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Land Use Impacts

Cherry Blossom

Oil and Gas Development Using High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing

Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council



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Heinz and Del Monte both say none of their products are grown with sludge.   The U.S., the National Food Processors’ Association says it “does not endorse the use of sewage sludge on crop land”, and some of its members also shun the process.

Waste treated at a sewage plant may be spread on a farmer's field near you. Unfortunately, it may contain nasty surprises that could end up on your dinner plate.  They rename the waste as fertilizer and spread it on farmers’ fields. The code word for this practice is “beneficial use”.  

Many times land disposal just relocates pathogens rather than dispose them
Sewage sludge, is widely used as a soil amendment by agri-business.  Sludge is the mud-like material that remains after treatment of the wastes that flow into local sewage treatment plants.  However, sewage treatment plants also inevitably receive commercial and household toxic wastes.  EPA on sewage sludge:  

“Typically, these constituents may include volatiles, organic solids, nutrients, disease-causing pathogenic organisms (bacteria, viruses, etc.), heavy metals and inorganic ions, and toxic organic chemicals from industrial wastes, household chemicals and pesticides.”   

Ontario requires fields on which sludge is spread must be approved and monitored. United States standards are permissive compared with those of other countries, including Canada.  So with the blessing of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the municipal waste industry hired a public relations firm, which rechristened sludge as “beneficial bio-solids”. Then, at the stroke of a pen, EPA reclassified sludge from “hazardous material” to “compost”. 

PR Campaign to re-classify sludge from hazardous material to beneficial “bio-solids”
This amazing process is documented in the book, Toxic Sludge is Good for You. It says, “Our investigation into the PR campaign for ‘beneficial use’ of sewage sludge revealed a murky tangle of corporate and government bureaucracies, conflicts of interest, and a cover-up of massive hazards to environment and human health.” 

An advocate of waste treatment reform, states that the move to land application:
“...the menace of toxic and otherwise non-life-compatible substances that can be found in sludge so greatly outweigh the potential nutrient benefit as to make that potential benefit an irrelevance...The sheer number of dangers associated with treating sludge as if it were a fertilizer is so great, so various, and so serious that it would take thousands of professionals to divide up and respond to the categories of problems that will arise from this practice.” 

Negative Research
Sewage sludge is mutagenic, it causes inheritable genetic changes in organisms. The movement of metals from soils into groundwater, surface water, plants and wildlife are poorly understood.  There are hundreds of toxins in sludge; 2/3 contain asbestos.

Toxic materials and organic poisons can be transferred from sludge-treated soils into crops like lettuce, spinach, cabbage, Swiss chard, and carrots.

Livestock grazing on plants treated with sewage sludge will ingest the pollutants – either through the grazed plants, or by eating sewage sludge along with the plants. Sheep developed lesions of the liver and thyroid. Pigs had elevated levels of cadmium in their tissues.

Insects in the soil absorb toxins, which then accumulate in birds.

Sewage sludge applied to soils can increase the dioxin intake of humans eating beef (or cow's milk) produced from those soils.

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