Infectious Waste Mismanaged

Neurodegenerative disease is rapidly becoming the leading cause of death worldwide. Misinformation and mismanagement from industry and government are fueling a public health disaster around the world.

Science is being ignored. Research is being blocked. Unfortunately, infectious waste and lies also are being spread like fertilizer. Food, water and other pathways are hopelessly contaminated with neurotoxins thanks to negligence and corruption at all levels in most countries.

Disease Mismanagement

Alzheimer’s disease alone is taking the lives of 50-100 million people around the world now. The epidemic is more severe in some countries than others. As millions die, even more will be diagnosed. Millions more are suffering in silence with a misdiagnosis or no diagnosis. No one really knows the scope of the epidemic. Unfortunately, one of the common threads is the mishandling of infectious waste.

A variety of factors can trigger neurodegenerative disease, including genetics, head trauma and neurotoxins. Misinformation and mismanagement are fanning the flames.

Despite millions of deaths, experts suggest that the prevalence of the disease will quadruple by 2050, if not sooner. Unfortunately, there is a growing stack of evidence that Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other brain diseases are transmissible. They also are being misdiagnosed and undiagnosed at an alarming rate. Deadly, self-replicating proteins appear to be one of the common threads.

Alzheimer's disease transmissible

Did you know that spouses of those with Alzheimer’s disease are 600 percent more likely to contract the disease than non-caregivers?

Did you know that Alzheimer’s disease is commonly misdiagnosed? About 20 percent of Alzheimer’s diagnoses are actually a more severe and more aggressive form of neurodegenerative disease known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is highly contagious and always fatal.

At $236 billion a year, Alzheimer’s disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. The disease saw a 15.7 percent jump over 2014 numbers–the largest increase of all major causes of death. It accounted for 108,227 documented deaths (and thousands more of undiagnosed and undocumented ones) in the U.S. alone in 2015. A similar pattern is emerging around the globe–some regions much more than others.

In the U.S., nearly one in every five Medicare dollars is spent on people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. These costs will continue to increase sharply as baby boomers age and the prion contagion spreads, soaring to more than $1 trillion in 2050.

The epidemic is worse in some regions of the world than others. Finland and Iceland were at the top of the list just a few years ago. Now, countries in the Middle East and Persian Gulf states have soared to the top of the list.

In the United States, for example, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease increased 71 percent from 2000 to 2013. Over the same time, deaths from heart disease decreased 14 percent. What is going on?

The Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s epidemic is more widespread than anyone knows. Physicians have withheld millions of diagnoses from patients and their families. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, physicians in the U.S. only inform 45 percent of patients about their Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The same suppression is likely at work in most countries. Meanwhile, millions more go undiagnosed and misdiagnosed.

A groundbreaking study suggested that Alzheimer’s disease causes six times as many deaths as the official statistics indicate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that, in 2010, Alzheimer’s caused almost 84,000 deaths in the United States, a number derived from death certificates in which Alzheimer’s disease was listed as the main cause.

In reality, the study said Alzheimer’s was the underlying cause in more than 500,000 deaths in 2010 that were often attributed to conditions, such as pneumonia, caused by complications of Alzheimer’s. Those numbers make Alzheimer’s disease the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. The study was led by researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and published in 2013 in the medical journal Neurology.

The Prion Pathogen

Prions (PREE-ons) are at the heart of many forms of neurodegenerative disease. Prion science could change the way we perceive the world and our place in it. Prions are a deadly and unstoppable form of protein that migrates, mutates, multiplies and kills with unparalleled efficiency. Prions cause fatal neurodegenerative disease in humans and other mammals by converting the cellular version of prion protein into a toxic form that erodes the brain and body. Prion disease often is described as a wasting disease that causes a loss of body mass and brain mass. Despite public misinformation, there is no barrier to prion disease and prions discharged from humans are the most deadly forms because humans are at the top of the food chain and we consume prions from the entire food pyramid.

prion disease and TSE

Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing prions and prion disease. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research.

Prion disease also is known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” Prusiner claims that all forms of TSE are caused by infectious prions.

Prions are such a formidable threat that the U.S. government enacted the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, which included a provision to halt research on prions in all but two laboratories. The U.S. government classified prions as select agents that pose an extreme risk to food, water and health systems.

Unfortunately, the Center For Disease Control quietly took prions off the list about two years ago because the classification threatened to criminalize some multi-billion dollar industries and many industry practices.

TSE is a spectrum disease that varies in severity and symptoms. It depends on which region of the brain is impacted first and by what prion mutation. Few cases are identical in terms of symptoms and diagnoses. When the presenting symptom is memory loss, the diagnoses flow along the following chart.

prion disease spectrum

In humans, the prion spectrum includes Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and an extremely aggressive version known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The difference between these diseases is very slight and often indistinguishable to neurologists. For example, millions of people have the severe form of Alzheimer’s disease, which is known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). CJD is clearly a prion disease. According to neuroscientists Dr. Laura Manuelidis, at least 25 percent of Alzheimer’s diagnoses are actually CJD, which is further up the prion spectrum. CJD, without dispute, is extremely infectious to caregivers and loved ones, but it has not been declared a reportable disease across the U.S. and many other nations.

