Saturday 9 January 2016

Battle Background Part Three

Recently, many have been asking the Friends of the Nicola Valley, for their view of the Biosolids issue - especially now that communities across the region are looking for alternatives to land application - here are some thoughts -

Our view is that farmers, ranchers, and forestry personnel have been duped. The marketing "pitch" is the nitrogen, phosphorous, and organic matter. This is, however, only half the story. You see, there is a reason why it is generally given away for free – the waste water treatment facilities need to get rid of their piles of sewer sludge (the collected and concentrated residuals left over after cleaning the water). This represents everything a city pours down its drains: household chemicals, industrial toxins, pharmaceuticals, solvents – you name it. Farms, ranches and forests are being used as disposal sites for this end-product - "sold" as "beneficial biosolids" – quite a "spin"!

Many countries have ended this method of dealing with waste. For instance a recent German study concluded that "it would be advisable to gradually phase out the use of sewage sludge so as to avoid diffuse loads of potentially harmful substances in soil." So too, the Swiss have stopped because of, "the risk of irreversible damage to the soil, the danger to public health and possible negative effects on the quality of the food farmers produce."

To read more on the Swiss Ban on the use of sludge as a fertiliser see -

Our government has made claims about lots of oversight to protect health. If the product is, as they say, "stringently regulated," then why out of the thousands of toxins known to be in biosolids are only about a dozen tested for? And why did the Suzuki Foundation recently find very toxic components in the bisosolids delivered to the Nicola Valley from the Lower Mainland? Government guidelines are not protecting human health.

One of the biggest worries is that sewer sludge has a potential for spreading low-level toxicity throughout the environment - cancer-causing elements, prions, hormones - which have a long latency period and only manifest themselves in the affected population many years in the future (asbestos is such an interesting parallel with its long latency period before symptoms show - even today in the UK more individuals are dying yearly from asbestos than from all road deaths combined - and remember too that for decades governments and scientists told the public that asbestos was perfectly safe).
 As Dr. Richard Honour (Washington State) has pointed out, "Few in any governments appreciate that nearly all chronic diseases are caused by long-term exposure to low levels of environmental contaminants and pollutants."  So I ask you, what are we being exposed to now that we will be paying for in the future? Is it not wise to be limiting these toxins rather than spreading them back into the environment? These concerns are not addressed by the rather facile mantra of the sludge industry that no one yet had been proved to be sick from this method of toxin dispersal. Rather than blunder forward with this reckless practice, I really think the energy-producing alternatives are the clear "green" and healthy choice for communities interested in protecting their futures.
To Read more about what Dr. Honour is researching see -

The water treatment process does a fine job getting toxins out of the environment. Why in the world would we start spreading it back over Mother Earth — so it can re-enter the food-chain, and re-toxify our lives? If biosolids are deemed to be "safe" then why do food companies like Campbell’s, DelMonte and Whole Foods reject produce raised with Biosolids? Why do dozens of farm, health, and environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, David Suzuki Foundation, National Farmers Union, and the Center for Food Safety, oppose using biosolids where we grow food and graze animals?

There are greener methods of dealing with this toxic burden. Methods like pyrolysis and gasification rid the environment of the toxins, have almost zero emissions, and return energy back to the grid. Let’s get on the right side of history, and keep the environment toxin-free for the next generation!

Here is a recent letter (January 1, 2016) from Caroline Snyder (Harvard University) writing on this issue to the Merritt Herald:

"Biosolids spread on land is not just a regional problem. It is a North American problem. This contaminated waste is probably the most pollutant-rich material created in the 21st century, and does not belong on the land where we grow our food or graze our animals. Biosolids contain an array of hazardous chemicals, including pharmaceuticals, PCBs, dioxins,solvents, carcinogens, mutagens, endocrine disrupters, and dozens of unregulated and inadequately regulated metals. Worse, processing sludge to reduce indicator pathogens, creates superbugs that transfer their resistance to healthy soil organisms. The most recent US EPA’s survey of biosolids across the states found a vast array of industrial chemicals in every single sample. And a few months ago the EPA Inspector General warned the agency that the program that requires industrial users to pre-treat their hazardous waste before piping it into sewers is not working.

For the inside story of how sludge brokers, Canadian and US government agencies, industry-funded researchers, and sewage treatment plant trade groups collaborate to cover up hundreds of harmful incidents linked to sludge exposure, ignore or manipulate scientific data and silence critics, see "


Is compost made from biosolids safe? Isn't this a good form of recycling?

"When you spread sludge on farmland or use a bag of compost you bought at a nursery or home-and-garden supply that’s made with sludge, you’re also spreading contaminants. Some one-thousand contaminants have been identified in sewage sludge, a short list of which includes lead, mercury and dozens of other metals, flame retardants, steroids, organochlorine pesticides, plasticizers, hormones and antibiotics. A 2009 nation-wide EPA study found that all samples of sludge tested contained various contaminants in varying amounts" ( . The industry tells customers that the product has been "treated" and is "safe." We would point out that NO treatment takes out the chemical / toxic burden in the biosolids. We would also point out that "safe" means "without risk" and this is just not true. There are far too many unknowns to make such a claim.