Sewage Sludge Contaminating Food, Water

Philadelphia is dumping tons of toxic sewage sludge near several homes in rural Pennsylvania. Families are getting sick from the toxic air alone, but they are worried about their water supplies and so should millions of people downstream.

Ignored by state and federal regulators, more than 100 residents in Upper Mount Bethel Township filed a lawsuit today to stop the bioterrorism in their community. The group calls itself Sludge Free Upper Mt. Bethel Township. They seek a cease and desist as well as damage claims from nuisance and trespass, but the potential impact goes much further. Coincidentally, Pennsylvania is conducting a statewide review of so-called biosolids and the land application of sewage sludge now. Pennsylvania is ground zero in the push for meaningful national reforms. It’s also a chance for industry and government to slam the door on meaningful resistance. For homeland defenders, failure is not an option.

Pennsylvania has never conducted a comprehensive review of the state’s biosolids program since the questionable practice began in 1997. The U.S. EPA has basically stepped out of the way, so, the practice is essentially self-regulated by private industry. What could possibly go wrong.

Last year, the state’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee ordered a comprehensive review and a report of its findings, including a list of alternatives to dumping this infectious waste on land. If the committee seeks the truth through House Resolution 60, it will find that there is no evidence of safety regarding biosolids or wastewater reclamation. In fact, the risk assessments are flawed. If it looks, the committee also will find evidence of fraud, mismanagement and disease across Pennsylvania and beyond.

Thanks to gross mismanagement, dozens of other communities across the U.S. and Canada also are pushing back to defend their families and properties from toxic exposure associated with sewage sludge dumped on land. Wastewater treatment plants and their byproducts are now weapons of mass destruction. The X factor is a deadly protein called aprion (PREE-on).

prion disease and TSE

Prions cause a broad spectrum of disease in most, if not all, mammals. In people, it’s known primarily as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. In deer, elk, moose and reindeer, it’s been called chronic wasting disease. In livestock, it’s been called mad cow disease. There is a prion epidemic globally now and public officials admit that there is no way to stop it, yet. Unless, we had the sense to stop dumping infectious waste into our food and water supplies.

Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease, also known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research. 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.

TSE is a spectrum disease also known as prion disease. The spectrum includes Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and an extremely aggressive version known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Prusiner claims that all forms of TSE are caused by these infectious proteins. The prion spectrum varies in severity. It also varies depending on which region of the brain is impacted first. When the presenting symptom is memory loss, the diagnoses flow along the following chart.

prion disease spectrum

Studies confirm that people and animals dying of prion disease contaminate the environment around them because infectious prions are in the urine, feces, blood, skin, mucus and saliva of each victim. These infectious bodily fluids are contributing to the rapid spread of Alzheimer’s and other mutations of prion disease among mammals.

“There has been a resurgence of this sort of thinking, because there is now real evidence of the potential transmissibility of Alzheimer’s,” says Thomas Wiesniewski M.D. a prion and Alzheimer’s researcher at New York University School of Medicine. “In fact, this ability to transmit an abnormal conformation is probably a universal property of amyloid-forming proteins.”

Unfortunately, the U.S. government is failing to defend our food, water and air from acts of terrorism. Failure to enforce the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 is compromising national security and public health. Meanwhile, sewage-related diseases and deaths are soaring off the charts, including Zika virus, listeria, E-coli, and others.

“Since sludge dumping began 11 ½ months ago, we have received reports from more than 100 residents who have been adversely affected by the sludge, said John Gorman, Sludge Free UMBT President. “Airborne fumes, creating offensive odors migrating from the sludge sites, have made outdoor activities impossible. These irritating odors have caused burning eyes, nose, throat and difficulty breathing for many. Drinking water wells have been contaminated. All around the sites residents are prevented from enjoying their homes and yards. We also are concerned about our property values.”

sewage sludge land application

Thanks to science fiction, the U.S. EPA decided that it was a good idea to dump tons of deadly sewage sludge on land back in 1992. Pennsylvania quietly began dumping tons of sewage sludge on land in 1997. Government and industry claim that sewage sludge dumped on crops, forests, playgrounds, parks and sporting fields is fertilizer. It’s also radioactive waste, infectious waste and toxic waste all rolled into one.

“The DEP does not require testing for any chemical pollutants that go down the drain and into the central sewage system. These include flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, fuels, solvents and PCBs. The terms type A and type B only pertain to levels of certain indicator pathogens, such as E.coli or Salmonella, and 9 heavy metals. They have nothing to do with other bacteria, viruses, endotoxins or prions. The health effects associated with all types of sewage sludge are related to these unregulated pollutants.”

In a separate lawsuit settled earlier this year, Synagro, the largest sludge hauler in the U.S., was barred from dumping sewage sludge on three parcels of land in Upper Mount Bethel Township. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network teamed with Sludge Free UMBT to successfully challenge the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and its approval of three sewage sludge permits. The suit established that the DEP failed to consider the impact of sewage sludge on the protected sections of the Delaware River, which is the source of drinking water for 15 million people in Easton, Trenton and Philadelphia.

