Sewage Sludge in the News

November 9, 2011

  • Palo Alto Votes to Convert Park to Sludge Site: Palo Alto, California voters passed Measure E (Peninsula Press, 11/8) to re-designate a city park as “an organic-waste processing facility, or composting site, for yard trimmings, sewage and food scraps. . . . [I]mplementing anaerobic digestion, the composting technology recommended for the new plant, could eliminate the current environmentally damaging practices the city uses for processing sewage.” But although the facility, once it’s built, would collect methane from decomposition as fuel, “construction on the site of Byxbee Park, a former landfill, would include digging up 200 million cubic feet of garbage, and releasing ‘tons’ of the greenhouse gas methane.” EPA whistleblower Hugh Kaufman has called gasification, or using sludge to generate methanol or energy, the “most environmentally sound approach, but also the most expensive,” to sludge disposal. However, anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge, while it reduces the volume of the sludge and heats it to a temperature that kills many pathogens, still leaves behind what the industry calls “digestate” or, more specifically in this case, “biosolids,” which still contain other sludge contaminants.
  • Gates Foundation Funds Project to Fertilize with Toxic Sludge: According to La Jolla, California local newspaper (11/7), the “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Monday awarded $100,000 grants to San Diego-based research projects on improving sanitation and finding the causes of diseases in babies. One of the Grand Challenges Explorations grants went to a project by San Diego State University engineering professor Temesgen Garoma, who seeks to reliably and inexpensively treat human waste with algae, generate biogas for energy use and create biosolids to use as fertilizer.”
  • Sludge-Bribed Monica Conyers Transferred from “Camp Cupcake” to Detroit for Civil Lawsuit: Detroit News reports (11/7) that former Detroit City Councilwoman and wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit), Monica Conyers, had been imprisoned at “Camp Cupcake” (the federal women’s prison camp in Alderson, WV, “one of the cushier federal prison facilities”) ever since being “sentenced to 37 months in prison after pleading guilty to accepting at least $6,000 for her deciding vote on the 2007 Synagro Technologies Inc. sludge contract.” She has now been transferred “to appear in Detroit next week in a civil lawsuit alleging she retaliated against a homeless shelter employee who filed a recall petition against her.” Meanwhile, she has “dropped an appeal of her bribery conviction days before the case was scheduled for oral arguments.” She had “complained she pleaded guilty because she was unable to resist pressure from her lawyer, the government and the media, according to an appeal brief.”
  • Micromidas Turns “Poop to Plastic”: Earth Techling reports (11/7) that the company Micromidas has new technology to turn toxic sludge into plastics to be used for “tertiary packaging, meaning third-level packaging like the layer of plastic surrounding a DVD player or the wrap that secures products on pallets at big box stores around the country.” The process would leave some toxic sludge behind. But if some was turned into plastic and some turned into energy via anaerobic digestion, would the remaining volume of toxic sludge be substantially reduced?
  • Sheboygan Blames Rising Costs and Budget Pressure for Considering Sale of “Biosolids” as Fertilizer: According to the Sheboygan Press (11/7), facing “nearly $9.2 million” in costs to “allow the facility to meet state-mandated storage requirements” for its toxic sludge, the city of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, says the “expansion may lead to the city taking the dried biosolids and packaging the material and selling it as fertilizer.”
  • Toxic Sludge in Oman: “Haya Water sponsors Agroexpo 2011 event in Oman”:”The event was also an opportunity for Haya Water to promote the treated effluent product the company is producing from its world class water reuse project that is now being implemented across the Muscat Governorate area. Treated effluent from the project is currently being used mainly by Muscat Municipality and golf course developers among others to help make the capital area a greener area in which to live, work and play. . . . Commenting on their participation at Agroexpo, Wasfi Abumughli from Kala compost said, ‘As a business we now have two products – treated effluent and Kala Compost – that can prove of major benefits to the agriculture sector here in Oman. We are finding increasing demand for our Kala Compost product among farmers – especially in the Batinah region and recently appointed new agents for that region to cope with increasing demand for this eco-friendly and highly cost effective product.’ . . . Haya has developed its Kala Composting plant, that is located at Al Multaqa in Amerat, to enable the efficient re-use of sewage biosolids, and green waste enable their conversion to compost that can be used for agriculture, landscaping and for individual gardens. . . . As a result today 100% of all sewage biosolids generated by the company’s water reuse treatment plants is now treated and converted to compost – instead of being dumped into a landfill site as had been the practice in the past.” (, 11/2)
  • Tacoma, Washington’s “TAGRO” sludge product wins sludge trade group award (City of Tacoma Press Release, 11/1)
  • “Bay Park Ranks Worst Sewage Plant on Long Island” (Long Island Press, 11/1)
  • Radio Show Focused on Exposing Greenwashing Greenwashes Synagro Toxic Sludge: Rob Fleming (“Ecoman”) and Chris Pastore (“the Skeptic”) of Philadelphia University radio show, “Ecoman and the Skeptic,” interviewed Synagro’s Synagro CEO Bill Massa on May 5, 2011, not long after his appearance on CBS’s “Undercover Boss” was coordinated by Synagro’s PR firm, Allison & Partners to mold and shape Synagro’s image. “The Skeptic” didn’t live up to his name, and the show became a greenwashing extravaganza (thanks to Maureen Reilly for this tip!).

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