DC, January 7, 2004 (ENS): On New Year's Eve,
December 31, 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) denied a petition from a coalition of 73
labor, environment, and farm groups requesting that
the agency ban the land application of sewage sludge
from wastewater treatment plants.
On the same day, the agency published its review of
regulations governing the use and disposal of sewage
sludge. The review was prompted by criticism of EPA's
sludge rules by the National Research Council (NRC).
In both responses, the agency decided to permit the
continued application of sewage sludge on agricultural
The petition to EPA offers a detailed case regarding
the dangers of land application of sewage sludge and
requests this practice be prohibited. Signatories include
the United Mine Workers of America, Clean Water Action,
the Organic Consumers Association, the Center for Food
Safety, Farm Aid, and Citizens for a Future New Hampshire.
The petitioners say the sludge contains heavy metals,
radioactive materials, and other contaminants such as
medical waste and is harmful to people, livestock and
Since the EPA allowed the practice 10 years ago, the
petitioners complain that millions of tons of sewage
sludge have been applied to American farmland. No system
is in place to track health and environmental problems
arising from the sludge, although 350 people have reported
sludge related health incidents to the Cornell Waste
Management Institute, and three people have died immediately
after contact with the sludge.
"The EPA has once again chosen to make its controversial
rulings on a holiday in the hope that no one will notice
it's obfuscating," said Laura Orlando, a spokesperson
for the coalition. "But EPA's dodging the ball
when no one is looking is not going to make the facts
go away: cows are dying, people are getting sick, and
the food supply is being poisoned."