Millions of cases of deadly CJD are being misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. Millions of patients and caregivers are being misinformed, misguided and exposed to an aggressive prion disease. Millions of people with prion disease have exposed us all to their infectious waste thanks to misinformation, mismanagement and negligence. Meanwhile, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is likely a form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy—prion disease. In most of these cases, the trauma was the change agent that caused prions to misfold and become toxic. Once the neurodegeneration of CTE begins, are these victims shedding infectious prions? Hopefully, prion researchers will fill in this very important blank. Again, families and caregivers need to know if they are dealing with a TSE.

A variety of factors can trigger neurodegenerative disease, including genetics, head trauma and neurotoxins. Sewage is by far the most significant prion pathway to you and your family, but it’s not the only pathway.

sewage sludge land application

Pathway Mismanagement

Sewage mismanagement has killed millions of people around the world over the centuries. Sewage is so lethal it has been used as a weapon of war and a weapon of class warfare. It’s going on today in the U.S. and beyond. It is state-sponsored bioterrorism. It isn’t Russia, North Korea or Iran. It’s a case of domestic betrayal.

Although there is plenty of blame to go around for the mismanagement of prion pathways, the U.S. EPA is one of the most negligent policymakers in the world. Thanks to its fraudulent risk assessments regarding the dumping of sewage on open land, the practice has been embraced around the world.

Unfortunately, Prusiner’s science is being ignored and we all are facing a public health disaster because of the negligence and reckless disregard for public health. Infectious victims are contaminating the world around them and reckless policies are spreading their infectious waste far and wide.

Victims should be quarantined because prions are in the urine, feces, blood, saliva, mucus, skin and cell tissue of all victims–all human byproducts that are washed, dumped, or flushed down sinks and toilets. One can assume that the waste is extra infectious when it comes from funeral homes, nursing homes, hospitals, dental offices, veterinarians, slaughterhouses and some laboratories.

Wastewater treatment plants are collecting points for prions from infected humans. The sewage treatment process can’t stop prions from migrating, mutating and multiplying before being discharged into the environment where they can kill again. Wastewater treatment plants are spreading infectious waste far and wide because they are incapable of stopping prions. As such, all by-products and discharges from wastewater treatment plants are infectious waste, which are contributing to the global epidemic of neurodegenerative disease among humans, wildlife and livestock. As more people fall sick, the deadlier the waste stream becomes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that prions are in sewage and that there has been no way to detect them or stop them. As such, the EPA has never issued guidance on prion management within wastewater treatment plants. Unfortunately, the EPA’s risk assessment on sewage sludge and biosolids were prepared before the world of science knew about prions. The agency continues to cling to its antiquated sludge rule crafted back in the dark ages. It does, however, consider prions a “emerging contaminant of concern.” Meanwhile, its outdated risk assessments are promoting a public health disaster. The neurotoxins found in sewage, including heavy metals, also are contributing to the global spike in autism, which follows the same timing and trajectory as the spike in neurodegenerative diseases.

“Since it’s unlikely that the sewage treatment process can effectively deactivate prions, adopting measures to prevent the entry of prions into the sewer system is advisable,” said the Toronto Department of Health, November 2004.

Once unleashed on the environment, prions remain infectious. They migrate, mutate and multiply as they infect crops, water supplies, wildlife, livestock, sea mammals and humans. According to prion researcher Joel Pedersen at the University of Wisconsin, prions in soil become up to 680 times more infectious. From there, they migrate, mutate and multiply. It’s a real world version of Pandora’s Lunchbox.

CJD and TSE

“Our results suggest that if prions enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would bond to sewage sludge, survive anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids,” Pedersen said. “Land application of biosolids containing prions represents a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results emphasize the importance of keeping prions out of municipal wastewater treatment systems.”

Pedersen also found that sewage treatment does not inactivate prions. Therefore, prions are lethal, mutating, migrating and multiplying everywhere sewage is dumped.

Prions could end up in sewage treatment plants via slaughterhouses, hospitals, dental offices and mortuaries just to name a few of the pathways. The disposal of sludge represents the greatest risk of spreading prion contamination in the environment. Plus, we know that pathogens, pharmaceutical residue and chemical pollutants found in sewage sludge are taken up by plants and vegetables.”

One in seven Americans drink from private wells, which are being polluted by contaminants from manure and fertilizer, including highly toxic and infectious biosolids.

The U.S. EPA Admits Negligence

The risk assessments prepared by the U.S. EPA for wastewater treatment and sewage sludge are flawed and current practices of recycling this infectious waste are fueling a public health disaster.

Many risks are not addressed, including prions and radioactive waste. They don’t mention prions or radiation because there is no answer. Most nations are making the same mistake. We’re dumping killer proteins on crops, parks, golf courses, gardens, ski areas, school grounds and beyond. Wind, rain and irrigation spread these contaminants and many more throughout our communities and watersheds.

In November 2018, the EPA admitted holes in risk assessments.

Failure to account for known risks is negligent. Crops for humans and livestock grown in sewage sludge absorb prions and become infectious. We’re all vulnerable to neurotoxins and right now due to widespread denial and mismanagement. It’s time to stop the land application of sewage sludge (LASS) in all nations. Safer alternatives exist.

