National Sludge Alliance
Charlotte Hartman, National Coordinator
180 Boston Corners Road
Millerton, NY 12546
(518) 329-2120 (phone/fax)

NSA Public Fact Sheet 127

Sewage Sludge is Hazardous to Environment


The National Sludge Alliance calls for an immediate ban on the use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer in any form. Congress has long recognized that sludge is hazardous to the environment. Congress has always been very clear about its intent: "(1) it is the national goal that the discharge of pollutants [sewage, sewage sludge, and radioactive materials] into the navigable waters be eliminated by 1985." Taking sludge out of the treatment plant and dumping it on farmland where the toxic/hazardous constituents could run off into the waters was not an option Congress considered when it said, "(3) it is the national policy that the discharge of toxic pollutants [toxic/hazardous chemicals and pathogens] in toxic amounts be prohibited;"

(Title 33, part 1251(a)) (NSA Fact Sheet #104)

However, Congress created some confusion when it used different terminology n the laws. As an example: Sludge is a pollutant under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and a solid waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Toxix pollutants under CWA are the same as hazardous substances under RCRA. The metals listed in part 503 are on both lists. They are in fact toxic/hazardous substances.

On April 3, 2002, The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) officially released its report on EPA's sewage sludge rule, according to the National Whistleblowers Center. Four of the main points against using sludge are:

"a.. Sewage sludge contains "toxic pollutants and disease-causing organisms" and the "failure to properly manage sludge may have adverse effects on human health and the environment.""
"e.. EPA has taken a position that "investigating health impacts from biosolids [i.e. sludge] is not an EPA responsibility.""
"f.. EPA never conducted a risk assessment on the harmful pathogens contained in sludge. "
"g. There are "uncertainties" in the science underlying the risk assessment, previously conducted on the sludge rule, "related to human health, human exposure pathways, plant toxicity and uptake, effects on wildlife and ground water impacts.""

In a letter dated, NOVEMBER 13, 2001, G. Tracy Mehan, III, Assistant Administrator, made it very clear that after over 20 years of promoting sludge use as a fertilizer, EPA was getting out of the business and the states were on their own. In the letter to the State of Wisconsin, Dept. of Natural Resources, he said: "The Agency has only finite resources to discharge a large number and variety of responsibilities to address risks to the nation's water resources. The challenge, of course, is to use the available resources to reduce risk to human health and the environment in the most effective ways possible. EPA also believes that, within its resource constraints, EPA can best contribute to beneficial reuse by maintaining scientific knowledge and risk assessment capabilities; setting, enforcing, and revising standards; and providing tools for decision-making at the watershed level."


EPA set up the States to take the fall early on: "By 1983, the EPAdecided, "- to avoid conceivable stigmatization, we are willing to re-name recycled hazardous wastes [fertilizers] "regulated recyclable materials."

(4) [In 1984, Congress enacted the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments to ensure cradle to the grave protection of public health -- which EPA ignored], and, in 1985, the "regulated recyclable materials" [defined hazardous waste under part 251] title was shortened to "recyclable material"."

(5) Not only that, but "---commercial hazardous waste derived fertilizers would not have to undergo chemical bonding to be exempt." from the law.

(6) (some so called commercial fertilizers were pure hazardous waste, and others used hazardous waste as a filler) (NSA Fact Sheet #112)


After the release of the EPA 503 regulations in 1993, many States changed their solid waste statutes to comply with the EPA sludge policy. EPA had assured them it would assume responsibility for enforcement. Now EPA says it doesn't have the money, science, or the personnel to support the states and enforce the rules. Yet, according to an EPA press release, on November 19, 2001, "EPA Administrator Christie Whitman awarded more than $22 million in research grants under its "Star" program to establish five new Hazardous Substance Research Centers affiliated with 22 universities. The Centers will address concerns about hazardous substances in the environment by conducting basic and applied research, and providing technology transfer and community outreach. Whitman announced the awards at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. "STAR" is an ongoing $100 million a year grant program designed to engage the nation's best university scientists and engineers in environmental research."

EPA is using the $100 million annually as a public relations gimmick. In reality, EPA has backed itself into a corner where it cannot enforce any law against a major polluter. History has shown that to cover up this lack of power, certain segments with unlimited funds within EPA have a tendency to misrepresent, misuse terminology, science and the justice system.

The most glaring example is the EPA Office of Water's sludge use policy to allow the dumping of sewage sludge contaminated with toxic / hazardous substances on our food crop production land. So far there has just been too much money at stake for regulators, scientists and science agencies or environmental organizations to seriously question EPA policy or documents. The result is that the environment ("Environment includes water, air, and land and the interrelationship that exists among and between water, air, and land and all living things.") has been put at risk. -LSI-

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