Been following the sludge story from Hephzibah, Ga.? If you work in support of biosolids, like I do, you should be.
Our biosolids have incredible fertilizer value in terms of phosphorus and nitrogen, which is what pulls me into the mix. But it is valuable only to the degree that it can be trusted. Some biosolids can be trusted, some cannot. Let's do this thing, people.
Andy McElmurray, a farmer in Hephzibah, Ga., fed his dairy cows silage that had been fertilized with sewage sludge laced with heavy metals. More than 300 of them died.
In February, a federal judge ordered the Department of Agriculture to compensate McElmurray for losses incurred when his land was poisoned between 1979 and 1990 by applications of Augusta, Ga., sewage sludge. That sludge contained levels of arsenic that were two times higher than EPA standards allow; of thallium (a heavy metal used as rat poison) that were 25 times higher; and of PCBs that were 2,500 times higher.
What's more, milk from his neighbor's dairy farm was sent to market with thallium levels 120 times higher than those allowed by the EPA in public drinking water.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Anthony Alaimo was particularly critical of the EPA and the University of Georgia for having endorsed "unreliable, incomplete and, in some cases, fudged" data about the Augusta sludge. That corrupt data was presented to the National Academy of Sciences, which then cited it in their July 2002 assertion that sewage sludge does not pose a risk to public health.
Alaimo wrote, "Senior EPA officials took extraordinary steps to quash scientific dissent, and any questioning of EPA's biosolids program."