Sewage Sludge in the News

October 25, 2011

  • Another Sludge Ingredient: “Microplastic”: Scientists find that “samples of treated wastewater and sewage-tainted ocean sediment” contained “microscopic fragments of acrylic, polyethylene, polypropylene, polyamide, and polyester” from synthetic clothing lint in water than drains from washing machines, fragments with particles smaller than one nanometer (“one hundred-thousandth the width of a human hair”). “Ingested microplastics can persist in cells for months, moving up the food chain to animals and people who eat fish. More alarmingly, some studies show that microplastics can absorb toxic chemicals such as PCBs, dioxins, and DDT.” What the Ecouterre article (10/24) and the study report (9/6) don’t mention is what concentration of plastic pollution is concentrated in the dried sewage sludge before the treated wastewater is released to the ocean. Land application of sewage sludge to fields of human food crops is a much more direct movement up the food chain, from our vegetables straight to our bodies.
  • California School Assigns Students to Test Sewage Sludge: According to the North County Times (10/15), ”local growers and gardeners have been able to buy fertilizer from the Fallbrook Public Utility District for about three years, and many have said it made their plants flourish. But until a teacher at a local school stepped in, nobody at the district had tested the fertilizer or tried to determine how much of it to mix in the soil for the best results. . . . The fertilizer is biosolid, a nutrient-rich substance created by heating and treating wet sludge at the Fallbrook Public Utility District, which provides water and sewage service for Fallbrook. . . . In mid-September, students in Fischer’s class weighed and mixed various ratios of biosolids and soil, then planted arugula and chard in small containers filled with the mixture.” The results? Not in yet, but “overall, the study appeared headed for an ironic conclusion: The plants with no biosolids were among the tallest, and the ones with the most biosolids were smaller.” Parents, do you want your kids being directly exposed to sewage sludge in school?
  • Meridian, Idaho Greenwashes Sewage Sludge as “Innovative Approach” to “Nutrient Recycling”: The City of Meridian’s Wastewater Treatment Facility announces that it will test “a new system which processes biosolids through a patented lime stabilization process.  This pilot program will take place October 24-28 using mobile equipment on loan from Schwing Bioset, Inc (SBI). . . . Biosolids are the processed solids from City’s municipal wastewater treatment facility and are a renewable resource. As a renewable resource, biosolids can be safely treated and returned to the soil and reused as a nutrient rich soil amendment.” Neither lime stabilization nor composting destroy or stabilize heavy metals, pharmaceuticals or flame retardants, all of which the EPA found in all sewage sludge samples it tested in 2009.
  • Soybeans Show to Absorb Pharmaceuticals From Treated Sewage: “Each year, U.S. farmers fertilize their fields with millions of tons of treated sewage and irrigate with billions of gallons of recycled water. Through this treated waste, an array of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) make their way unregulated from consumers’ homes into farm fields.” A University of Toledo study found that “at least one crop, soybeans, can readily absorb these chemicals, which raises concerns about the possible effects on people and animals that consume the PPCP-containing plants” (Chemical & Engineering News, 8/2/10).

Filed under: In the News,Sewage Sludge

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