After lying about the practice of turning sewage into fertilizer for more than 40 years, the U.S. EPA admitted in November that it couldn’t stand behind its risk assessments, which were clearly fraudulent all along. Sadly, the collateral damage speaks volumes about the EPA’s decades of lies. Even the most recent admission falls extremely short of the full problem. A proper conscience would call for an immediate suspension and an immediate diversion of all sewage sludge to lined landfills.

The report’s title almost says it all, “The EPA Unable To Assess The Impact Of Hundreds Of Unregulated Pollutants In Land-Applied Biosolids On Human Health And The Environment.” The EPA’s Office Of Inspector General published report No. 19-P-0002 on November 15, 2018.

“The EPA’s controls over the land application of sewage sludge (biosolids) were incomplete or had weaknesses and may not fully protect human health and the environment. The EPA consistently monitored biosolids for nine regulated pollutants. However, it lacked the data or risk assessment tools needed to make a determination on the safety of 352 pollutants found in biosolids. The EPA identified these pollutants in a variety of studies from 1989 through 2015. Our analysis determined that the 352 pollutants include 61 designated as acutely hazardous, hazardous or priority pollutants in other programs,” the report says. “The Clean Water Act requires the EPA to review biosolids regulations at least every two years to identify additional toxic pollutants and promulgate regulations for such pollutants. Existing controls based on the Clean Water Act and the EPA’s Biosolids Rule include testing for nine pollutants (all heavy metals), researching for additional pollutants that may need regulation, reducing pathogens and the attractiveness of biosolids to potential disease-carrying organisms, and conducting compliance monitoring activities. The EPA’s risk communication regarding biosolids should also be transparent.”

chronic wasting disease

Thanks to the OIG’s audit, the EPA just backtracked on 40 years of fraud and bad policy—after millions of cases of autism, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and endocrine disruption. After fueling the insurgence of chronic wasting disease among wildlife and mad cow disease among cattle. After peddling this bad policy to other nations for decades, including Canada, the EPA announced in November that it could not assess the risks associated with the land application of sewage sludge (LASS). The risk assessments were incomplete and fraudulent all along.

The Carnage

One of the great public health disasters of our time is still unfolding. The US EPA announced last month that it can’t assess the risks associated with dumping millions of tons of toxic sewage sludge into our food and water supplies for the past 40 years. It convinced many other nations to do the same. This is state-sponsored bioterrorism and betrayal. Thanks to criminal acts by the U.S. EPA, the U.S. has dumped millions of tons of highly toxic and infectious sewage sludge into our food and water supplies because the EPA labeled it fertilizer after it was deemed too toxic to dump into our oceans.

The EPA itself describes sewage sludge as a substance that can “cause death, disease, behavioral abnormalities (such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease), cancer, genetic mutations, physiological malfunctions (including reproductive issues) and deformations.” The EPA isn’t protecting the environment or human health. Is it incompetence, negligence or criminal collusion?

As the practice of dumping sewage on open land across the nation gained momentum, so did autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and mad cow disease. Sewage is much more than meets the eye and nose. It contains infectious waste, toxic waste, radioactive waste, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, carcinogens, and more. Have you wondered why food recalls and safety alerts are issued on a daily basis in the age of sewage on soil?

Chronic Wasting Disease and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease

Thanks to the mismanagement of infectious waste, including sewage, the animal world is contracting prion disease from humans. Deer, elk, moose and rein deer also are transmitting chronic wasting disease among themselves via their own bodily fluids. When it comes to prion disease, species barriers are a myth.Livestock

Mad cow disease and Equine Encephalitis.

West Nile Virus

A small percentage of those infected with the virus transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito could die or suffer severe symptoms such as meningitis, encephalitis or paralysis.

Caregivers

Misinformed caregivers, family members, healthcare workers and others are caught in the crossfire of a deadly form of protein. In fact, few family members are warned about the infectious nature of CJD. Meanwhile, hospitals throw out surgical instruments used on such patients. Neurologists prefer not to touch or even be in the same room as a patient with CJD. The CJD Foundation and other advocacy organizations also remain mum on the risk of transmission. The CDC remains silent.

Misinformed caregivers, family members, healthcare workers and others are caught in the crossfire of a deadly form of protein. In fact, few family members are warned about the infectious nature of CJD. Meanwhile, hospitals throw out surgical instruments used on such patients. Neurologists prefer not to touch or even be in the same room as a patient with CJD. The CJD Foundation and other advocacy organizations also remain mum on the risk of transmission. The CDC remains silent. Is this cone of silence at all levels incompetence, negligence or criminal misconduct?

Autism

Abnormal proteins also are associated with autism. In fact, it appears that age is the biggest difference between the neurodegenerative disease spectrum and autism spectrum disorders. Both spectrums share common environmental causes and pathologies. Plus, CJD is taking the lives of more and more young adults and adolescents.

In 2015, the CDC reported that 1 in 45 children in the United States now has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which includes Asperger’s Syndrome. In 2018, the CDC updated that estimate to 1 in 40. Just a few years ago, the rate was estimated at one in 88. Boys are five times more likely to be autistic than girls. About one out of every 100 adults has ASD, but that ratio will rise as young victims age.

Studies suggest that two-thirds of the autism epidemic is environmentally caused, which explains the regional variations from one part of the country to another.

