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It's a fertile market for recycled human waste

Milorganite pellets are made from recycled waste, a.k.a. biosolids, and used to help fertilize crops and improve land

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: A project to turn human waste into fertilizer pellets has run into opposition. Not because of the ick factor, but because of cost. The Chicago project has been in the works since 2000, and it's just started churning out the pellets for commercial use. Marketplace's Sustainability reporter Adriene Hill did a little sniffing around and joins me now in the studio. Good morning.

Adriene Hill: Good morning.

Radke: Did I just say that Chicago is recycling human waste?

Hill: You did, and you're right. Chicago's not alone; lots of municipalities all over the country, all over the world actually, recycle human and industrial waste heavily treated into little pellets that are fertilizer.

Radke: Well I'm glad they're heavily treating it, but even so, is it safe?

Hill: The EPA regulates this whole market and it's called biosolids. And basically the EPA has set limits for the amount and type of pathogens and chemicals that can be in any of this material that's put on the land. We are talking about some serious stuff here, like Arsenic, Lead, Mercury. But municipalities need a place to put all this sludge -- in the past, they would just dump it out into oceans and lakes. So recycling it is preferable.

Radke: And there's somebody to buy it? There's a market for sludge pellets?

Hill: You mean you don't 'em in your lawn?

Radke: Actually, I do use a lot of worm poop in my garden.

Hill: Yeah, so maybe this is for you! It turns out there is a big market for this stuff. Milwaukee has been making these pellets since the 20s, you can actually go buy them at the Home Depot. And the Chicago plant, the owners are making six semi-trucks full of these pellets every day. They say they're selling all of them for agricultural use. Golf courses love this stuff, sod farms, anyone who wants a lawn is really interesting in this.

Radke: OK. So there is a market for sludge pellets. But why has the Chicago factory taken some heat in the press lately?

Hill: Well the Chicago factory took years and years to get up and running. The operating costs for this facility are also about 40 percent higher than the city guessed when it sort of made this contract years ago; that's according to the Chicago Tribune. I talked to the company about why that was, they say it's all energy costs, it's all out of their hands. That means taxpayers are on the hook for more than they anticipated. You know I hate to say this so early in the morning, but the history of sewage treatment and the way this piece of it fits in is fascinating, and I've put some reading up on our website at marketplace.org

Radke: I think we can take it. Marketplace's Adriene Hill. Thanks.

Hill: Thanks.

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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There seems to be a serious disconnect. The European Union will not allow the import of produce/grains grown using human waste as a fertilizer or soil amendment. Our municipalities use their status as a Government Mandate to push human waste through the Agricultural Cycle to allow them to avoid the long term issue and costs of sewerage sludge. If some one handed you a food product and the product wasn't labeled. No content information available for you to make an informed decision as to whether you would eat the product or feed the unlabeled product to your children - would you consider that a reasonable approach? I don't. No one knows what is actually flushed down the toilets of Chicago, Milwaukee, New York, Boston etc. And NO ONE tests for the full spectrum of possible pollutants theses sludges do in fact contain. Heavy metals is one small aspect - and they do concentrate heavy metals. They have Bio Mass boilers - all this stuff should be used as fuel NOT in food production!

There seems to be a serious disconnect. The European Union will not allow the import of produce/grains grown using human waste as a fertilizer or soil amendment. Our municipalities use their status as a Government Mandate to push human waste through the Agricultural Cycle to allow them to avoid the long term issue and costs of sewerage sludge. If some one handed you a food product and the product wasn't labeled. No content information available for you to make an informed decision as to whether you would eat the product or feed the unlabeled product to your children - would you consider that a reasonable approach? I don't. No one knows what is actually flushed down the toilets of Chicago, Milwaukee, New York, Boston etc. And NO ONE tests for the full spectrum of possible pollutants theses sludges do in fact contain. Heavy metals is one small aspect - and they do concentrate heavy metals. They have Bio Mass boilers - all this stuff should be used as fuel NOT in food production!

Landspreading of sewage sludge "biosolids" is a dangerous activity.

