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Sewar Sludge / Biosolids as Fertilizer (AP Article)

Posted by gags NoVa (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 6, 08 at 23:31

I realize that Milorganite is processed sewer sludge (aka biosolids), but not sure if this is the same as the sludge used by farmers as fertilizer. The below article did not mention how the sludge was processed. I'm guessing the sludge mentioned in the article is unprocessed, since it appears to be available from most municipalities.

Does the processing used by Milorganite makers (Milwaukee?) eliminate or at least reduce the heavy metals mentioned in the article? (thallium and others).

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080306/ap_on_re_us/sludge_poisoned_land;_ylt=Aj7Lgn4UZPD5v.2QgeexAsZH2ocA

I know there have been some heated discussions in the past. Another question - can a farmer use the sludge as fertilizer and still be allowed to use "organic" labeling?

Regards,

Gags


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Sewar Sludge / Biosolids as Fertilizer (AP Article)

Does the processing used by Milorganite makers (Milwaukee?) eliminate or at least reduce the heavy metals mentioned in the article? (thallium and others).

I wouldn't think so. Processing isn't going to get rid of an element...it's an element. Only a fusion, fission, or radioactive decay event can change that (OK, there are others, but photon disintegration only happens under certain circumstances and definitely not on Earth, etc.)

I know there have been some heated discussions in the past. Another question - can a farmer use the sludge as fertilizer and still be allowed to use "organic" labeling?

Clueless, but possibly. Organic doesn't mean harmless or safe or effective or anything else that it seems to imply. It just means that it wasn't cooked up in a lab somewhere and doesn't use (lab-created) pesticides or herbicides.

I could go into a diatribe about evolved toxicity. I won't.

Much of what goes into the sludge will depend on what went into the...er, stuff that made the sludge. Anything eating anything grown in the sludge will pick up those elements.

All that having been said, I call shenanigans on the article. I'm not surprised the (generally science ignorant) press picked it up. Scare headlines sell papers.

The article is a huge red herring. They compare thallium levels to drinking water, which has been filtered by evaporation and/or percolation through soils. That tends to remove the heavier or soil-binding elements. Metals (in metal oxides or hydrates) don't evaporate that well in most cases.

Compare that thallium level to levels where cows graze on lands where the sludge was not used. My hypothesis is that the big scare number is going to drop. A lot.

But that doesn't make for a paper-selling article.


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RE: Sewar Sludge / Biosolids as Fertilizer (AP Article)

My understanding is that the Milorganite product begins life as the stuff that the farmers spread as a wet and absolutely gross material. The Milorganite process simply cooks the class B sewage to 180 degrees to kill all the pathogens and dehydrate the material. The remains is very dry remains of the microbes and stuff that was in the class B. Once it is cooked to 180 degrees F, it becomes class A. If there were heavy metals in the original stuff, they will be in the cooked product.

I also am aware that the San Antonio water system is fanatical about heavy metals getting into their system in the first place. They continually test incoming sewage for excess amounts of all sorts of materials. When they find forbidden materials, they send out the detectives to find the source. When the find them, they fine them $1,000 per DAY retroactive to the first day they detected the increase. If your normal sewage bill was $50 per month and it suddenly goes to $31,000 per month, that gets your attention. Besides heavy metals some of the forbidden materials in the San Antonio stream include expired products from the Coca-Cola bottling plant and cream from the local dairy. Since both of those are organic, a local composting facility receives tanker trucks full of cream and sugary syrups.

My point there was that I am sure Milwaukee is equally fanatic about their incoming stream and takes care to minimize problem materials. Still, there are going to be elements in a sludge-based material that will never be in a ground grain type of material.


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RE: Seware Sludge / Biosolids as Fertilizer (AP Article)

I have not posted on this issue of Milorganite/Biosolids for some long time now. There are industry shills infecting all these sites along with, well meaning, people who find both the cost and growing effects of Biosolids to be beneficial to their immediate needs.

The issue of toxic heavy metals in Sewer Sludge has been discussed in some depth. EPA standards in sludge, Class A, are but a Small problem compared to what is, gradually, now becomming known regarding the enviromental problems inheranent in both Class A (Milorganite, etc.,)and Class B sludge.

On the isssue of heavy metals, the EPA current standards were modified, reduced, so as to allow Biosolid dispersal due to Congress passing the Clean Water Act. USA standards for heavy metals are not in accordance with world standards.

Beware of ANY poster who refers to the safety of Biosolids when referring to EPA metal standards.

There is a very long and growing list of problems with Biosolids. Simply put, you cannot moniter that which you do not moniter and/or are not required to monitor!

Heavy Metals are a smokescreen that Biosolid proponents hide behind.

Let DCHALL tell you all about the endocrine disruptors that are found in Class A Biosolids. The computer monitors in San Antonio stay well silent because their is no EPA mandate to monitor them. Google then Virginia-Fish_Biosolids and see for yourself that fish and amphibians are being destroyed due to Biosolid run-off.

