When the sludge hit the fan and activists alerted Congress, EPA Headquarters decided to take a neutral stance on sludge. This means that EPA Office of Water would no longer take a public position promoting sludge use as a fertilizer. The neutral position also stopped the EPA's debunking campaign which had ensured there would be no EPA enforcement and compliance involvement.
EPA Headquarters had to do something to protect municipalities and sludge disposal contractors from the sludge exposure liability. To do this, EPA Headquarters had to create a godlike position with more potential power than the Headquarters staff had. Of course it had to break a few rules, then change a few rules, environmental definitions and terms first. By regulation, EPA field personal now have the authority to lie to us and the courts.
EPA's first attempt to cover up the environmental damage was subtler. It victimized the victims. "--in a memo dated October 17, 1994, EPA's Robert E. Lee was promoting a grant request for WEF and suggested to EPA's John Walker and Bob Bastin that uses for the grant money include fact sheets to debunk the "Sludge Horror stories" of people harmed by the use of sewage sludge as well as "PCB's in biosolids" and as he says, "What about one with a watershed twist --ways to utilize biosolids in watersheds to mitigate other environmental problems.
Give it to a group like Score in NJ." He continued, "Bob B. maybe we should put one or some $ in for the wetlands work in watersheds also."
The WEF announced the receipt of the $650,000 grant in their Water Environment WEB March 15, 1996. Contact persons listed in the announcement were Nancy Blatt and Dave Trouba. While the announcement did mention a number of research projects, according to a memo from John Walker, EPA Project Officer, to Nancy Blatt and Tim Williams, Co Project Leaders with WEF, it appears the primary purpose of the grant was to debunk the sludge horror stories of people harmed by the use of sludge/biosolids. Dave Trouba was mentioned in a memo dated 12-29-94, by John Walker and Bob Bastin, as the "Potential WEF Writer/Coordinator for this effort." "CANDIDATES FOR THE REST OF THE STORY"
According to John Walker's memo, the EPA is controlling the public relations campaign to debunk the sludge horror stories of people harmed by the use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer. Walker writes, "I have attached an updated list of candidate cases for which "The Rest of the Story" needs to be told. The target audience may be the municipalities, contractors, WEF spokespersons and other wastewater professionals, and maybe the general public depending on the case. If the cases were (1) Merco/NYC, (4) Prime Time Torres Martinez, (9) Pathogen regrowth, and (15) Citizens irate over purchase; then one audience would be the municipality. The write up would tell municipalities what went wrong and what to do with respect to control and management oversight [even where contractors are employed] to maximize public acceptance and minimize negative publicity and rejection of the recycling that is planned or underway."
The stories referred to in Walker's 12-29-94 memo,"(1) Merco/NYC biosolids expose-TV Nations production -Law suit by TX Attorney General -Merco Lawsuit- Claims ..marital status. own something. (4) Pending Prime Time TV story on Torres Martinez (Thermal, Ca.)--corrupt contractor, biosolids mountain, and composting. (9) Pathogen regrowth during shipment--Merco. (15) Citizens irate over purchase of farmland for biosolids use--how land ought to be used is big issue--private developer conflicts--NIMBY- personality clashes--often does not involve health concerns."
Walker's instructions to WEF's Nancy Blatt continued, "If the cases were (2) Zander, (4)Miami-Dade, (5) Tree Kill, (6) Miniature horses, (7) Bioaerosols, (10) AIDS, (11) Lou Gehrig's Disease, (12) Turf grass loss, (13) Dead cattle in NC; then the audience might be the general public who various anti groups tell the "horrors" of these cases and to which we would tell the rest of the story. The audience might also be WEF biosolids spokesperson and/or the wastewater professionals who would be working with the general public to tell the authoritative truth. Some of the cases may be written up for more than one audience, (i.e., differently for each different audience.)"
The stories referred to here, according to Walker's 12-29-94 memo are, "(2) Linda Zander case - sick & dead cattle, worker health -Farm Bureau and Dairy Today stories. (5) Tree kill in Washington State with King Co METRO biosolids on Weyerhauser land. (6) Miniature horse deaths in Oklahoma. (7) Biosolids -- claim need for 2 to 5 mile barrier in NYC. (10) Biosolids a cause of AIDS, (11) Biosolids used on ball fields causing Lou Gehrig's Disease -what it took to debunk this claim. (12) Maryland turf grass grower crop loss due to biosolids use - involved grower's use of a highway roller on his fields. (13)
Raleigh, NC-- dead cattle from nitrate poisoning due to forage with high nitrogen content. Forage was not mixed with other low-nitrate fodder as advised by the POTW."
Walker's memo makes a major point, "Interestingly, many of use (sic) in the regulatory and municipal arena do not have credibility with the local citizens. We need to get those who do supplied with the "Rest of the Story"."
Walker's memo did not explain to WEF's Nancy Blatt how to handle "(14) BLM policy opposing use of biosolids on Federal lands: equating it(s) use to hazardous waste dumping and landfilling raising SUPERFUND liability concerns."" (NSA Fact Sheet #101)
A number of debunking fact sheets were published. They included no science and little truth. With multiple damage claims and wrongful death lawsuits piling up against sludge, the Water Environment Federation's victim debunking campaign was given a low profile.
