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Reckless experiments toying with the health of poor African Americans? say it ain’t so!


Random thoughts:

1- Ah, the Tuskeegee poop experiment.


3- Speaking of ‘heavy metals’, “Found in Sludge” would be a good name for an album.


I second Salmo’s third point. Also, its a bit strange that I don’t feel as much outrage as I should at this. I know its bad, but…I can’t do it. The only problem I can see here is that they didn’t disclose any possible dangers.

Did anything bad happen as a result of this?


Well, I can’t really say too much about this in an *official* capacity mind you, but with the exception of pharmaceuticals, your key sentence is false. There are a slew of Federal regulations under 40 CFR 503 that determine what levels of heavy metals are acceptable in sewage sludge, or as the professionals prefer we call it “biosolids”. IIRC, these are based on risk assessments and no epidemiological studies, so that part was at least correct.

In addition, 40 CFR 503 also spells out what level of disease-causing microorganisms is acceptable and biosolids must be tested to ensure it is below those levels. One could argue whether the levels chosen are appropriate, but there is regulation of this and the studies I have seen support those levels for the most part. In addition, there has been some concern over whether microorganisms can regrow on treated sludge, whether the microroganisms chosen represent all of the possible pathogens well enough, and whether micorbes can migrate into deeper soil levels once applied. However, this is currently being investigated. As with anything else that is regulated, consumer safety depends on the regulatory agency enforcing the rules. Improper sampling and reporting procedures may increase public risk.

The study you reference was an effort to remediate contaminated soils. Their methods were sound in that biosolids have been shown to remove contamination from soils in places like military installations and also homes in Bowie, Maryland.

However, on the flip side, it is known that people who apply biosolids or come into direct contact with them in about 6 months after application can get sick IF they don’t follow good personal hygiene. If the people in the study you linked were not informed of that, then it is correct they were not informed of all the risks.
In addition, there have been allegations that the EPA has suppressed research on risks of biosolids, and a recent case in Georgia resulted in the following: “a federal judge ordered the Agriculture Department to compensate a farmer whose land was poisoned by sludge from the waste treatment plant here. His cows had died by the hundreds.” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23506826/

The thing is, until land application, all that sewage sludge went out into the ocean. Obviously, there are many good reasons not to do that. So that leaves us with trying to reuse high nutrient materials as fertilizer, dumping them in landfills, or incineration. The best use is as fertilizer. I personally would rather that industrial and residential waste streams were not mixed so that the levels of heavy metals, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals in our water and waste water would be much lower. Companies should have to clean up their own waste and not pass it along to municipal waste treatment systems.

Andrew W. said on April 15th, 2008 at 1:06 am

I feel similar to Andre; I just can’t bring myself to care. I wouldn’t care if it happened to white people, red people, yellow people, purple people or whatever kind of people.


Andrew just reminded me of Green Lantern/Green Arrow 76:

“I been readin’ about you…how you work for the blue skins…and how on a planet someplace you helped out the orange skins…and you done considerable for the purple skins! Only there’s skins you never bothered with–!…The black skins!”

And I think that managed to loop back into the topic nicely.

Lord Wolf said on April 15th, 2008 at 11:47 am

Andre & Andre W: I imagine you’d both still be “Whatevs, dude…” if this had been done in your neighborhoods? Here’s another key sentence: “There is no evidence there was any medical follow-up.”

And people act like they have absolutely no idea why so many poor blacks in America are convinced that AIDS is a government-created disease aimed at them. LOLblackAIDStruthers!


Lord Wolf: No, I reckon that I would be plenty angry if this happened in my neighborhood. However, given how much shit has happened as a result of government action in the past years, I just can’t bring myself to feel outrage at this. There have been so many worse things which have happened. That said, it is still not alright; I am saying that, for my part, I can’t muster up any outrage.


Also, I’ll be damned if I will be talked down to by a fellow on the internet with the moniker “Lord Wolf”.


How the Hell can someone be beyond outrage on this?

gustave f said on April 18th, 2008 at 4:40 am

Holy shit, I grew up in Bowie Maryland.

Tell me more about Bowie Maryland.


Hi Gustave,

Here is an excerpt from the Epa.gov site about the research in Maryland. It was very similar to the article MGK linked to, in that compost was used to bind up lead in the soil. Which is what was used in the current study: composted biosolids. In other words, the stuff you can buy in bags at any garden center, which means it is held to the highest standards for safety as far as heavy metals and disease organisms.

“Dr. Rufus Chaney, a senior research agronomist at the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, is an expert in the use of
compost methods to remediate metal-contaminated sites. In
1979, at a denuded site near the Burle Palmerton zinc
smelter facility in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, Dr. Chaney
began a remediation project to revitalize 4 square miles of
barren soil that had been contaminated with heavy metals.

Researchers planted Merlin Red Fescue, a metal-tolerant
grass, in lime fertilizer and compost made from a mixture of
municipal wastewater treatment sludge and coal fly ash. The
remediation effort was successful, and the area now supports
a growth of Merlin Red Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass.

Chaney has also investigated the use of compost to
bioremediate soils contaminated by lead and other heavy
metals at both urban and rural sites. In Bowie, Maryland,
for example, he found a high percentage of lead in soils
adjacent to houses painted with lead-based paint. To
determine the effectiveness of compost in reducing the
bioavailablility of the lead in these soils, Chaney fed both
the contaminated soils and contaminated soils mixed with
compost to laboratory rats. While both compost and soil
bound the lead, thereby reducing its bioavailability, the
compost-treated soil was more effective than untreated soil.
In fact, the rats exhibited no toxic effects from the
lead-contaminated soil mixed with compost, while rats fed
the untreated soil exhibited some toxic effects.”


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