National Sludge Alliance
Charlotte Hartman, National Coordinator
180 Boston Corners Road
Millerton, NY 12546
(518) 329-2120 (phone/fax)
NSA Public Fact Sheet 108
Public Health vs Removal Credits
- Congress mandated EPA develop comprehensive regulations under the Clean Water Act
(CWA) for the control of toxic pollutants in sludge and cautioned, "These regulations must be
"adequate to protect human health and the environment from any reasonable anticipated
adverse effect of each pollutant." Section 405(d)(2)(D)." (1993-FR. 58, p. 9250)
- According to Congress, "(13) The term "toxic pollutant" means those pollutants, or
combinations of pollutants, including disease causing agents, which after discharge and upon
exposure, ingestion, inhalation or assimilation into any organism [living entity], either directly
from the environment or indirectly by ingestion through food chains, will, on the basis of
information available to the Administrator, cause death, disease, behavioral abnormalities,
cancer, genetic mutations, physiological malfunctions (including malfunctions in
reproductions) of physical deformations, in organisms [people or animals] or their offspring."
(Title 33, part 1362, also see 503.9(t))
- However, according to EPA, "The term "toxic pollutant" is not used in the final 1993 part 503
regulation because this generally is limited to the list of priority toxic pollutants developed by
EPA. The Agency concluded that Congress intended that EPA develop the part 503 pollutant
limits for a broader range of substances that might interfere with the use and disposal of
sewage sludge, not just the 126 priority pollutants." (FR. 58, 32, p. 9327)
- EPA ignored congress and its own list of 126 priority pollutants. Yet, EPA claims, "The rule
[part 503] includes specific numerical limits (or equations for calculating these limits) for 10
pollutants when sewage sludge is used or disposed by one or more methods. --- The numerical
limits derived from the exposure assessment models are designed to protect public health or
the environment from reasonably anticipated adverse effects" [from these 10 pollutants]. (FR.
- The National Research Council (NRC) outlined the classes for the 126 Priority Toxic
Pollutants which could damage public health and the environment. "The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) identified Priority Pollutants in regulations that deal with municipal
and industrial wastewater (EPA, 1984) due to their toxicity to humans and the aquatic
environment. These Priority Pollutants are divided into four classes; (1) heavy metals
(oftentimes referred to as trace elements or trace metals) and cyanide, (2) volatile organic
compounds, (3) semivolatile organic compounds, and (4) pesticides and polychlorinated
biphenyls (PCBs). In addition, nontoxic organic compounds in wastewater can be transformed
into potential toxic chlorinated compounds, such as trihalomethanes, when chlorine is used for
disinfection purposes (National Research Council, 1980)." (National Research Council Study,
Use of Reclaimed Water and Sludge in Food Crop Production. p. 100. 1996. National
Academy Press, Washington, D.C.)
- However, EPA acknowledged that it was not going to protect public health or the
environment. "The Agency recognizes that today's rule [part 503] may not regulate all
pollutants in sewage sludge that may adversely effect public health and the environment."
(1993-FR. 58, 9253)
- In reality, EPA never planned to protect public health or the environment. "The assessment
does not quantify ecological losses caused by plant or animal toxicity, even though some
numerical limits in today's proposal are based on animal and plant toxicity values.
Methodologies and data are not yet available to accurately estimate the ecological impacts
from the use and disposal of sludge." (FR. 54,p.5780)
- Not only that, but EPA readily acknowledges that, "Sewage sludge with high concentrations
of certain organic and metal pollutants may pose human health problems when disposed of in
sludge-only landfills (often referred to as monofills) or simply left on the land surface, if the
pollutants leach from the sludge into ground water. Therefore, the pollutant concentrations
may need to be limited or other measures such as impermeable liners must be taken to ensure
that ground water is not contaminated." (FR. 58, 9259)
- EPA also found that, "In ocean disposal, certain pollutants often associated with municipal
sludge, including mercury, cadmium, and polychlorinated biphenyls, can bioaccumulate. High
levels of these pollutants can interfere with the reproductive systems of certain marine
organisms, may produce toxic effects in aquatic life, or may present public health problems if
individuals eat contaminated fish and shellfish." (FR. 58, 9259)
- Furthermore, EPA did not account for all of the 21 carcinogens (cancer causing agents)
acknowledged to be in sludge in the 1989 proposed part 503. Nor was Dioxin included as a
pollutant or cancer causing agent. Five of these cancer causing agents are listed by the EPA as
carcinogenic when inhaled in dust. (1989, FR. 54, p. 5777)
- Nor did EPA acknowledge that all of the regulated hazardous substances (pollutants) listed in
part 503 for safe use on crops are listed by the National Institute for Occupational Health
(NIOSH) as a poison by inhalation, ingestion or other routes. NIOSH also has data which not
only shows the regulated hazardous substances in sludge are poisonous, nine are cancer
causing agents, and they will cause mutagenic effects.
