we are left with a frightening choice.

We believe it may be time to choose between two monsters. One we know is dangerous and one we
believe could be.

Sludge researcher shares data on national fight

Dear Editor:

As you all know, in 2003, a jury ruled that Augusta sludge caused cattle deaths and soil
contamination and awarded the farmer $550,000. A second lawsuit against Augusta by another dairy
farmer is presently pending.

Other dairies have been ruined by sludge, including one in Sparta, Missouri. The court stated: ". . .
the sludge contained 'substances and compounds, toxic to humans and animals, i.e., fluoride,
cadmium, lead, mercury, iron, arsenic, aluminum, selenium and molybdenum.' Said substances and
compounds migrated from Bradens' land to Rollers' farm, causing damage including diminished milk
production, death of cows and loss of breeding opportunity."

It is official US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy to allow the disposal of toxic industrial
chemicals, leachates from landfills and superfund sites, radioactive wastes, pathogenic hospital
wastes including nearly indestructible prions in the blood, urine and feces of victims of
Creutzfeldt-Jakob/Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's, Parkinson's and other prion related infections,
into public sewage systems, where the wastewater treatment process reconcentrates the pathogens
and pollutants in the sewage sludge "biosolids".

The EPA no longer diligently pursues industrial pretreatment of toxic chemicals because it fears the
cost of properly disposing of hazardous wastes will cause companies to close down and eliminate jobs
or move their operations to third world counties where labor is cheaper and environmental laws are
weaker. Thus, everything ends up in public sewers and from there to the agricultural land of Rural
America under the guise of "fertilizer."

Aware that sludge can contain untold pathogens and thousands of different chemical wastes, and with
no information on the consequences to human health and the environment from exposure to these
toxic mixtures, the EPA has chosen instead to discontinue promoting land application of sewage
sludge "biosolids" as the preferred disposal method over landfilling or incineration. The EPA also says
the use or disposal of sludge is a "local decision," and courts in California and New Hampshire have
upheld the right of local communities to ban the land spreading of Class B sewage sludge "biosolids."

In March 2003 the National Farmers Union called for an end to the land spreading of Class B sewage
sludge/ "biosolids."

Helane Shields,
Alton, NH
Sludge researcher since 1996

Sludge fighter tells EPD director applications aren't safe

Dear Editor:

(Editor's Note: This letter to Georgia EPD Director Carol Couch was also sent to this newspaper as a
letter to the editor.)

Director Couch: As the highly educated Director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, we
would like to believe you are aware of the definition of a hazardous substance in the RCRA, a toxic
pollutant in the CWA and a polluant in 40 CFR 503.9(t) which shows that exposure to
Sludge/Biosolids meets the definition of exposure to a biological weapon. This could cause "death,
disease, cancer" as well as physical and mental disorders.

"Biological weapons may expose people to bacteria, viruses, or toxins as fine airborne particles.
Biological agents are infectious through one or more of the following mechanisms of exposure,
depending upon the particular type of agent: inhalation, with infection through respiratory mucosa or
lung tissues; ingestion; contact with the mucous membranes of the eyes, or nasal tissues; or
penetration of the skin through open cuts (even very small cuts and abrasions of which employees
might be unaware). Organic airborne particles share the same physical characteristics in air or on
surfaces as inorganic particles from hazardous dusts. This has been demonstrated in military
research on biological weapons and in civilian research to control the spread of infection in hospitals."

Diseases from infectious agents

Family members have contracted infectious diseases such as scabies and Q fever from agents
brought home on contaminated clothing and skin of workers engaged in agriculture, hospital, and
laboratory work. As intended by Congress, infectious agents are included as hazardous substances
to the extent that pathogens can be transported on a worker's person or clothing.

We would like to believe that you have ensured a requirement in the permit that farmers receiving
sludge/biosolids are also given hazardous materials awareness training of the same quality as the
waste treatment plant employees and truckers are required to have for handling an agricultural

means a hazardous material, other than a hazardous waste, whose end use directly supports the
production of an agricultural commodity including, but not limited to a fertilizer, pesticide, soil
amendment or fuel. An agricultural product is limited to a material in Class 3, 8 or 9, Division 2.1, 2.2,
5.1, or 6.1, or an ORM-D material.

We would also like to believe you are aware that in 1992, the U.S. Congress passed the Workers'
Family Protection Act (Public Law 102-522, 29 U.S.C. 671) which has provided the following

"Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. Farmers are at high risk for fatal and
nonfatal injuries, work-related lung diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, skin diseases, and certain
cancers associated with chemical use and prolonged sun exposure. Farming is one of the few
industries in which the families (who often share the work and live on the premises) are also at risk for
injuries, illness, and death."

"The NIOSH Farm Family Health and Hazard Surveillance (FFHHS) project focuses on identifying
health risks to the American farm family. It was developed to respond to Congress's concern that
agricultural workers and their families experience a disproportionate share of disease and injury
associated with the chemical, biological, physical, ergonomic, and psychological hazards of

"Prior to 1960, beryllium, toxaphene, mercury vapors, and diethylstilbestrol were also identified as
hazards to the families of workers. In the last 10 years, 10 additional chemical substances have been
identified in incidents of workers' home contamination, as well as allergens, radioactive materials, and
infectious agents."

To believe the foregoing points, we would have to believe that you are actually knowingly proposing
to deliberately issue a permit with the potential to kill a farmer and his family, as well as his workers
and neighbors in violation of the intent of the federal laws.

It is more likely that you have accepted EPA's word that sludge is safe based on the exclusions in
federal law used to create the sludge rules. It is also highly unlikely that the farmer and workers
involved have been made aware they and their families are being put at such a high risk.

We the people would like to know what authority you propose to use to issue such a permit which has
the potential to do so much human health and environmental damage?

Jim Bynum
Smithville, Mo


The News and Farmer P.O. Box 487 Louisville, GA 30434
(478) 625-7722 or (706) 547-6629 - (478) 625-8816 fax
E-mail us at: [email protected]

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