We can’t ignore that the global Alzheimer’s disease epidemic and the autism epidemic both began to rise in the late 1970s. They began to spike dramatically in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The spike in autism and Alzheimer’s disease are almost identical in terms of timing and trajectory. The surge in chronic wasting disease among wildlife also follows the same trend line. These devastating diseases are symptoms of a much bigger problem associated with toxic and infectious waste policies and practices that shifted at the exact same time.

Foodborne Illness

In addition to neurological disease, one in six Americans get sick from eating contaminated food each year. Since some pathogens don’t generate an immediate reaction, the problem is much worse than reported. The problem is getting worse thanks to food that is grown in infectious waste and toxic waste.

One of the worst Listeria outbreaks in recent years occurred at Jensen Farms in Colorado in 2011, with 33 people dying from contaminated cantaloupe. Investigators tracked the bacteria’s potential source to a dump truck used to discard melons parked near the packing shed. The truck carried melons to a cattle lot and could have brought Listeria back to the packing area. Inspectors also discovered pools of water in walkways and along drains, providing breeding grounds for bacteria. Washing and sorting equipment was purchased from a potato operation and could not be properly cleaned or sanitized for melons. In addition, the farm did not follow FDA guidelines for cooling melons and packed warm melons from the field in boxes that were then refrigerated. This method of cooling had the potential to produce condensation that promotes Listeria growth. Nowhere in the report did it discuss growing the ground-based melons in and on soil that is contaminated with infectious waste. It’s a real threat since cities have disposed millions of tons of sewage sludge on farms, pastures, gardens, playgrounds, athletic fields, golf courses, parks and forests.

Other factors include better surveillance by state, local and national health authorities utilizing cutting edge tools such as PFGE and WGS. It could be a lack of support for inspectors on the front lines. It could be due to more imports with a greater supply chain with a great chance for contamination or temperature variances. It also could be associated with contaminants in the soil and water that sustain crops and livestock.

When two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink, the event is called a foodborne disease outbreak. E.coli, listeria, salmonella, other pathogens…

The ultimate goal for public health and food safety officials is not just stopping foodborne disease outbreaks once they occur, but preventing them from happening in the first place. Long-term prevention of foodborne outbreaks takes the actions of many partners in the food production chain, stretching from farm to table.

EPA’s Pattern Of Betrayal

The EPA has reduced staff and resources in the biosolids program over time, creating barriers to addressing control weaknesses identified in the program. Past reviews showed that the EPA needed more information to fully examine the health effects and ecological impacts of land-applied biosolids. Although the EPA could obtain additional data to complete biosolids risk assessments, it is not required to do so. Without such data, the agency cannot determine whether biosolids pollutants with incomplete risk assessments are safe. The EPA’s website, public documents and biosolids labels do not explain the full spectrum of pollutants in biosolids and the uncertainty regarding their safety. Consequently, the biosolids program is at risk of not achieving its goal to protect public health and the environment.

Among the many recommendations found in the report, it’s authors urge the EPA to change the website response to the question “Are biosolids safe?” It suggests adding language explaining that the EPA cannot make a determination on the safety of biosolids because there are unregulated pollutants found in the biosolids that still need to have risk assessments completed. This change should stay in place until the EPA can assess the risk of all unregulated pollutants found in biosolids, including prions.

Modify the EPA’s website responding to public questions on the safety of biosolids to:

  • Identify unregulated pollutants found in biosolids,
  • Disclose biosolids data gaps, and
  • Include descriptions of areas where more research is needed.

Make similar revisions in other EPA-published documents that include a response to the question “Are biosolids safe?” These changes should stay in place until the EPA can assess the risk of all unregulated pollutants found in biosolids.

The EPA administrators reviewed the report by the agency’s OIG and responded as follows, “We agree there is a need to address the uncertainty of potential risk posed by pollutants that are found in biosolids, and we have made that a top priority for our biosolids program. We also agree that there are other biosolids efforts that can be improved upon. It can be challenging to communicate information about public health and environmental risk, particularly when risks have not been fully evaluated, as is the case for many contaminants found in biosolids. However, we disagree with the OIG characterizing uncertainties in science as known risks or “threats” to human health and the environment. We also disagree with the OIG prescribing new policy or specific science-based measures as opposed to addressing how the EPA meets its statutory requirements.”

sewage sludge on land and disease

Homeland Security and Prion Disease

The U.S. developed the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 to defend our air, food, water and public areas from toxins and pathogens. Unfortunately, that law is not being enforced and millions of innocent citizens are caught in the crossfire. Today, the CDC estimates that 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States. Food recalls are in the news every day. Sewage-based agriculture is responsible for much of the problem because plants absorb many of the toxins and pathogens. In other cases, rain and irrigation water splash the contaminated soil onto the plant. Plants grown in sick soil will make you sick, if not kill you.

After permanently contaminating farms, ranches, golf courses, parks, forests and schools, the EPA invalidated the risk assessments that it used to legalize the practice. Most importantly, those risk assessments failed to mention deadly prions, which are in the bodily fluids of those with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Unfortunately, Prusiner’s science is being ignored and we all are facing a public health disaster because of the negligence and reckless disregard for public health.

Prion disease is highly contagious, incurable and fatal. Despite all of the smoke and mirrors, prion disease is prion disease. It’s killing more and more mammals, including humans, every year. The hype about species barriers is ridiculous, reckless and irresponsible.

