WASHINGTON, 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
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
In both responses, the agency decided to permit the continued application
of sewage sludge on agricultural fields.
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 the environment.
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."