Home, Garden & Playground Risks – Simply Put
- 8 million tons of America’s sewage sludge – is applied to parks, playgrounds, farmlands, golf courses and sold to home gardeners as a bagged “fertilizer.”
- Sewage sludge looks like any manure, fertilizer or pellets – but contains the hazardous waste that is washed down the drain of homes, businesses, industries and hospitals – toxic chemicals, pathogens, bacteria and pharmaceuticals.
- From fertilizer to soil to your family – heavy metals and toxic waste are absorbed from the false “fertilizer” into your soils and landscapes where you and your children are exposed. Pathogens survive the treatment process. No pharmaceuticals or hormones require testing.
- Sewage sludge exposure – can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, induce breathing and asthma problems, create skin infections, muscle and joint pain, diarrhea and death.
- Labeling is a “crap shoot” – if the bag says topsoil, it is usually topsoil. If the bag says it is humus from a location, it is probably all humus. If the bag says compost and nothing else, it is a “crap shoot” at best.
- No labeling requirements – bagged fertilizer often names compost somewhere on the label but there are no requirements to list sewage sludge or biosolids as an ingredient in the material. Sludge can legally be blended into other bagged fertilizers with no labeling requirement.
- The nose knows – in a savvy move to disguise sewage sludge/biosolids, dried fertilizer pellets can avoid the smell. But the nose knows – the smell is just the indicator that something is not right.
- Deceptively labeling of sludge, biosolids and composts – cozy words like “organic”, “sterilized”, “pasteurized” or “sanitized” have little meaning since there are no federal rules regulating marketing terms.
- Cheap municipalities compost – often sewage sludge is mixed with green waste and called “compost”. Composting sludge may reduce some disease causing pathogens, but studies shows that the pathogens that survive are now stronger and more drug-resistant, a.k.a anti-biotic resistant.
- Marketing is key – municipalities can market their product, such as Milorganite made in Milwaukee, WI, or Dillo Dirt out of Austin, TX. “Compost” given away or sold at municipalities will contain the hazardous wastes from that location.
- Bulk Composts are bulk sludge – most garden centers have no idea that the bulk “compost” sold to homeowners often contains sewage sludge – UNLESS the owner can give you the originating site of the compost and where it came from.
- Protect your family, home garden and pets – use sludge-free fertilizer. Tell your local officials you do not want sludge/biosolids on your parks, playgrounds, schools and athletic fields. Tell your state and federal elected officials a change to the laws – sewage sludge doesn’t belong in our food, water and communities.
Where do your children play? When you head to the park, athletic field or golf course, is your landscape fertilized with sewage sludge/biosolids? Could your home garden or lawn be transferring municipal waste to your vegetables, flowers, pets and children? Is your families health worth a green lawn?
Nothing is more tempting then a sunny day outdoors in open space, green lawn or plunging your fingers into garden soil. But now you know – caution is advised as more of your open space becomes the dumping grounds for municipal waste marketed as a false fertilizer. Sewage sludge and biosolids, marketed as fertilizers or “compost” look innocent enough, just like any manure or fertilizer. But many fertilizer/compost products made from sewage sludge, the semi-solid remains of everything that comes out of your waste water treatment plant, pose potential danger to your family’s health and safety. Sounds gross – and it is! Think of everything that goes down the drain of homes, businesses, industries and hospitals and you will understand why the few test that regulate sewage sludge/biosolids are a farce. Yet, 60% of all sewage sludge waste is spread on farmlands, parks, playgrounds, golf courses and sold to gardeners as bagged ‘fertilizer’.
The nitrogen and phosphorous in sewage sludge makes plants grow. But buyers beware – terms like “natural” and “healthy” are just words with no standards that protect the consumer. Sewage sludge/biosolids based fertilizers are promoted because municipalities want to dispose of toxic waste as cheap as possible, not because the product is clean, healthy or better. Remember, toxins and heavy metals don’t disappear because they are heated and doused with chemicals at the waste water treatment plant. Sun or rain does not “dilute” wastes that are dangerous to your children and pets. Contaminants build up in your soil and the dust travels by wind or the rainwater runs off into your waterways, home and community. The heavy metals and toxic waste condensed in sewage sludge become absorbed in your vegetables and plants.
Sewage sludge/biosolids can be spread on your school grounds, athletic fields, playground, golf courses and parklands legally and without public notice. When you are duped into purchasing sludge based bagged or bulk fertilizer, you are introducing contaminated waste products to the soil where your family grows foods and plays in the great outdoors.
Who is protecting you and your family?
Contamination On Your Lawn, Your School & Your Playground
Unfortunately, sewage sludge/biosolids is marketed to the gardens and landscapes via the locations that we trust the most, including the Obama Gardens at the White House in Washington, DC and to schools where our children are introduced to the joys of gardening. Buyer beware – many “natural” lawn care companies are also sewage sludge/biosolids based products, with gentle, enticing names to lure the home owner into unconsciously contaminating your home surrounding for the sake of a green lawn.
Independent testing commissioned by the Food Rights Network found toxic contaminants in San Francisco’s sewage sludge “compost” give-away to school and urban gardens as “organic compost” are contaminants with endocrine-disruptive properties including polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), flame retardants, nonylphenol detergent breakdown products, and the antibacterial agent triclosan. The independent tests were conducted for the Food Rights Network by Dr. Robert C. Hale of the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences.
Organizations such as Center for Media and Democracy (CDM) highlight this slight-of-hand by calling out companies like Kellogg Garden Products. CMD and others criticize the marketing of sewage sludge for use in “organic” school children’s gardens. Kellogg Garden Products produces and sells garden products that say “organic” or “compost” on bags containing material from Los Angeles and Inland Empire sewage sludge from the Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority. Since the start of its school garden program in 2009, school districts have been unknowingly putting sewage sludge on their organic urban and school yard gardens.
Another example of exposure to contaminants found in sewage sludge at outdoor parks and public places was in 2009 at the popular Austin, Texas music festival. Months before tens of thousands of concert goers attended the annual Austin City Limits festival, the concert park grounds were spread with a sewage sludge fertilizer called Dillo Dirt. Unfortunately, it rained the weekend of the festival, turning the grounds into a huge mud pit with the consistency of pudding. One concert-goer described the smell like the smell of “pig manure.” Following the event, several attendees reported rashes and other health problems that they believe were contracted from coming in contact with the churned up human and industrial waste.
Dillo Dirt is a product sold as fertilizer but made from sewage sludge by the City of Austin Water Utility. Hundreds of communities across the U.S. sell toxic sludge products that are typically renamed “biosolids” and sold or given away as “fertilizer” or “compost” (and often even labeled or marketed as “natural” or “organic”). The sludge-based fertilizer, marketed to unsuspecting gardeners and landscapers, is an income stream for the city of Austin and all municipalities as a cheap way to dispose of their sewage waste.
“The city of Austin, Texas composts biosolids with wood chips, yard wastes, and sawdust. The resulting product is called Dillo Dirt. Dillo Dirt is sold to vendors under contract with the city. The vendors include topsoil companies, nurseries, garden suppliers, landscapers, and a turf farm. The demand for Dillo Dirt far exceeds the available supply.”
The city of Austin markets its sewage sludge as “organic” compost. The sludge qualifies for “unrestricted use,” which means it has been “cleared” for use even on vegetable gardens (although there used to be a warning printed on the bag suggesting gardeners not use it on vegetable gardens).
Across America, there are some 265 facilities that handle and market hazardous sludge, many of them are attempting to market sewage sludge as “compost.” Is your park, playground, schoolyard or athletic field a dumping ground for our modern and toxic sewage sludge waste?
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