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

NSA Public Fact Sheet 134

Media reports THE NEW PLAGUES are here


Sewage sludge battles of 1978 - 1980 within the EPA was a catastrophic loss for the American public. The final policy decision was to land apply toxic sewage sludge as a so-called "fertilizer" rather than regulate sludge as a hazardous waste. Since then EPA has been pursuing a policy that is turning our lawns, parks, schoolyards, farms and forest into chemical and biological dump sites. Some within EPA seem to be a bit confused about whom they work for. The environmental laws were enacted by Congress because the EPA Administrator documented that exposure to chemical and biological disease organisms through the food chain, air and water will cause death, disease, cancer, physical and neurological health problems, genetic mutations as well as birth defects.

EPA's current policy of sending industrial hazardous substances (chemicals) identified in 40 CFR 116.4 (RCRA) through a sewage treatment plant and calling the condensed hazardous sludge a "fertilizer" for food crops has been a disaster for public health. Things have not changed since William Sanjour, Chief, Hazardous Waste Implementation Branch testified before a Senate Committee in 1979. He said, "This nation's current hazardous waste management practices are an environmental catastrophe of staggering proportions."

Two examples Sanjour gave in 1980 were, "Volatilization of landfilled hexachlorobenzene wastes in Louisiana led to expenditures of over $380,000 and delayed marketing of 30,000 head of contaminated cattle," And,"Monetary costs associated with contamination of an aquifer are high; for example, over $400,000 in direct costs were accrued when the state of New Jersey discovered that the Cohansey Aquifer had been contaminated by hazardous wastes dumped on farmland."

James (Jim) Bynum and Gail Bynum, Ph.D, were astounded when they researched the sludge issue for the organization, Help for Sewage Victims in 1992, The government was proposing a policy to destroy farmers health, turn our farms into open dumps or superfund sites as well as infect our food and water resources. Jim presented their findings to the New Mexico Governor's Environmental Conference in September of 1992. The paper, SLUDGE DISPOSAL: Sanitary Landfill--Open Dump--Superfund site was published in Conference Proceedings, February 1993. However, even they could not imagine the scope of EPA's plan.

When EPA issued the final part 503 sludge dumping policy, also in February 1993, the government did not admit to any potential problems. All references to toxic chemicals had been removed from the regulation. EPA had removed all mention of cancer causing agents. EPA did not mention the danger of biological diseases organisms or that there could be explosive regrowth of the organisms. EPA did not mention that the 10 chemicals it proposed to regulate were all National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health listed poisons as well as being on the toxic pollutant and hazardous substance lists. That means they will cause death. Most are listed as cancer causing agents and cause genetic mutation as well as birth defects. Not warning the public or the farmer that crops and animals as well as humans would be contaminated by unknown chemicals and infected by unknown biological disease organisms was a deliberate omission that should be considered criminal.

The EPA's new policy attempted to destigmatize the chemical and biological hazards associated with sludge. However, everyone but the public and the farmers knew this wonderful destigmatized fertilizer at allowable levels of hazardous chemical pollutants could not be legally disposed of in a permit required surface disposal part 503 landfill. High chromium content sludge would have required disposal in a part 258 sanitary landfill where the chemicals are listed as hazardous constituents.

Conflicts within EPA have intensified over the years. EPA's Hugh Kaufman was sued when he stated that the people of Texas were being poisoned by New York sludge. Since that time EPA's David Lewis found that exposure to sludge have caused deaths of at least two young men. These three honorable men, Sanjour, Kaufman and Lewis put their careers with EPA on the line in an attempt to warn and protect the public's health. EPA has followed a policy of harassment against these employees and scientists

On the other hand, EPA's Office of Water sludge advocates and researchers, John Walker, Alan Rubin and Robert Bastian, who knew of Cornell's research in the 80s which proved that the chemical toxicants in sludge would kill without leaving a trace, have enhanced their careers at EPA by spending millions of dollars on a public relations campaign to promote toxic sludge as a safe, cheap fertilizer. Walker and Bastian also ran a tax funded debunking campaign to cover up the environmental and health damage caused by their toxic Sludge. The main purpose of the PR campaign of lies was to change public perception about the disposal of toxic sludge on food crops. They even changed the name to biosolids so farmers would accept the toxic waste as fertilizer.