- Yet, the EPA "scientists" failed to address 116 of the priority toxic pollutants and claim the 10
hazardous substances (toxic pollutants originally addressed in part 503) and their compounds
are safe at the ceiling levels allowed in sludge, when used as a fertilizer. In any other case, the
10 pollutants are poisons:
- Arsenic (NIOSH CC 4025000) by inhalation or
- Cadmium (NIOSH EU 9800000) by inhalation and
other routes-carcinogen-mutagenic data.
- Chromium (NIOSH GB 4200005) by inhalation
and other routes-carcinogen-mutagenic data.
- Copper (NIOSH GL 5325000) by ingestion
and other routes-carcinogen-mutagenic data.
- Lead (NIOSH OF 7525000) by ingestion
and other routes-carcinogen-mutagenic data.
- Mercury (NIOSH OV 4550000) by
inhalation and other routes-carcinogen-mutagenic data.
- Molybdenum (NIOSH QA
4680000) by inhalation, ingestion and other routes.
- Nickel (NIOSH QR 5950000) by
inhalation, ingestion and other routes-carcinogen-mutagenic data.
- Selenium (NIOSH US
7700000) by inhalation and other unknown routes-carcinogen (causes blind staggers in cattle).
- Zinc (NIOSH ZG 8600000) by ingestion and other routes-carcinogen.
- According to the EPA, "The aggregate risk assessment estimates that current use and disposal
practices [for these 10 pollutants] contribute from less than one up to five cancer cases
annually, with a lifetime cancer risk to a highly exposed individual ranging from 6x10-4 (6 in
10,000) for land application and surface disposal of sludge and from 6x10-4 to 7x10-3 (7 in a
1,000) for incineration. The other health effects associated with sludge use and disposal are
primarily related to lead exposure and result in approximately 2,000 individuals who exceed a
threshold blood lead level associated with adverse health effects and 700 instances of
hypertension in adult males or diminished learning capacity in children." (FR. 58, 9255)
- EPA appears to have based these numbers on the risk assessment model for lead at the
recommended level of 300 ppm in sludge which was "consistent with current sewage sludge
quality at all but a small number of POTWs". However, the EPA allows 840 ppm of lead in
sewage sludge fertilizer. (FR. 58, pp. 9286, 9392 -503.13 Tables)
- Nevertheless, "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, 9252)
- Is there more to the toxic 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 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)
- However, the same three pollutants eligible for removal credits for part 503 surface landfill
disposal are prohibited from being disposed of in a part 503 regulated landfill because of the
high ceiling levels of the pollutants. (Part 503.13 & 503.23 Tables - FR. 58, pp. 9362, 9396)
- While the ceiling levels for certain toxic pollutants in beneficial use sludge prevented it from
being disposed of in a part 503 regulated landfill, EPA has always claimed sludge is a fully
researched, safe fertilizer for lawns, gardens and food crop production land. Yet, EPA claims
sewage sludge is excluded from the safety provisions of federal law (unless it is put in a
landfill) when the sludge is "considered" to be a fertilizer. Not only that but a release of
hazardous substances (toxic elements) from sludge is federally authorized by the
self-implementing sludge regulation part 503, and therefore, there is no liability under federal
law for any human health or environmental damage cause by the use of sludge/biosolids as a
fertilizer. (Public Facts #101) -LSI-