Dr. Claudio Soto, Univ/Tex recently proved what other scientists have been saying for years - Alzheimers is a prion disease (similar to mad cow disease- US epidemic = 6 million victims): www.alzheimers-prion.com/

Alzheimer's victims shed infectious prions in their blood, saliva, mucous, urine and feces. Sewage treatment does NOT inactivate prions. To the contrary, it reconcentrates the infectious prions in the sewage sludge being applied on home gardens, US cropland, grazing fields and dairy pastures, putting humans, family pets, wildlife and livestock at risk.

Other prion contaminated wastes discharged to sewers include rendering plants (which process remains of 2 million potentially BSE infected downer cows each year), slaughterhouses, embalmers and morticians, biocremation, taxidermists, butcher shops, veterinary and necropsy labs, hospitals, landfill leachates (where CWD infected and other carcasses are disposed),

Drinking water is at risk for prions if it comes from a surface source (river or lake) which receives treated sewage effluent.

EPA NATIONAL WATER RESEARCH COMPENDIUM 2009-2014 lists PRIONS eight times as an EMERGING CONTAMINANT of concern in sewage sludge "biosolids" , water and manure:
www.sludgevictims.com/prions/PRIONS-EPA-EMERGINGCONTAMINANTSINSLUDGEBIO.pdf

Renown prion researcher, Joel Pedersen, University of Wisconsin, found that prions become 680 times more infective in certain soils:

/pathogens.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.ppat.0030093

Oral Transmissibility of Prion Disease Is Enhanced by Binding to Soil Particles
Dr. Pedersen and associates found that anaerobic digestion sewage treatment did NOT inactivate prions in sludge. "Persistence of Pathogenic Prion Protein during Simulated Wastewater Treatment Processes"

" Our results suggest that if prions were to enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would partition to activated sludge solids, survive mesophilic anaerobic digestion, and be present in
treated biosolids. Land application of biosolids containing prions could represent a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results argue for excluding inputs of prions to municipal wastewater treatment."

"Prions could end up in wastewater treatment plants via slaughterhouse drains, hunted game cleaned in a sink, or humans with vCJD shedding prions in their urine or faeces, Pedersen says"
pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/es703186e

In the July 3, 2010 issue of VETERINARY RECORD, Dr. Pedersen stated: “Finally, the disposal of sludge was considered to represent the greatest risk of spreading (prion) infectivity to other premises.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) refused a recent request from the cattle industry to allow landspreading in residential home gardens of composted Specified Risk Materials. "SRM" are the parts of a cow with the highest concentrations of mad cow disease prions including the skull, brain,ganglia, eyes, tonsils, spinal cord and small intestine. The CFIA said "scientific evidence has not been able to demonstrate that composting destroys prions". The CFIA also said: "there is a potential risk to humans via direct ingestion of the compost or of compost particles adhered to skin or plant material (e.g. carrots). Another potential route of exposure is by ingestion of prions that have been taken up by plants. It has been proven that bacteria are readily taken up by some plants (e.g. E. coli in lettuce) thus the uptake of prions by plants cannot be precluded or dismissed at this time."
www.inspection.gc.ca/plants/fertilizers/registration-requirements/srm/do...

Helane Shields, PO Box 1133, Alton,, NH 03809 hshields@tds.net 603-875-3842 www.alzheimers-prions.com/ www.sludgevictims.com

Wow, what an irresponsible lack of analysis here. This sounds more like a commercial than an interview. The EPA does not regulate much in sludge - basically 9 heavy metals and that's it. But sludge contains pharmaceuticals, dioxins, flame retardants... all kinds of goodies that are 100% unregulated. Most sludge samples tested by the EPA had fluoxetine in them, the active ingredient in Prozac. And some sludge has tested positive for a chemical called DEHP, which makes boys penises smaller when they are exposed prenatally. Seriously - you still think this is safe?

Our family has used a sawdust toilet exclusively for 5 years. We compost our manure, use it on our garden, and are never sick. Others have been doing it for 30+ years. See the "Humanure Handbook" (I'm not selling it, you can find the text online).

Recycling our nutrients is incredibly important... our current ways of growing crops without returning residues to the soil are depleting them. So, the idea behind using sewage sludge is good... the problem is that anything and everything gets dumped down the drain and ends up at the treatment plant.