What farmer would ever consider sludge as a fertilizer if they knew the following:

Bill Graham recently reported, "In the late 1970's a neuropathologist, Frank O. Bastian found the Spiroplasma bacterium. in the brain tissue of a Creutfeldt-Jacob patient." "Later he injected the bacterium into mice and produced a spongiform disease." This was a bacteria thought to cause only insect and plant diseases. Now the spongiform diseases have spread through wild life and resemble the cattle downer disease.

University of Washington researchers recently reported that almost three-quarters of the top 20 chemical releases reported by industries in 1997 were known or suspected neurotoxicants (chemicals that are toxic to the developing brain). Neurotoxicant exposure is linked to a variety of childhood disorders.

University of Washington researchers suggest that this information raises a yellow flag for industries and communities. They say, "Current knowledge of the impact of these releases on children and families is similar to the level of knowledge of the effects of second-hand tobacco smoke 20 years ago."

Twenty years ago research showed that our homes and offices were contaminated by volatile chemical cancer causing chemicals. Recently the Environmental News Service reported, "Test results never before made public, obtained by EWG, show that leafy vegetables grown with contaminated irrigation water take up, store and concentrate potentially harmful levels of perchlorate."

Perchlorate is used in rocket fuel and ammunition. This would appear to indicate that the Perchlorate is coming out of a superfund site by way of a sewage treatment plant. The way this works is that the EPA takes action to secure the superfund site and limit the migration of pollutants based on its authority under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). To save industry and municipalities money, EPA then pumps the superfund waste, which includes radioactive materials into the sewer pipes.

These hazardous materials are not regulated when discharged into the pipes leading to the publicly owned treatment plant. This means that the liability is transferred to the public. The treatment plant water, contaminated with a mimium of 4 to 6 percent toxicants is released into the nearest body of water or used to replenish underground water supplies. EPA then uses the fertilizer exemption in the CERCLA to poison the farmer as well as your food and water by reclassifying sludge from a solid waste to a fertilizer.

When the government stopped ocean dumping of toxic contaminated waste in 1990 because of observed damage to the ocean environment, the toxic contaminated waste was simply transferred to farms and home lawns with the EPA sludge regulations. The collateral damage to the general public has taken a heavy toll as reported by Seth Borenstien. Philip Landrigan, community and preventative medicine chief at Mount Sinia, studied nine people including Bill Moyer for chemicals in the body. He found 167 different industrial and agricultural chemicals."

The chemicals --- including heavy metals, phosphate and chlorine compounds from insecticides, dioxins and PCBs --have been linked to cancers, nervous system malfunctions."

Sandra Blakes Lee recently reported on a 1999 California study which found the number of children with "full Spectrum", or profound autism had increased by 273 percent since 1987. Autism more than triple from 2,778 in 1987 to 10,360 in 1999. The CDC recently confirmed the trend. In the 1980s 4 to 5 children in 10,000 (ten thousand) were thought to be afflicted. More recent studies have shown the dramatic increase to between 4 and 6 children in 1,000 (one thousand). That is a tenfold increase.

The Washington Post recently reported that the number of children treated with psychiatric drugs has tripled in the 15 years between 1987 and 1996. By 1996, six percent of our children were on psychiatric drugs such as Prozac, Ritalin and Risperdal. According the WP, "The researchers said the trajectory continued to rise through 2000."

Alan Bravley recently reported that children with health-threatening obesity has increased greatly in recent years. From 1988 to 1994 only about 10.5 percent of youngsters age 12 to 19 were considered obese, according to a federal survey. By 2000, the proportion had grown to 15.5 percent.

Bravley said, "The health problems physician Sarah Hampl is seeing in her practice sounds like the woes of advancing middle age: high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol." Hampl said. "We see complications in about 40 percent of obese children. In the past five years, it's increased dramatically.""

The immediate danger to individuals is from a multitude of biological agents in sludge that no one has ever admitted exist. Generally, only a few are mentioned, However, Gary Stix reports that Isis Pharmaceuticals is in the process of developing a biological pathogen biosensor, a "system that can detect the 1500 or so agents known to infect humans." What EPA also forgot to tell the public is that antibiotic resistance bacteria have been identified at sewage wastewater treatment plants quite often since 1979.

In the past few months' doctors have seen a rash of unusual illnesses with flu-like symptoms. Flu-like is a term used when the biological agent you are infected with is unknown and therefore there is the fear that treatment of the unknown may cause additional harm and even death. According to a recent article in the Kansas City Star "--, in the 1970s and 1980s, flu killed fewer than 5,600 people in three separate years. But between autumn 1992 and spring 1999, annual flu deaths never dropped below 27,000 and reached a high of 51,296 in the 1997-1998 season. Experts said the 1999-2000 season probably was even worse, but final statistics are not available."