As such, many of mutations of prions are in sewage and have been for years, but the risk assessments fail to include prions. Wastewater treatment plants have been prion incubators and distributors for years. The reckless disposal of prion-laden sludge on open land has fueled neurodegenerative disease in humans, wildlife and livestock.

Thanks to the mismanagement of infectious waste, including sewage, the animal world is contracting prion disease from humans. They also are passing it among themselves via their own bodily fluids. When it comes to prion disease, species barriers are a myth.

Unfortunately, prions linger in the environment, homes, hospitals, nursing homes, dental offices, and beyond infinitely. Prions defy all attempts at sterilization and inactivation. If they can’t stop prions in the friendly and sterile confines of an operating room, they can’t stop them in the wastewater treatment plant.

The risk assessments prepared by the U.S. EPA for wastewater treatment and sewage sludge are flawed and current practices of recycling this infectious waste is fueling a public health disaster. Many risks are not addressed, including prions and radioactive waste. They don’t mention prions or radiation because there is no answer. Most nations are making the same mistake. We’re dumping killer proteins on crops, parks, golf courses, gardens, ski areas, school grounds and beyond. Wind, rain and irrigation spread these contaminants and many more throughout our communities and watersheds.

Failure to account for known risks is negligent. Crops for humans and livestock grown in sewage sludge absorb prions and become infectious. We’re all vulnerable to neurotoxins and right now due to widespread denial and mismanagement. It’s time to stop the land application of sewage sludge (LASS) in all nations. Safer alternatives exist.

Our Sewage Problem

The arrogance and ignorance regarding sewage management has likely contributed to the downfall of many great empires. That waste stream has never been larger or more toxic than it is today.

Today, municipal wastewater is much more than the urine and feces from billions of people. It contains pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, carcinogens, pathogens and more. Municipal wastewater treatment plants are lucky if they can separate the solids from the liquids, let alone kill or filter out the bad stuff. The water goes one way and the sewage sludge goes another. The truth will piss you off.

In the 1970s, world leaders were informed that dumping deadly sewage sludge into the oceans was killing entire undersea ecosystems, which impacted the human food chain. The dumping in oceans and rivers subsided a few years later in many countries around the world, but the sewage sludge didn’t go away. Instead of forcing these sewage treatment plants to dispose of the sludge in lined landfills, the U.S. EPA reclassified sewage sludge to be a fertilizer that offered beneficial use to farmers, golf courses and public parks. The result has been a public health disaster that’s still unfolding.

Fifty years ago, partially treated wastewaters from thousands of US cities were discharged into the nation’s rivers, lakes, and bays. These waters became heavily polluted. Since the 1950s, federal legislation has been strengthened to control water pollution. Municipal sewage treatment systems or publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) were built, although ocean disposal of residual solids was still permitted. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 placed further restrictions on the discharge of wastewater to waterways and encouraged other disposal methods such as land applications. Recent restrictions on ocean disposal (Ocean Dumping Ban Act, 1988) and cost increase of incineration and landfill make land application an attractive option of disposal.

Regulations that ensure the safe and responsible management of sludge have been in effect since 1970s. As a result, sludge quality has dramatically improved since then. The Clean Water Act amendments of 1977 and 1987 and the Ocean Dumping Ban Act of 1988 prohibit ocean dumping of sludge and require controls on sludge use and disposal. Regulations entitled “The Standards for the Use or Disposal of Sewage Sludge” were developed and published by the US EPA on Feb. 19, 1993 as the 40 CFR (Title 40, Code of Federal Regulations) Part 503 Biosolids Rule (Part 503 Rule) and became effective on March 22, 1993. The law has become known as the “503 Rule,” The 503 Rule is based on the results of risk assessments for chemicals that began in the mid-1970s, was more extensive than any previous federal rulemaking effort for sludge, and established biosolids quality requirements for its land application. 

Wastewater Treatment

Wastewater usually undergoes two processes in treatment factories. The primary step is a physical screening or settling process to remove sediment but with all the dissolved minerals still in the effluent. The secondary step is a biological process where dissolved biological matter is progressively converted into a solid mass using a cultivated culture of indigenous, water-borne bacteria, thereby large amount of biological oxygen demand (BOD) is removed from the wastewater. A tertiary step, which is a chemical and/or biological process, may also be employed to remove nutrients especially N and P, which are the main concern of eutrophication of waters. After the tertiary step, the effluent may be suitable for discharge into a stream, river, lagoon, or wetland or used for irrigation of public area such as golf courses, greenways, or park or injection to groundwater.

To meet the regulatory requirements (40 CFR Part 503, described below) for land application, the wastewater treatment residuals (sewage sludge) have to undergo treatments to reduce pathogens and attractiveness to vectors. Treatments include aerobic digestion, anaerobic digestion, composting, alkaline stabilization, and thermal drying. They may be also used to control odor and inactivate heavy metals.  

Biosolids

Biosolids is the term created in 1991 by the Name Change Task Force at Water Environment Federation (WEF), the water and wastewater industry’s main trade and lobby organization in the USA, to distinguish treated sewage sludge from raw sewage sludge and facilitate land application of processed sewage sludge that would be more acceptable to the public.