We need to start figuring out ways to separate the sources of waste... then the manure can be dealt with via composting and safely applied to land.

Before we can get serious about that, though, people need to get a lot less squeamish about what every critter on the planet does every day, and get off this fairly tale idea that when you flush it, it is gone.

Sewage sludge "biosolids" contain hazardous industrial chemicals, drugs, radioactivity, landfill and superfund leachates and virulent antibiotic resistant microbes.

Class A sludge "compost" is promoted as being virtually pathogen-free". It is not. All sludge - both Class B AND CLASS A - may contain infectious human and animal prions which cause always fatal transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs)

In a September 2008 report, the US EPA lists prions eight times as one of the emerging contaminants of concern in sludge biosolids. http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/strategy/compendium.pdf Scientists have found prions can become 680 times more infectious in certain soils and survive for years. Human prions are 100,000 times more infectious than animal prions.

Prion researcher Dr. Joel Pedersen, Univ. of Wisconsin:

" Our results suggest that if prions were to enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would partition to activated sludge solids, survive mesophilic anaerobic digestion, and be present in
treated biosolids. Land application of biosolids containing prions could represent a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results argue for excluding inputs of prions to municipal wastewater treatment."
http://www.wellsphere.com/cjd-article/pathogenic-prion-protein-is-degrad...

"Prions could end up in wastewater treatment plants via slaughterhouse drains, hunted game cleaned in a sink, or humans with vCJD shedding prions in their urine or faeces, Pedersen says" http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_A...

In the July 3, 2010 issue of VETERINARY RECORD, Dr. Pedersen stated: "Finally, the disposal of sludge was considered to represent the greatest risk of spreading (prion) infectivity to other premises."

Prion researcher, Dr. Claudio Soto, states: " Interestingly, (prions) present in urine maintains its infectious properties. Our data indicate that low quantities of infectious prions are excreted in the urine. These findings suggest that urine is a possible source of prion transmission."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2593137/

"The detailed characterization of uPrP reported here definitely proves the presence of PrP in human urine and will help determine the origin of prion infectivity in urine." Dr. Perluigi Gambetti, et al
http://www.citeulike.org/user/applebyb/article/7558434

INFECTIVE PRIONS IN FECES: http://www.sludgevictims.com/prions-intestines-feces.html

Recently, researchers at UC Santa Cruz announced that Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a prion disease.http://www.santacruzsentinel.com:80/localnews/ci_12180851

Nobel Prize winner (for his prion research) Dr. Stanley Prusiner, UCSF, recently wrote that Parkinson's Disease may also be a prion disease (over 1 million US victims). http://www.pnas.org/content/106/31/12571.extract

Thus, 6.3 million US Alzheimer's and Parkinson's victims may be shedding infectious prions in their urine and feces to public sewers. The wastewater treatment process does NOT inactivate prions, They are concentrated in the sewage sludge sludge. http://sludgevictims.com/pathogens/prion.html

Sludge topdressed on grazing lands, hay fields and dairy pastures poses risk of prion infections of wildlife and livestock. Class A sludge "biosolids" spread in public parks, playgrounds, and home gardens poses prion risks to humans, including "eat dirt' children, and family pets which carry sludge pthogens into homes on the feet and fur. An infective dose is so small, it is measured in molecules.

Helane Shields, PO Box 1133, Alton, NH 03809 603-875-3842 hshields@worldpath.net http://www.sludgevictims.com
Prions in sewage sludge "biosolids" http://sludgevictims.com/pathogens/prion.html