Many of the flu deaths were probably misdiagnosed. The first indication an older person may have that an epidemic is in progress is when they become one of the 5 million people taken to an emergency room each year with the common symptoms of a heart attack. The Associated Press reports that only about one in five persons taken to the hospital is actually having a heart attack. Even with a new test approved by the FDA, in conjunction with standard tests, doctors can only accurately discount a heart attack 70 percent of the time without a hospital stay. This new disease is called Acid Reflux. The other 4 persons diagnosed with Acid Reflux will be prescribed high dollar medicine ($120.00 a month) to control the severe indigestion.

To take that one step further, Kansas City Star Opinion writer, Jonah Goldbe rg, reports that in the last decade the waiting list for organ transplants has dramatically increased from about 20,000 to 79,523 people in February of 2002. Doctors seem to be unaware that EPA approved the release of toxic chemical and biological disease organisms on food crops. EPA and the National Academy of sciences say that most biological bacterial and virus disease organisms that are approved for release on food crops will only cause gastroenteritis and flu-like symptoms. Gastroenteritis is a fancy name for saying something is attacking the lining membrane of the stomach and the intestines. Whatever causes the gastroenteritis can cause death, diarrhea or severe indigestion which can mimic a heart attack and fool the doctors. You are the one who feels embarrassed when the emergency room doctor tell you that you have gas which can easily you cost $10,000.00.

According to reporter Mary Sanchez the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says between 800 and 1,000 farm workers die in the United States each year as a direct consequence of pesticide exposure. Another 313,000 farm workers in the United States may suffer pesticide-related illnesses annually. But the Department of Health and Human Services does not seem to take into account that the workers may be exposed to an assortment of chemicals on sludge farms.

Farmers have been assured by EPA's sludge coordinators and state regulators that sludge used as a fertilizer is safe as long as the best management practices are followed. Yet, according to the environmental laws and part 503.9(t), that is a lie. Many farmers have suffered direct harm to farm, animals and crops. Their neighbors have become direct victims. Ellen Harrison, Director of Cornell's Waste Management Institute and Helene Shields of the Sierra Club have documented some of the direct exposure victims. However, it has taken 10 years for the full impact of the government's toxic disposal policy to register on scientists and the media as epidemics rage across the country. --LSI--

A listing of Victims Website

Bravley, Alan, U.S. Obesity epidemic claims children, too, The Kansas City Star, January 30, 2003, (p. B 1)

Borenstien, Seth, Chemicals in body are studied, The Kansas City Star, January 31, 2003, (p. A 4)

Bynum, James, EPA AND THE NEW PLAGUES, National Sludge Alliance Fact Sheet, 3-31-1999,

Collected Papers ,William Sanjour

Cornell Waste Management Institute, Ellen Z. Harrison, Director,

David L. Lewis, EPA Microbiologist

Flu grew deadlier in 1990s, The Kansas City Star, January 8, 2003, (p. A2)

Graham, Bill, Brain disease studied, The Kansas City Star, September 9, 2002, (p. B 1)

Harrison, Ellen,

Lee, Sandra Blakes, Autism increase stumps researchers, The Kansas City Star, October 20, 2002, (p. A 13)

National Sludge Alliance Fact Sheets,

New York Times, Autism rate increasing, study says, The Kansas City Star, January 1, 2003, (p. A 14)

Sanchez, Mary, Project addresses pesticide risks among migrant workers, The Kansas City Star, January 23, 2003, (p. B 8)

Sanjour, William, 1978-80 sludge wars,

Shields, Helene,

Superfund Site Cleanup to Fertilizer, Part 1: The Lowdown on Lowry
Part 2: Board Games,
Part 3: A Matter of Trust,

Stix Gary, The Universal Biosensor, Scientific American, November 2002, (p. 37-39)

The Associated Press, Test will help determime which patients are having heart attacks, The Kansas City Star, February 15, 2003, (p. A 7)

Washington Post, Psychiatric prescriptions soar for young, The Kansas City Star, January 14, 2003, (p. A3)

Weiss, Michael J., The new danger in the grocery aisle, Ladies Home Journal, November 2002, (p. 112--)