Endocrine disruptors are only one part of this problem. Do you use liquid hand soap? Google that too. Flame retardants,etc., Bake it, broil it, aerate it...but the fish and amphibians still malform from it.

Big money in Biosolids...Drink the Kool Aid and be Happy. Hey, VIRGINIA, there really is a Santa Claus! Enjoy your money.


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RE: Sewar Sludge / Biosolids as Fertilizer (AP Article)

Beware of ANY poster who refers to the safety of Biosolids when referring to EPA metal standards.

Actually, beware of any poster without the tests to back them. Milorganite tests their product, those numbers are posted, and honestly...at that point it isn't their job to disprove them, it's the one who disagrees.

Google then Virginia-Fish_Biosolids and see for yourself that fish and amphibians are being destroyed due to Biosolid run-off.

Just make sure they have tests from an independent laboratory, their reasoning is sound, there's no secondary source, and that the item in question is over whatever arbitrary danger limit you set. Oh, and that they're using them within the range of what you would do, or a reasonable magnification. Dumping a foot on a field is not a good test any more than using ten times normal fertilization is good for your lawn. Also that the item in question doesn't undergo fast breakdown in soil and exposure to sunlight and water, and so on.

Or, as I always say, "Prove it." A good science argument looks much like a battle. And so it should.


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RE: Sewar Sludge / Biosolids as Fertilizer (AP Article)

+ 1 Morphuspa

Though I think your about to be flamed by the zealots.


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RE: Sewar Sludge / Biosolids as Fertilizer (AP Article)

Though I think your about to be flamed by the zealots.

This would be new how, exactly? :-) Sometimes I think my reason for being is to be a lightning rod for The Zealous. In a life spent avoiding zealotry of all stripes, reasoned thought is the one thing I can be zealous about.

Insofar as one can be zealous about reasonable thinking, that is.


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RE: Sewar Sludge / Biosolids as Fertilizer (AP Article)

+2 Morpheuspa: The zealots are long on "it might be a risk" or Europe's standards are lower,yet they still fail to produce real hard data. For example, what they leave out is the load limit of some of these metals, such as copper and lead in class A and even class B biosoilds. You would need to apply Milorganite EVERY year or some other biosolid like it for 345 years for lead and 278 years for copper for it to reach its EPA load limit. That doesn't even account for organic binding, mineralization and leaching/migration of the metals harmlessly in the soil. I don't know about you, but even with long life in my family, I doubt I will be around that long to worry about it. I use Milorganite on everything and I have even seen the independent report and have spoken with an independent scientist who tested it for a bioremediation project for the DoD. She indicated it was lower in metals and other contaminants than the tap water and virgin soil they were going to use in the project. Compare class A biosoilds to Scott's or Ironite sometime and decide which will be better to put down as fertilizer for your kids or pets to play around. BTW, the National Science Foundation did an independent study and risk assessment in 1995 of EPA biosolids regulations and found they were far below any levels that would possibly pose any threat to humans, wildlife, soil or water and agriculture. The zealots seem to overlook this fact as well in their quest to malign well managed practices of biosolid use. There has NEVER been a documented case of the regulated use of biosolids causing harm to people, animals or plants in over 35 years of use in our environment-yet the myth and junk science persists. I will continue to use and benefit from Milorganite on my lawn, veggies, ornamentals like temperate tropicals and palm trees.


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RE: Sewar Sludge / Biosolids as Fertilizer (AP Article)

You would need to apply Milorganite EVERY year or some other biosolid like it for 345 years for lead and 278 years for copper for it to reach its EPA load limit. That doesn't even account for organic binding, mineralization and leaching/migration of the metals harmlessly in the soil.

I got about the same numbers when I did it in my head. However, we're being reasonable again and actually doing the math and chemistry.

That does not fly with zealots--zealotry is faith-based, not science-based.


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RE: Sewar Sludge / Biosolids as Fertilizer (AP Article)

I think the EPA limits are there to prevent the criminal dumping of mercury, arsenic, chromium, lead, and other really toxic chemicals directly into the gutter, soil, or sewer. There are some industries that use these materials in huge bulk and they used to just pour them out when they were finished with them. Farmers may have been caught in the crossfire, but had they not been, the dumpers would have just trucked their poisons out to the local farms to dump.


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RE: Sewar Sludge / Biosolids as Fertilizer (AP Article)

There is too much monitoring and testing done now to allow industries to have a covert tanker truck run a hose down the sewer and let fly for it not to be detected and the batch stopped at the treatment plant. Biosoilds monitoring is much better than it was even 10 years ago and the products are even cleaner than ever before. The load limits are what really put it in perspective for me as it can take centuries of continuous use to reach them. Copper seems to be the one that will reach it first, but not in my lifetime in my yard.


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