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

NSA Public Fact Sheet 114

Toxic Sludge: Timeline to Disaster


1927 - The use of heat dried sludge (which killed pathogens) was first used as a mixture in fertilizer. (PF #112)
1936 - Studies found that sewage polluted water was the cause of Cholera outbreaks in London.
1945 - There were 19 cities selling heat dried sludge as a fertilizer. However, the toxic heavy metal were known as "rare earths". (PF #112)
1972 - Congress enacted the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments which mandated and funded the building of sewage treatment plants to eliminate the discharge of toxic pollutant contaminated sewage into the lakes and rivers. The sewage treatment process created millions of tons of sludge. (PF #113)
1972 - Congress enacted the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972. It was not intended to be the primary source of sludge regulation, only a cautionary measure to provide additional protection against dangers to the navigable waters caused by careless land disposal and deep ocean dumping of sewage sludge. (PF #104)
1974 - USDA studies found that tobacco grown with sludge fertilizer multiplies the Cadmium in the soil. Other studies have shown an increased Cadmium content of 15 to 20 times that found in the soil.
1976 - Congress classified sewage sludge as a solid waste in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which must be disposed of in a sanitary landfill. (PF #100)
1979 - EPA issues Solid Waste Regulation 257, which prohibits open dumping of solid waste, including sludge, however, it allowed limited use of sewage sludge with Cadmium and PCBs in it as a fertilizer.
1980 - Congress enacted Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) to close the loopholes in RCRA and give the EPA more power to protect public health. (PF #100, #102)
1980 - Food and Drug Administration recommended that crops that are eaten raw should not be grown on land where sludge is used for three years after the fact, because food contaminated by sewage sludge can be considered adulterated because sewage sludge can be regarded as a filth. (PF #109)
1981 - Cornell studies found that organic extracts from "non- toxic" sludge killed mice quicker than that from "toxic sludge. Also noted that mutagenic components of sludge could be transported through crops to animals.
1981 - EPA, FDA, and USDA issued beneficial sewage sludge statement SW905. Yet, the methodology was not available to test for dioxins or pathogens and EPA "assumed" only Cadmium and PCB's in sludge could effect human health. (PF #100, #109)
1981 - Municipalities began pilot projects to use liquid and semi-dried pathogen contaminated sludge as a fertilizer on food crop production land. (PF #113)
1983 - EPA changed the labeling of recycled hazardous waste derived commercial fertilizers to regulated recyclable material and then finally to recyclable material. (PF #112)
1984 - Congress enacted the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HWSA) to the Solid Waste Disposal Act, sewage sludge was still classified as a solid waste which must be disposed of in a sanitary landfill.
1984 - EPA issued beneficial sewage sludge use policy WH-595. (PF #100)
1985 - The one limited health study done on sludge used in food crop production noted that suitable landfill sites were being exhausted and municipalities simply turned to farmland as application (dump) sites. The study also noted a cycle of Salmonella infection from humans to sludge to cattle, to humans had been documented in 1971 and 1981. (PF #110, #111)
1986 - Courts found that EPA could not authorize toxic sewage sludge pollutant pretreatment credits without a sludge regulation in place. (PF #108)
1987 - Congress defined sewage sludge as a solid waste and prohibited the open dumping of all sludges in the reauthorization Act: HSWA of 1984, Safe Drinking Water Amendments of 1986 and the Superfund Amendments of 1986. (PF #100)
1987 - Study found that 83% to 84% of New York City sewage would be unacceptable for land application, even after pretreatment standards were met. (PF#102)
1989 - EPA proposes conservative sewage sludge use and disposal rules which identifies 25 family groups of pathogens and 15 cancer causing agents. (PF #108)
1989 - New York City Commissioner Schultz claimed 80% of New York City sludge couldn't be used in New York State or anywhere else and requested that EPA revise the proposed rules to allow the use of its pathogen contaminated sludge as a fertilizer. (PF #102)
1991 - Was the last year Ocean dumping of sewage sludge was allowed because it destroyed the ocean environment, contaminated the fish and shellfish. 94% of New York City sewage sludge dumping was transferred to food crop production land. Food contamination reports begin.
1991 - Many municipalities had fully operational food crop production facilities for sludge application (PF #113)
1991 - Health investigators blame E. coli outbreak in Massachusetts on apple cider and assumed the apples used were contaminated by cow manure. (PF #110)
1992 - EPA noted there are instances in sludge processing, such as composting were the coliform levels (pathogens) can not be satisfactorily reduced. (PF #110)
1992 - Farm Journal reports that sludge is under suspicion for the death and mutagenic effects of cattle on two dairy farms and serious human health damage to the Zander family. (PF #111)
1993 - February, New Mexico Environmental Department published Conference paper; Sludge Disposal: Sanitary landfill - Open Dump - Superfund sites, which warns about the dangers of uncontrolled sludge dumping on food crop production land.
1993 - February, EPA issued its self-implementing beneficial sewage sludge use regulation 40 CFR 503 based on the domestic sewage exclusion in the RCRA. (PF #100)
1993 - EPA acknowledges that the Domestic Sewage Exclusion in the RCRA only pertains to a hazardous waste that is mixed with domestic sewage before entering a treatment plant. (PF #104)
