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"Removing all humans" is a radical solution to pollution

By Tom Glendinning
Posted Wednesday, October 12, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - This is a learned response to Mr. Mayo in the Chatham Chatlist edition # 4141. I am a composting expert, having founded the industry in North Carolina ca. 1974. Biosolids are sludges, by another name. What you mean is the waste product of municipal wastewater treatment plants. The recent term was invented sometime in the last few decades. I don't recognize Mr. Jenkins name, but I am sure that he is a fine fellow.

I will not recount my resume, but am quite familiar with water quality issues. I have sat on local, regional and state boards and organizations, as well as testifying before the legislative subcommittee on the subject.

You make a mistake in lumping discharges and the transport systems that handle them. Sewer systems handle wastewater which yields biosolids/sludge after treatment. Storm water runoff is handled in the surface water systems, i.e. drain pipes and culverts above ground. Industrial and single discharger systems are also monitored by state and federal agencies for compliance.

Lumping all the carcinogens, mutagens and other bad actors together under biosolids/sludge is a mistake. They are present in our environment, but not from the same source. Vilifying one treatment system as inadequate because these chemicals are present indicates a rather simple-minded approach to human society, government and infrastructure. Disposal or treatment of these is designed to remediate them in the best way and process them effectively, not to make them disappear.

PCB's are an industrial waste used in certain applications. They were banned in the 1970's. DDT was outlawed, unless you missed that. Chloroform is no longer used in hospitals, but some industrial processes. Carbon tetrachloride was used in fire extinguishers, refrigerants and lava lamps. It was banned from consumer products in 1970.

Now, if you are saying that these chemicals, along with other organochlorines are in our sewage sludge, then we are buying products containing them and flushing them down our toilets. This fault is not one you can place on our wastewater systems. The same with motor oil, pesticides, etc. The implication that our pharmaceuticals are flushed down the toilet (again) says that we are consuming poisonous chemicals prescribed by doctors. We produce these materials for our consumption and they are a part of our environment.

Please research EPA publications on sludge, now biosolids, dating back to the 1960's and 1970's. Plant uptake, migration between pasture grass and animals, metals migration, soil mediation, plant mediation, toxic levels in the human food chain, surface runoff studies, are just a few of the studies published on the subject. And take the time to familiarize yourself with the work of Epstein and Albert who did many of those, and well as a USDA agent, Rufus Chaney from the Beltsville, MD research station who did the crop and plant uptake studies.

By the way, my Bing search yielded 875,000 hits for "sludge and EPA." Start there. is the EPA site on the topic. A Cornell paper has a fine explanation of land application: Sludges containing toxics (dioxins) are treated by incineration or other method than cropland application.

Land application was initially proposed for regulation in the 1970's and a comprehensive rule was passed in 1993 as "Part 503 Rule" found in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations." Annual pollutant loading rate (APLR) is determined by the concentration of metals in the batch of sludge, what can be absorbed by the soil type and crop. Vegetable cropland is not permitted to receive sludge. Soil fertility studies also indicate that sludge application is improved, not diminished. All my soil analyses prove that. The allowable levels of metals, nutrients and pollutants is monitored and heavily regulated, for our safety. And the EPA and state agencies responsible do a fine job. Sewer authorities take their public health charge very seriously too. This industry is not a plot to poison us or part of Obama's plan to reduce the senior population. Please.

BTW, if chlorine is not in our environment naturally, where does salt come from? Or KCl? And why is NaCl listed on nutrient analysis in our foods? We must be performing magic in the creation of foodstuffs to put it there. Metals? They are in my vitamins, the same ones listed on the sludge report - selenium, manganese, copper, magnesium, chromium, molybdenum, calcium, zinc and (OMG) chloride. And don't forget phosphorus. It's in my supplement too. These are also found in nutrient analysis of foods and soil analyses. I am not excusing wanton pollution by bad actors. I am saying that these things are part of our lives and managing them wisely to avoid pollution is done to the best ability of our agencies. In the forty years I have observed them, I believe that they do a credible job.

Finally, the demarcation between pollution and a healthy products seems to be whether the substance is food or waste. If I eat it, it's all right. If I flush it, it's toxic. I must be a poison producing machine. But, in reality, I think the preoccupation with sludge/biosolids is phobic and, probably related to potty training issues.

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"Removing all humans" is a radical solution to pollution

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