Regulate Sewage Sludge Sold to Farms As Compost

compost

Target: Lori Scozzafava, Executive Director of the U.S. Composting Council (USCC)

Goal: Put testing requirements in place for sewage products intended for use as compost

The sewage sludge industry trade group, the U.S. Composting Council (USCC), has launched a compost awareness campaign. It has been heavily advertising its Million Tomato Compost Campaign, which connects community gardens with compost producers, chefs and food banks to provide them with organic compost for use on their gardens. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has worked with the sewage sludge industry to overhaul safety testing and regulations for sludge compost. Unregulated sludge can contain hazardous pathogens and the trace metals as well as carcinogenic contaminants. These contaminants can bio accumulate in plants grown in sludge-contaminated soil and remain as residue on vegetables. This puts the people who eat these vegetables at risk. Tell the USCC that it needs to better regulate its sludge before it sells it to unsuspecting consumers as compost.

According to the campaign website, Buy-Compost.com, USCC will donate Seal of Testing Assurance (STA)-certified compost to participating community gardens who will then work with local food banks and chefs. However, several of the “compost” producers in USCC’s program use industrial and residential sewage sludge in their products. To dispose of sewage sludge produced by wastewater treatment plants, the industry and EPA have re categorized these waste products as bio-solids that can be used in organic fertilizer and compost products.

The STA certification program requires regular testing of “compost” products by certain approved labs. The testing is minimal, and the standards are designed to allow for certification of products containing sewage sludge. Composts in the STA program are allegedly tested for harmful pathogens and contaminants; however the EPA has worked with the sewage sludge industry to overhaul testing and regulations to allow for the spreading of sludge on food-growing soil and use as compost.

These lax testing standards are unsafe, as untreated sewer sludge can contain pathogens like fecal coliform and Salmonella, trace metals like arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, and zinc, and other contaminants like antibacterial agents, industrial solvents, and pharmaceutical residues. Selling untreated sludge that poses a risk to human health is irresponsible and deceiving and must be stopped.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Lori Scozzafava,

The USCC’s Million Tomato Compost Campaign sources some of its compost product from used industrial and residential sewage sludge waste. The STA certification program you require for testing these “compost” products is unacceptably minimal, as most of the testing and regulations have been overhauled by the EPA, driven by industry interests. By giving under-tested, unregulated sludge to farmers in your campaign, you are deceiving them and putting the health of consumers at risk. This petition demands that you better regulate your sludge before you sell it to unsuspecting consumers as compost.

Untreated sewer sludge can contain pathogens like fecal coliform and Salmonella and the trace metals arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, and zinc, as well as other contaminants like antibacterial agents, industrial solvents, and pharmaceutical residues. These contaminants can bio-accumulate in plants grown in sludge-contaminated soil and remain as residue on vegetables. This puts the people and children who eat these vegetables at risk. The USCC must better regulate its sludge.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Bryan Thayer via Flickr

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