1993 - EPA regulation 503 authorizes disposal of toxic sludge as a fertilizer that is too dangerous to be disposed of in a sludge only landfill. (PF #100)
1993 - EPA acknowledges that exposure to pollutants in sewage sludge through the food-chain could cause death, disease, cancer, etc. (food poisoning) (PF #100)
1993 - EPA acknowledges 126 priority pollutants in sewage sludge, yet it only addressed 10 of them and they are all listed as poisons by NIOSH. (PF #100, #108)
1993 - EPA's self-implementing regulation claims sewage sludge is excluded from all Federal laws as long as it is called a fertilizer, even if a Superfund site is created. (PF #100, #101)
1993 - EPA Assistant Administrator claims there would be no CERCLA liability for municipality, land applier, land user or land owner as long as sludge is considered to be a fertilizer. (PF #100)
1993 - EPA acknowledges that if sewage sludge is mishandled it could contaminate the soil, water, crops, livestock, fish and shellfish and it may pose human health problems when disposed of in sludge only landfills. (PF #101)
1994 - EPA promotes $300,000 grant request for Water Environment Federation (WEF) to debunk horror stories of people harmed by the use of sewage sludge. (PF #101)
1994 - EPA memo states part of the grant is from 104 funding, which is restricted to prevention, reduction and elimination of pollution. (PF #102)
1994 - State of Missouri notifies municipalities, it will no longer inspect sludge application (dump) sites for compliance with EPA regulations. (PF #100)
1995 - EPA/WEF Biosolids Fact Sheet brags that 27% of New York City sludge is used in Sierra Blanca, TX as a fertilizer, another 67% is used in Arizona, Colorado and Florida food production land. (PF #102)
1995 - EPA/WEF Biosolids Fact Sheet also acknowledges that EPA, NYC and Texas are allowing the use of hazardous waste test level numbers (which are much lower) to meet the part 503 toxic pollutants limits for NYC sludge. (PF #102)
1995 - Texas becomes the 11th state to enact food slander laws. (PF #109)
1996 - The EPA funded National Research Council (NRC) report noted that the limited capacity of sanitary landfills were quickly exhausted and communities were not providing for new landfills. (PF 110)
1996 - EPA funded National Research Council (NRC) Report claims it cost New York City $800 a ton to ship sludge to Texas for disposal as a fertilizer. Average lead levels drop from 6400 ppm in NYC to 193 ppm in Texas. (PF 103)
1996 - According to media reports, it only costs about $27 a ton in Wisconsin to dispose of sludge in a landfill and Pima Gro System reports the cost is less than $40 a ton in California for sludge disposal. (PF #103)
1996 - NRC report claims toxic sewage sludge is safe for use in food crop production based on information supplied by EPA. However, the NRC report used a third party abstract, supplied by EPA, of one limited health study concerning sludge used on food crop production land in Ohio. (PF #109, #111)
1996 - Congress enacts Food Quality Protection Act. (PF#109)
1996 - The National Sludge Roundtable meets in New York and forms the National Sludge Alliance to counteract the uncontrolled dumping of toxic sewage sludge on food crop production land.
1996 - The Centers for Disease Control estimates there are 50 million cases of food poisoning and 9,000 deaths annually caused by such pathogens as Salmonella, E. coli Cyclosporia, Hepatitis A and others.
1996 - President Clinton wants to spend 43 million dollars to fight food contamination, such as the deadly disease outbreaks caused by hamburgers, apple cider, orange juice, lettuce and strawberries. (PF # 110)
1996 - WEF receives another $650,000 from the EPA with an updated list of Horror stories to debunk. (PF#101)
1996 - EPA is uncertain of Arsenic risk assessment and proposes 3 million dollar health study. (PF #100)
1996 - EPA threatens farmer with regulation of cow manure if she doesn't quit fighting the use of toxic sewage sludge as a fertilizer. (PF #101, #110)
1996 - EPA funded Water Environment Federation lobbies Congress to regulate cow manure as the cause of nations water pollution problems. (PF #101)
1996 - EPA deletes all chromium from the beneficial use (fertilizer) section of the part 503 regulation. Yet, only very low levels of chromium can be placed in a sludge only part 503 landfill. (PF #102)
1996 - EPA still refuses to release the Congressional mandated report on Mercury which was due in 1994, the report may not be released for another 4 years. (PF #109)
1997 - EPA claims it has no role in enforcement of federal prohibition against open dumping of solid waste. (PF #100)
1997 - CDC reports there were 15 deaths from E. coli between 1982 and 1992, during the pilot sludge project program. Now, since the uncontrolled dumping of pathogen contaminated sludge began in 1991, there are 200 to 250 deaths and 20,000 E. coli-induced diseases annually in the United States. (PF #113)
1997 - Congressman Serrano introduced a new Food Labeling Bill to identify food products grown on land fertilized with sewage sludge. (PF #109)
1997 - A New York State Bill was introduced by Senators Kuhl and Seward to make agricultural land on which sludge is used ineligible for agricultural assessments. (PF#109)
1997 - A Vermont Bill was introduced by Senator McCormack to restrict the pollutants in beneficial sludge to 1/10 that allowed by EPA's part 503 regulation. (PF #109)
1997 - EPA Peer Review Committee to review human health risk assessment model met in March (PF #109)
1997 - EPA requested grant proposals for studying the availability of arsenic from ingested foods. (PF #109)
1997 - EPA approves clean-up of radioactive superfund site by sending it into Denver Colorado sewage treatment plant, to be mixed with sludge and sold as a fertilizer or used on food crop production land. (PF #112) -LSI-