Biosolids and products derived from biosolids are a potential source of pharmaceuticals and other emerging contaminants to the environment. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the United States generate approximately7 million dry tons of sludge each year. Because this sludge, commonly called biosolids, is rich in plant nutrients, it is frequently applied to soils to fertilize plants and to improve the quality of soil. The mass of biosolids applied to soils is substantial, approaching 3 million dry tons throughout the United States in 1998. These biosolids and biosolids composts are used widely in both residential and commercial landscaping and in row-crop agriculture. Because a variety of pharmaceuticals and other organic chemicals have been found in the wastewater discharged from WWTPs, questions have been raised about the presence of these chemicals in biosolids. The application of municipal biosolids on land may be a widespread source of emerging contaminants to surface and ground water.

In 1993, EPA promulgated Standards for the Use or Disposal of Sewage Sludge (Code of Federal Regulations Title 40, Part 503), which set pollutant limits, operational standards for pathogen and vector-attraction reduction, management practices, and other provisions intended to protect public health and the environment from any reasonably anticipated adverse effects from chemical pollutants and pathogenic organisms, which are causes of concern about human health and the accumulation of toxic substances in soils. Many of the regulations (commonly referred to as the Part 503 rule) were based on risk assessments conducted to identify and characterize risks associated with the use or disposal of sewage sludge.

The EPA defines biosolids as treated sewage sludge. They define treatment as moving sewage sludge from point A to point B. Like magic, the dumping process transforms toxic waste and infectious waste into black gold. A multi-billion dollar industry was formed overnight thanks to the EPA’s sludge rule and pseudoscience. Now, about 50 percent of all biosolids are being recycled to land. These biosolids are used on about one percent of the nation’s agricultural land, according to the EPA. Floods, wind and other weather events have blown them far and wide.

Sewage sludge is defined in the Part 503 rule as the solid, semi-solid, or liquid residue generated during the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment works. The term biosolids is not used in the Part 503 rule, but EPA (1995) defines biosolids as “the primarily organic solid product yielded by municipal wastewater treatment processes that can be beneficially recycled” as soil amendments. Use of the term biosolids has been controversial because of the perception that it was created to improve the image of sewage sludge in a public-relations campaign by the sewage industry (Rampton 1998). For the purposes of this report, the committee considers sewage sludge to be the solid, semi-solid, or liquid residue generated during treatment of domestic sewage, and biosolids to be sewage sludge that has been treated to meet the land-application standards in the Part 503 rule or any other equivalent land-application standards.

Sewage is the largest unregulated waste stream in the world. It is estimated that approximately 5.6 million dry tons of sewage sludge are used or disposed of annually in the United States, of which approximately 60% are used for land-application or public distribution. Globally, it’s estimated that the world produces about 1.9 billion tons of sewage sludge annually.

On the basis of data from EPA (1999a) and USDA (1997), EPA estimates that approximately 0.1% of available agricultural land in the United States is treated with biosolids. Biosolids are a complex mixture that may contain organic, inorganic, and biological pollutants from the wastewaters of households, commercial establishments, and industrial facilities and compounds added or formed during various wastewater treatment processes. Such pollutants include inorganic contaminants (e.g., metals and trace elements), organic contaminants (e.g., polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], dioxins, pharmaceuticals, and surfactants), and pathogens (e.g., bacteria, viruses, and parasites). Sewage-sludge treatment processes are intended to reduce the volume and organic content of biosolids and to reduce the presence of pathogens but retain beneficial properties for soil-amendment and land-reclamation purposes.

Biosolids are applied to agricultural and nonagricultural lands as soil amendments, because they can improve the chemical and physical properties of soils and they contain nutrients and trace elements important for plant growth. They also contain chemicals and pathogens that spread death and disease.

Agricultural lands include sites where food crops (for human or animal consumption) and nonfood crops are grown. Nonagricultural lands include forests, rangelands, and public contact sites (e.g., public parks, golf courses, school grounds, and cemeteries). Severely disturbed lands, such as strip mines and gravel pits, can be reclaimed with biosolids.

Biosolids are divided into two classes on the basis of pathogen content: Class A and Class B. Class A biosolids are treated to reduce the presence of pathogens to below detectable levels and can be used without any pathogen-related restrictions at the application site. Class A biosolids can also be bagged and sold to the public, if other requirements are met. Class B biosolids are treated to reduce pathogens but still contain detectable levels of them. Class B biosolids have site restrictions that seek to minimize the potential for human and animal exposure until environmental factors, such as heat, sunlight, and desiccation, have reduced pathogens further. Class B biosolids cannot be sold or given away in bags or other containers or used at sites with public use.

Sewage sludge that is not treated to meet land-application standards is usually disposed of at landfills or surface disposal sites that contain only sewage sludge or is incinerated. Regulations pertaining to these disposal practices are contained in the Part 503 rule. 

Pollutant Standards

Different methods were used to establish the chemical pollutant and pathogen standards in the Part 503 rule. For the chemical pollutant limits, sewage-sludge surveys (EPA 1982, 1990) and risk assessments (EPA 1992a,b) were used to identify and characterize risks from chemical pollutants in sewage sludge. The risk assessments considered a variety of pathways, which expose humans, animals, plants, and soil organisms to toxic and infectious waste. Chemical standards, pollutant concentration limits, and annual pollutant loading rates were originally established for 10 inorganic chemicals, using the most limiting exposure pathway. These chemicals are arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, and zinc. Standards for five of the currently regulated chemicals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and selenium) are based on potential adverse human health effects. Most standards are only for eight chemicals; only a ceiling concentration is currently established for molybdenum, as described in the footnote.