By May of 2000, EPA decided to take a more direct approach that it could control. The potential saving grace for municipalities and sludge contractors is now the EPA Regional Administrators. No matter how terrible the situation gets, how many deaths are involved, the Regional Administrator may simply declare that the polluter is in compliance with part 503. That authority is vested in the new revised definition for a Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) treating industrial and domestic sewage.
The new definition is "Treatment works treating domestic sewage" and municipal sewage. EPA acknowledges that most municipalities and sludge contractors who accept municipal and domestic sewage for disposal don't meet the profile: "For purposes of this definition, "domestic sewage" includes waste and waste water from humans or household operations that are discharged to or otherwise enter a treatment works" (NPDES part 122.2 Definitions.)
While the EPA has issued few, if any, sludge disposal permits as promised in the final 1993 regulations, it would appear that it has given its Regional Administrators the ultimate power to arbitrarily declare that anyone is in compliance with the part 503 by simply saying it/they are "treatment works treating domestic sewage".
The Regional Manager doesn't have to issue a permit. He doesn't have to inspect. He doesn't have to enforce. He can excuse the violator by declaring -- "this is a treatment works treating domestic sewage -- and so it shall be". EPA spells it out: "In States where there is no approved State sludge management program under section 405(f) of the CWA, the Regional Administrator may designate any person subject to the standards for sewage sludge use and disposal in 40 CFR part 503 as a "treatment works treating domestic sewage," where he or she finds that there is a potential for adverse effects on public health and the environment from poor sludge quality or poor sludge handling, use or disposal practices, or where he or she finds that such designation is necessary to ensure that such person is in compliance with 40 CFR part 503". (NPDES part 122.2 Definitions.)
In reality, no state has an approved sludge management plan under CWA section 405(f) or under 40 CFR 256). In effect, the EPA's Regional Manager now gets to play god to protect those municipalities and contractor who have misused and abused the farmer's trust and the environmental laws. Yet, according to part 403.7(ii) "Sludge requirements shall mean the following statutory provisions and regulations or permits issued there-under (or more stringent State or local regulations): Section 405 of the Clean Water Act; the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) (including title II more commonly referred to as the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) and State regulations contained in any State sludge management plan prepared pursuant to subtitle D of SWDA)); the Clean Air Act; the Toxic Substance Control Act; and the marine protection Research and Sanctuaries Act." (NSA Fact Sheet #107)
However, the sludge management plan under part 122.3 is simple, there are no laws to protect the environment after toxic/hazardous sludge is dumped on farms: "The following discharges do not require NPDES permits: (e) Any introduction of pollutants from non point-source agricultural and silvicultural activities, including storm water runoff from orchards, cultivated crops, pastures, range lands, and forest lands," (NPDES part 122.2 Definitions.)
"Now EPA is starting to shift the blame for open dumps to the states, "EPA's role in the management of industrial non hazardous Waste [sludge] is very limited. Under RCRA Subtitle D, EPA issued minimal criteria prohibiting "open dumps" (40 CFR 257) in 1979. The states, not EPA, are responsible for implementing the "open dumping criteria," and EPA has no back-up enforcement role." (FR. 62, 19, p. 4284, January 29, 1997)" (NSA Fact Sheet #100)
Furthermore, Assistant Administrator Mehan claims, "EPA's responsibility under Section 405 of the Clean Water Act is to develop management practices and numerical criteria for biosolids that will protect public health and the environment. WE BELIEVE that Part 503 Rule provides protective criteria for the three use and disposal options covered by that rule; land application, incineration, and land disposal."
Few, if anyone in EPA believe that, but as a past Director of Missouri's Department of Natural Resources, Mehan knows better. "As an example, in a letter to Kansas City, Missouri, the State Department of Natural Resources attempted to wash its hands of the open dumping problem, "These (wastewater treatment plant) inspections did not address compliance with EPA sludge regulations under 40 CFR 503. These regulations are self-implementing and directly enforceable [by who?] without being included in your state operating permit." (Dettman, June 23, 1994)." (NSA Fact Sheet #100)
A NEW APPROACH FOR DISEASE CONTAMINATED SLUDGE ON THE FARM
Congress has lost control of the EPA. State and Federal Health Departments do not have the statutory authority to investigate any health complaints associated with sewage sludge without environment department approval. . The State of Kansas's Department of Health may have shown us the best solution, a Bioterrorism Bill.
SESSION OF 2002
SUPPLEMENTAL NOTE ON SENATE BILL NO. 395
As Amended by Senate Committee of the Whole Brief* SB 395 would create a new crime of endangering the food supply which would become a severity level 9, nonperson felony. Endangering the food supply would be a severity level 3-nonperson felony, if done with the intent to cause damage to plants or animals or to cause economic harm or social unrest. Endangering the food supply is a severity level 3, person felony, if done with the intent to cause illness, injury or death to a human being or beings. Any of these offenses would be considered to be an inherently dangerous felony under KSA 21-3436. Under the bill endangering the food supply is knowingly:
This Bioterrorism Law could effectively eliminate the use of sludge on the farm. However, the defense could be that it was not the intent municipality or sludge contractor to harm anyone. The intent was to dispose of sewage sludge as cheaply as possible.
The Bioterrorism Law would not help the homeowner who buys infectious disease contaminated biosolids sludge for lawn and garden use.
NSA Fact Sheet #101, January 30, 1997