Would You “Like” Sewage Sludge on Facebook

September 12, 2011

Sewage sludge has a Facebook page! Only they use the PR term for sludge, biosolids, calling their page “Biosolids Buzz.” Despite the attractive photo of a woman holding soil (presumably sludge) with a seedling growing in it, sludge is not “Liked” by too many other Facebookers, aside from all of the usual suspects. Kellogg Garden Products, a company that profits by selling sewage sludge as “compost,” the U.S. Composting Council, a front group for the sludge industry, the U.S. EPA, which covers for toxic sludge by calling it safe and legal, and the big dog of the sludge industry, the Water Environment Federation, all “Like” this page.

Social Media for Sludge

Facebook is just one of the many social media tools sludge promoters are using to get the word out about sludge. Instead of their usual strategy of selling sludge to gardeners as compost in bags that don’t list sludge as an ingredient — and sometimes even call it “organic” (or “organics“) — some sludge advocates are now trying to make it seem cool. You can like it on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, and watch it on YouTube. They are using cute slogans like “Is Your #2 Making You #1?” and titles like “Biosolids Boy and the Compost Kid: The Secret of the Super Soccer Field.” And they are advertising sewage sludge as “sustainable.”

Selling Sludge as “Sustainable”

The effort to sell sludge as “sustainable” in an age when sustainability is the buzzword on everybody’s lips has paid off. For example, a Huffington Post piece about the selection of Stockholm, Sweden, as the “Green Capitol of Europe” includes the use of sewage sludge on agricultural land in the city’s green credentials. A piece about the Austin, Texas, sewage sludge product, Dillo Dirt, is titled “Going Green.” Another dramatic example of this comes from north of the border, in a piece about a sludge compost company being named to a list of the greenest employers in Canada. And in Iowa, Governor Terry Branstad praised wastewater workers who produce sludge that is applied to farmland for their “environmental passion” and “promoting sustainability in our way of living.” (Branstad is also an alum of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which the Center for Media & Democracy has been investigating through ALECExposed.org.)

Where’s the Dislike Button?

The sludge social media and sustainability campaign makes us want to hit the “Dislike” button — if only one existed on Facebook! Despite the hyperbolic language about the “ultimate recycling,” the use of sewage sludge is more than just the application of treated human fecal matter on farmland and gardens. Whereas the practice of using human waste as fertilizer is an ancient – and sustainable — one, sewage sludge contains a whole lot more than poop; it contains everything that goes down the drain from households, hospitals, and industry. Test after test reveals that sludge – even the treated sludge the EPA calls “Class A Biosolids” — is a toxic stew of everything from dioxins and flame retardants to biological pathogens. Just because applying sludge to farmland gets rid of it in a supposedly cheap way that does not make the practice sustainable — let alone safe.

Filed under: News,Sewage Sludge

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4 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. aed939  |  September 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    It’s not the human fecal matter that concerns me–it is the pharmaceutical contamination as well as the household chemical contamination, such as fluorides from carpet cleaning products and detergents and cosmetics. The use of sewage sludge will render anything grown in it not USDA Organic certifiable even though the sludge product is often characterized as “organic.” The use of the organic term is not consistent with its use in soil amendments–this has to be changed.

  • 2. Mary  |  September 12, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Who would want to Facebook “like” “biosolids are super duper”, and follow them on Twitter? Well, me, for instance. I am a sludge hauler. I am a female sludge hauler, who has run land application equipment for 15 years now. I agree that no sludge in any form should be included in, or marketed as an organic product. I agree that being a sludge fan is not ever going to be cool. I agree that Sludge reuse (like recycling absolutely anything else) requires care and and an informed public. I agree that there is always room for scientific inquiry and reasonable testing. I respectfully disagree that municipal sewage sludge is as dangerous as you try to make it out to be. It simply isn’t.

  • 3. Jill Richardson  |  September 12, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    The thing about sludge is that it’s so lightly regulated and tested that you never know what’s it in or how dangerous it is. Nor could you, even if better testing and regulation was done, because while we have a lot of information about the impacts to humans, animals, and the environment of many chemicals, we don’t know how chemicals impact us when they are mixed together in an infinite number of combinations. And in some cases, new chemicals are used (for example, nanosilver) before their impacts on us are fully understood and before any regulation is brought up to speed to keep the public safe. Why would you put something full of an unknown amount of toxins, in an unknown combination, on land where you grow food?

    The thing is, if you’ve got an informed public and “reasonable” testing, you still have a lot you don’t know. And a truly informed public would know that and wouldn’t want to eat food grown in sludge — or to live near where sludge is being applied to land, since you wouldn’t want to inhale it either.

  • 4. Confused  |  September 21, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    I think youre confused about who likes the sludge facebook page. The list on their page is who the sludge page likes, not who likes them. This isn’t that big of a deal, but seems like if youre going to do investigative journalism you should be more careful about your facts.

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