“The DEP wasn’t protecting Pennsylvania’s environment. They were acting as Synagro’s permitting agency,” said Gorman. “The people of Mount Bethel are not waiting for the DEP to decide that sludge dumping on land isn’t safe. People are already experiencing the adverse effects. If reckless sludge dumping is having this impact on us, it will impact the drinking water supply for millions downstream.”

Since the industrial-scale dumping of infectious waste across the United States began, prion disease has risen accordingly. Chronic wasting disease is decimating deer populations across the U.S. and Canada. Now the deer in Pennsylvania are getting the fatal brain disease. These sick deer are just a canary in the proverbial coal mine. They are a symptom of a much bigger problem. The U.S. detected its first cases of mad cow disease since dumping began. The cases all came from regions where tons of sewage are dumped annually. Autism continues to soar. Now we have West Nile virus, Zika virus Valley Fever and other diseases that are being fueled in large part by infectious waste.


Experts claim that at least 25 percent of Alzheimer’s diagnoses are not Alzheimer’s disease. These misdiagnoses are actually CJD, which is further up the prion spectrum. CJD, without dispute, is extremely infectious to caregivers and loved ones. This means that millions of cases of deadly CJD are being misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. These people alone have already turned wastewater treatment plants into weapons of mass destruction.

It’s likely that Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are equally infectious, which means millions of other victims are contributing to the spread of infectious prions via multiple pathways. Further mismanagement is not an option. Prions are unstoppable in the sterile confines of an operating room. Wastewater treatment plants can’t stop them, either. Prions migrate, mutate and multiply. Mismanagement is not an option. It’s time to treat sewage sludge, biosolids and wastewater like infectious waste, radioactive waste and more (we haven’t even talked about the carcinogens and endocrine disruptors). Current practices and policies are a public health disaster.

It doesn’t matter if it’s class A or class B biosolids, it’s all infectious waste. Sewage sludge and biosolids must be reclassified and disposed of as such. Without reforms, it’s time to demand testing for mad cow disease in beef and dairy herds. Cattle raised on land (and downstream from land) treated with sewage sludge are exposed to serious prion risks.

chronic wasting disease

It’s also time to stop using sewage sludge to reclaim mining sites. The practice has essentially turned these areas into more Superfund sites that should be capped from rainwater. Those watersheds are now contaminated with unstoppable prions.

Background On Deadly Sewage Sludge

In 1972, world leaders admitted that dumping highly toxic sewage sludge into the oceans killed entire underwater ecosystems and threatened public health. Some nations stopped the dumping immediately and started dumping it on land or burning it in incinerators. The most responsible cities started putting sewage sludge in landfills. Meanwhile, the United States allowed cities to keep dumping sewage sludge at sea for another 20 years. It finally passed the Ocean Dumping Ban Act of 1988, when beaches along the east coast were forced to close because of high levels of pathogens from sewage that washed up on shore.

The law prohibited all dumping of industrial waste and municipal sewage sludge into our oceans after December 31, 1991. It did nothing however, to keep cities such as Boston and Los Angeles from dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage directly into the oceans every day, but with the help of the U.S. EPA, the Act did redirect millions of tons of deadly toxins and pathogens from our oceans to farms, ranches, national forests, city parks, golf courses, playgrounds, fair grounds, race tracks, sport fields and beyond. From there, the pathogens began contaminating food, water and air as they were soaked up by crops, swept away by rainwater and picked up by windstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes and dumped on innocent citizens where they live, work and play. The runoff still contaminates our oceans after it filters through our creeks, lakes and rivers.

ocean conservation

After the 1991 ban on ocean dumping, the EPA instituted a policy of sewage sludge reuse on agricultural land. It hired a PR firm to spin a new brand for the death dirt. They crafted the clever name “biosolids” to help disguise the hazards. The EPA promoted biosolids recycling throughout the 1990s. Unfortunately, the risk assessments were severely biased and flawed. The proof is in the pudding.

This new form of sewage dispersal has sparked a public health disaster that’s still unfolding in the form of autism, Alzheimer’s disease, west Nile virus, Zika virus, chronic wasting disease, meningitis, hepatitis, and other threats to public health. The risk assessments for these practices failed to account for heavy metals, pharmaceutical residue, radionuclides, carcinogens and a deadly form of protein known as a prion (which was unknown to the world of science at the time). The practice sparked a public health disaster in exchange for healthier oceans and a very profitable new industry. The EPA even took its show on the road and convinced other nations to use its faulty risk assessments to justify multi-million dollar contracts for these new corporations. Countries such as Canada took the bait hook, line and sinker and never conducted its own risk assessments.

Chronic wasting disease is now rampant in Canada and it recently jumped the Atlantic to Norway’s reindeer herd. It’s spreading across the U.S. like wildfire as we spread more pathogens and lies. Land application sites often involve locations where poverty is high and economic prosperity is low, which means resistance is low. Sludge tends to be dumped where minorities and renters live, leading to allegations of environmental racism. Unfortunately, contaminated food and water make it back to the cities where the infectious waste originated.

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.