In December 1999, EPA issued a proposal to amend the Part 503 rule for land-applied biosolids by adding a risk-based concentration limit for dioxins, a category of organic compounds that includes 29 specific congeners of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans, and coplanar polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Because of the variety of different pathogens that might be present in sewage sludge and the impracticality of testing for all of them, EPA requires analyses of “indicator organisms.” An indicator organism is a particular species of microorganism whose presence is used to indicate that a certain set of pathogenic organisms might also be present. The Part 503 rule specifies operational standards for fecal coliforms, Salmonella sp. bacteria, enteric viruses, and viable helminth ova.

Reforms Ignored

In 1996, the NRC published the report Use of Reclaimed Water and Sludge in Food Crop Production, which reviewed the practice of using wastewater and biosolids for agricultural purposes. That report focused specifically on issues related to food-crop production and evaluated the regulations for chemicals and pathogens in the Part 503 rule; reviewed the impacts on soil, crops, and groundwater; and considered the economic, legal, and institutional issues of the practice. The current report is different from the earlier one in that it encompasses all land-application uses (not only food-crop production), is focused only on human health risks, and provides an in-depth assessment of the methods used to assess those risks.

The 1996 report concluded that “While no disposal or reuse option can guarantee complete safety, the use of [municipal wastewater and biosolids] in the production of crops for human consumption, when practiced in accordance with existing federal guidelines and regulations, presents negligible risk to the consumer, to crop production, and to the environment. Current technology to remove pollutants from wastewater, coupled with existing regulations and guidelines governing the use of reclaimed wastewater and sludge in crop production, are adequate to protect human health and the environment.” However, the report also highlighted limitations and inconsistencies in EPA’s risk evaluation and made recommendations for additional research.

One of the major concerns with respect to EPA’s risk evaluation was the reliability of the National Sewage Sludge Survey (EPA 1990), which served as the basis for many of the decisions made in the Part 503 rule, including EPA’s decision to exempt organic pollutants from regulation. Inconsistencies were found in the survey’s sampling and data-reporting methods that undermined the reliability of the data. Therefore, it was recommended that EPA conduct another national survey of pollutants in biosolids. To date, no comprehensive survey has been performed. Reformers involved with the report suggested the following:

  • Until a more sensitive method for the detection of Salmonella in biosolids is developed, the present test should be used for support documentation, but not be substituted for the fecal coliform test in evaluating biosolids as Class A.
  • EPA should continue to develop and evaluate effective ways to monitor for specific pathogens in biosolids.
  • EPA should reevaluate the adequacy of the 30-day waiting period following the application of Class B biosolids to pastures used for grazing animals.

The 1996 NRC report also examined the adequacy of EPA’s pathogen requirements and made recommendations to improve them. EPA has indicated that it plans to develop better analytical protocols for detecting pathogens, including Salmonella, as resources permit. It notes that, in general, most biosolids producers continue to demonstrate Class A quality by relying on the fecal coliform tests rather than the Salmonella test. EPA also plans to develop monitoring protocols for specific pathogens.

Human Health Risks

A number of potential human health and risk-assessment issues were brought to the committee’s attention. Some of the major human health issues include the following:

Differences in the extent of health complaints. There are several allegations of deaths caused by exposure to biosolids and anecdotal reports of illnesses ranging from acute to chronic problems, including headaches, respiratory problems, and gastrointestinal illnesses. Most health complaints appear to be concentrated in specific locales. Other locales receive few or no complaints.

A variety of alleged incidents were brought to the committee’s attention, including improper application of biosolids, inadequate public-access restrictions at Class-B application sites, and violations of the 30-day waiting period before allowing grazing on treated pastures. It was beyond the scope of the committee’s task to investigate or verify these allegations, but an audit of the national biosolids program by EPA’s Office of Inspector General concluded that “EPA does not have an effective program for ensuring compliance with the land application requirements of Part 503. Accordingly, while EPA promotes land application, EPA cannot assure the public that current land application practices are protective of human health and the environment” (EPA 2000).

In addition to health issues, questions have been raised about the risk-assessment approaches used to establish the biosolids standards. Major issues include the following:

Regional and site-specific considerations. Biosolids content, use practices, and application-site characteristic (e.g., geology and climate) vary greatly among and within regions. It is important that these variations are considered in the risk assessment used to establish the biosolids standards.

Difficulties in conducting risk assessments when the available database is poor. Major gaps in the biosolids data include need for updated characterization of biosolids constituents, exposure information, and understanding of relevant health effects.

Biosolids are a mixture of organic and inorganic chemicals and biological agents. Risk-assessment procedures typically quantify risks from single chemicals and comingling when multiple chemicals are present. Although much thought has been given to evaluating risks from chemical mixtures, strategies for considering risks from exposure to complex mixtures are still in development.

