Wednesday 20 February 2019

"Biosolids" - The Big Lie - "linguistic detoxification"

Two ways of seeing: To see what is actually there or To see what we want to see.

There is a very real difference in perception, between those who support using "sewage sludge / biosolids" on farm and forest soils, and those who do not. This is based on two very different ways of looking at what this "material" actually is.

Those in favour of "land application" see merely organic matter along with some plant nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, and presumably, because it contains some human fecal matter, they see it as a form of manure. This is the initial "deception" ...

This limited view utterly ignores the actual make-up of this waste material. It is after all, the "stuff" taken out of the wastewater within these treatment facilities, in order to clean the water - purify it of its pollutants as much as possible, before the water is released back into the environment. This "stuff" therefore represents the collected and concentrated toxic waste eliminated from the liquid stream. It is a mirror of modern urban life - a goulash comprised of myriad pollutants - the remains of everything we flush away - cleaners, pharmaceuticals, dyes, solvents, microplastics and microfibers, fire retardants - you name it.  As Prof. Murray McBride, of Cornell University, says, it is "a material containing unknown concentrations of thousands of chemicals with undetermined toxicities."

"linguistic detoxification"

The second "lie" put forth by those who support "land application" is seeing "biosolids" as a substantially different material than "sewage sludge"

This perception is simply not borne out by the facts. The minimal "processing" done to the sludge - be it adding lime, or woodchips, and composting it - anaerobic or aerobic digestion, pelletizing it, or liquifying it - all of these are superficial treatments. The problematic constituents within this matrix of pollutants remains primarily the same. As numerous studies, including those of the US Geological Survey, have shown - thousands of chemicals remain in these so-called "biosolids" … 

 Microplastics? - Still present - ( "43% of microplastics that go down the drain eventually end up applied to agricultural land as biosolids." ) Nanomaterials? -Still present - (Uptake of Nanomaterials see - ). Endocrine disruptors like flame retardants? - Still present - (The U.S. Geological Survey scientists confirmed that rainfall mobilized chemicals (including detergents, fire retardants, plasticizers, and antibacterials) from municipal biosolids-amended agricultural fields, directly to runoff. Most (14 of 17) of the chemicals examined were present in edge-of-the-field runoff and not depleted in concentration after three 100-year rainfall events For more on this see - ). Prions? - Still present - ( "if prions were to enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would partition to activated sludge solids, survive mesophilic anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids.'' see - ) In fact some  problems like superbugs - antimicrobials, may even get worse through these processes (Antibiotic residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria - - "spreading of sewage sludge leads to a significant increase of ARG in the soil" )

To see this sludge then as a "soil amendment" is to make an absurd leap - both in logic and in language! The purveyors of this sludge, those in the biosolids business, have "greenwashed" the language, BUT there is simply no way that present-day science can "wash" away these thousands of chemicals. It is a waste product rich in pollutants. 

It is no surprise that many of those who oppose the spreading of this sludge on soils are professional biochemists and microbiologists. 

They see this "goulash" for what it really is - "a world of pollution in one product" (Dr. David Lewis). They know the dangers associated with this sludge, comprised of a great variety of toxins - a so-called "chemical cocktail." They know about the growing body of evidence describing increasing numbers of cancers arising from exposures to a multiplicity of toxins in low dose. As Dr Richard Honour has noted, "nearly all chronic diseases are caused by long-term exposure to low levels of environmental contaminants and pollutants. We should be trying to minimize this exposure, not amplifying it." More than probably any other waste substance on earth, Sewage sludge / "biosolids" represents a mind-boggling concentration of chemical contaminants.  The Halifax Project (174 scientists from prominent institutions in 28 countries) specifically investigated this problem - "Assessing the Carcinogenic Potential of Low Dose Exposures to Chemical Mixtures in the Environment" ( "chemicals may be capable of acting in concert with one another to cause cancer, even though low level exposures to these chemicals individually might not be carcinogenic. This is a paradigm shift in the field of toxicology and the research has now been published in Oxford's Carcinogenesis"
(it needs to be noted that the risk assessments, on which our various levels of government base their assurances of safety, do NOT look at either the synergies between these chemicals, nor at the issue of exposure to these "chemical cocktails" - instead they base safety solely on a 500 year old precept that only the single chemical dose makes the poison)

By contrast, the professionals who support this reckless land disposal are often soil scientists, agrologists and agronomists - whose knowledge of these chemical synergies noted above is limited by comparison. It should also be noted that these professions are financially tied to the spreading of these sewage wastes (under the guise of "fertilization"), as farmers or ranchers applying to use these wastewater sludges (biosolids) must include certification by a soil scientist, agronomist, or agrologist ... it is in the interest of these professions therefore that these practices continue. For many this deception represents their sole professional activity - a dreadful betrayal. Agronomists and Agrologists call themselves “keepers of the land”  - I think it is time they lived up to that name. It is time they stopped lining up at the Big Sludge money trough and started to defend the soils they proport to love. They are supposed to be guided by a code of ethics and be “responsible for protecting the interests of the public.” They claim to be “leaders in environmental sustainability” Well folks – spreading the toxic burden of our cities onto our farmlands and forests is not "environmental sustainability" - it is merely a form of toxin disposal - and it certainly does not protect the public.

We must open our eyes to what this material actually is - a pollutant-rich waste product, that has no business being disposed of on soils meant to sustain future generations. It is time to reject the deceptive PR machine behind this "biosolids business." This is NOT "green" or "sustainable" or "recycling" -  it is merely a cheap way of shifting our cities' pollutants.  As Dr. Sierra Rayne has noted - "The science doesn't support the disposal of sewage sludge across the landscape. The supposed benefits are more than offset by the risks to human and environmental health. An unimaginably large number of chemical and biological contaminants exist in these materials, and they persist in the product up to, and after, land disposal. Scientific investigations have identified only a tiny fraction of the total contaminant load. Governments are playing Russian roulette with sewage sludge. Over time, there is a high probability this game will be lost at the public's expense." (

 It is time to open your eyes folks!