Hi Mike, I am glad you wrote back. I see you aren't posting references anymore. I hope they aren't like the last one. I mean whole publishes a value of 35 with a standard deviation of 20. Geez. First the easy stuff. Buffer strips do work. "A 75% reduction in N export was recorded from the buffer zone below slurry plots but only a 10% reduction in P, with most P remaining in the particulate or dissolved organic fraction". You can read about that here http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119118955/abstract?CRETRY=1&S... The grassland video that you posted. Did they collect samples? See grass works as an excellent filter and stabilizer of soil/sludge particles. Bio solids are regulated by state, and that application could be subject to fines. It's up to each state to prosecute and oversee bio solids use. On the other subjects, Most bio solids are used for animal feed systems. Potatoes, green onions, etc are usually not grown for animal feed. Actually Potatoes are not a fruit. Also, I loved the repeated quote from each of the studies... "The concentrations of BLANK in plant tissues were small". I guess it's all in how you read it. Just like that first article that you posted where they didn't do any comparisons between root/fruit and leaf/fruit. I was disappointed to that they didn't put Alpha values in the chart. I don't have confidence when they don't list them. Of course you could use Milorganite on your veggies in your garden, but the bag does has recommendations of how much to use. Animal manure used in an organic crop production system for fresh market is a completely different conversation. Just as dumping treated water into streams. This conversation is about using bio solids on farm land that is used for feeding animals which is by far the largest category. From the articles you have posted and my experience, I still see no evidence that animals are eating high doses or even low doses of PPCPS from those plants. Science usually starts with a hypothesis that can be proven wrong through accurate data and not a preconceived direction. I'm done because I refuse to debate with close minded people.

@JPM Please let me say that grass buffers are failing and the system allows spraying up to the start of even hurricane level rain... rain that is highly predicted an avoidable, but it is not avoided. The system of rules is broken, and this is one example. For proof, here is a video link to YouTube, of a field sprayed prior to a hurricane, with no evidence the buffers are working to keep the Class B sludge out of the creek, 200 yards away. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNMFNs5JYSo Here is your statement I'm replying to. "Also, they require buffer strips of 50 between any streams and waterways, so the threat of runoff is minute."

@ JPM. Thanks for your return observations. Please let me share this new info, that apparently, neither of us knew about, it's so new. This comes from the Soil Science Society of America, from a Public release date: 11-Jul-2007. Highlight, "Concentrations in plant tissue also increased as the amount of antibiotics present in the manure increased. It also diffused into potato tubers," Long excerpt from release: "Scientists at the University of Minnesota have been evaluating the impact of antibiotic feeding in livestock production on the environment. This particular study, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), evaluated whether food crops accumulate antibiotics from soils spread with manure that contains antibiotics. Results from the study are published in the July-August 2007 issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality. The research was also presented in Indianapolis, IN at the Annual Soil Science Society of America Meeting in November 2006. Plant uptake was evaluated in a greenhouse study involving three food crops: corn, lettuce, and potato. Plants were grown on soil modified with liquid hog manure containing Sulfamethazine, a commonly used veterinary antibiotic. This antibiotic was taken up by all three crops. Concentrations of antibiotics were found in the plant leaves. Concentrations in plant tissue also increased as the amount of antibiotics present in the manure increased. It also diffused into potato tubers, which suggests that root crops, such as potatoes, carrots, and radishes, that directly come in contact with soil may be particularly vulnerable to antibiotic contamination. The ability of plants to absorb antibiotics raises the potential for contamination of human food supply. However, Satish Gupta, group leader notes �The adverse impacts of consuming plants that contain small quantities of antibiotics are largely unknown�. Consumption of antibiotics in plants may cause allergic reactions in sensitive populations, such as young children. There is also concern that consuming antibiotics may lead to the development of antimicrobial resistance, which can render antibiotics ineffective. Holly Dolliver, the lead scientist in this study, notes that antibiotics consumed by plants may be of particular concern to the organic farming industry. Manure is often the main source of crop nutrients for organic food production, since regulations prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers. According to the USDA, producers must manage animal materials in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops by residues of prohibited substances, which includes antibiotics. However, manures containing antibiotics are not formally banned or prohibited. Further research is needed to investigate the presence of antibiotics in edible parts of plants, especially vegetables that are consumed raw, and how different plants absorb different antibiotic compounds. Research is ongoing at the University of Minnesota to further investigate the potential fate and transport of antibiotics introduced to the environment from livestock operations.

T M, It didn't take me long to find that "Approximately 50,000 tons of Milorganite are produced per year.". Much, much more is spread on many thousands of acres of commercial farmland every year.

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