The Clean Water Act requires EPA to periodically reassess the scientific basis of the Part 503 rule, including the option of adding pollutants to the regulation. Several advances and improvements in conducting risk assessments have occurred since the promulgation of the rule in 1993. Some researchers have questioned the scientific basis and data used in establishing EPA’s biosolids standards, noting data gaps, non-protective policy choices, and more stringent standards set by other countries. In addition, there is increasing concern among communities near land-application sites about the health risks from exposure to biosolids. For these reasons, EPA asked the NRC to conduct an independent evaluation of the technical basis of the Part 503 rule land-application standards.

sewage treatment process prions

In response to this request, the NRC convened the multidisciplinary Committee on Toxicants and Pathogens in Biosolids Applied to Land. The committee was asked to review information on the land application of biosolids and to evaluate the methods used by EPA to assess human health risks from chemical pollutants and pathogens in biosolids. Specifically, the committee was asked to:

Review the risk-assessment methods and data used to establish concentration limits for chemical pollutants in biosolids to determine whether they are the most appropriate approaches. Consider the NRC’s previous (1996) review and determine whether that report’s recommendations have been appropriately addressed. Consider (a) how the relevant chemical pollutants were identified; (b) whether all relevant exposure pathways were identified; (c) whether exposure analyses, particularly from indirect exposures, are realistic; (d) whether the default assumptions used in the risk assessments are appropriate; and (e) whether the calculations used to set pollutant limits are appropriate.

Review the current standards for pathogen elimination in biosolids and their adequacy for protecting public health. Consider (a) whether all appropriate pathogens were considered in establishing the standards; (b) whether enough information on infectious dose and environmental persistence exists to support current control approaches for pathogens; (c) risks from exposure to pathogens found in biosolids; and (d) new approaches for assessing risks to human health from pathogens in biosolids.

Although the Part 503 rule considers risks to both human and environmental health, the committee was asked to focus its evaluation on human health risks and not on plant, animal, or ecological risks. The committee interpreted this task to include an evaluation of relevant occupational health, in addition to public health. It is also important to emphasize that the primary purpose of this report is to provide an evaluation of the risk-assessment methods and approaches used to establish the biosolids land-application standards and is not an investigation into the validity of allegations of biosolids-related illnesses. Risk assessment is the characterization of potential adverse health effects resulting from exposure to environmental hazards. It is a process Bottom of Form separate from risk management, which is the term used to describe the process by which risk-assessment results are integrated with other information (e.g., social, economic, and engineering factors) to make decisions about the necessity, method, and extent of risk reduction. https://www.nap.edu/read/10426/chapter/3

Recent Food Recalls

More than 5.1 million pounds of raw beef products are being recalled for possible salmonella contamination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Produced and packaged between July 26 and September 7 and distributed nationwide, the recalled beef includes Kroger, Cedar River Farms, Grass Run Farms, and JBS generic brands. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 246 people became sick in 25 states, with 56 people hospitalized for salmonella poisoning.

This recall is linked to another one in October. Recalled “non-intact raw beef products” are now in excess of 12 million pounds. The company behind the massive recalls? JBS Tolleson Inc. The Tolleson, Arizona, meat processor is a subdivision of JBS USA, the leading producer of beef, pork, and lamb in the U.S.; the leading processor of beef in Canada; and the largest cattle feeder in the world.

Typical symptoms of salmonella poisoning include nausea, diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. There is even risk of severe illness leading to long-term complications or death, as happened recently with romaine lettuce.

What’s more, salmonella outbreaks are common in the meat industry. Just recently, a salmonella outbreak in turkey products affected 164 people across 35 U.S. states, killing at least one person just before Thanksgiving. The CDC says the outbreak is likely widespread in the turkey industry, as the strain has been found in ground turkey, turkey patties, raw turkey pet food, and live turkeys.

Earlier this year, the Miami Herald announced that a massive salmonella outbreak had prompted the recall of 206 million eggs from nine different brands in nine states. CNN reported that an additional 92 people from 29 states had been infected by drug-resistant salmonella found in a variety of chicken products. And according to the FDA, seafood imports from China—about 27 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S.—is frequently contaminated with salmonella.

Aside from salmonella and E. coli, quite a few other harmful bacteria and viruses commonly contaminate meat, including vibrio, listeria, shigella, and campylobacter. A recent analysis found that nearly 60 percent of U.K.-produced chickens tested positive for campylobacter.

One surefire way to prevent infection is to avoid animal products altogether. By opting for plant-based versions, you not only protect your health but help protect animals from abuse. Unfortunately, plants are not immune from reckless production practices.

The top five germs that cause illnesses from food eaten in the United States are:

Despite the fraudulent risk assessments on biosolids and sewage sludge, dumping is still “legal” today. We are supposed to believe that bankrupting the nation with a border wall is more important than defending our food and water from domestic terrorism. In fact, the EPA still has the following statement posted on its website:

“After treatment and processing, biosolids can be recycled and applied as fertilizer to improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth. The controlled land application of biosolids completes a natural cycle in the environment. By treating sewage sludge, it becomes biosolids which can be used as valuable fertilizer, instead of taking up space in a landfill or other disposal facility.”

Even the bags of compost that you buy for your garden and potting plants often contain these unregulated pathogens and neurotoxins. Read the labels. It can save your life.

Additional Resources:

EPA website. Video https://vimeo.com/24854061

Earth News

Earth News is a division of Crossbow Communications. Earth News is a syndicated environmental news service. The company covers a variety of health and environmental issues, including biodiversity, chronic wasting disease, climate change, deforestation, endangered species, global warming, neurodegenerative disease, neurotoxins, wildlife conservation and more.