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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WAKE UP WASHINGTONIANS! Your county might be the next sludge dump.

 Biosolids being sprayed on the Zerr farm. Photo by Poul Toftemark
If you care about the environment, the rights of counties to protect the health and safety of their citizens, if you care about organic farming, and food and water safety, PLEASE read this and share it with everyone you know. DEMOCRACY is at stake in this story, along with many other vital issues.

What is happening is that a Wahkiakum County farmer requested a permit to have minimally treated Class B biosolids (SLUDGE) applied to his land, which borders the Grays River. This farm is in a flood plain. Nearby organic farms, a dairy farm, and even the public water supply are threatened. Many citizens are outraged, but so far the issue has received news coverage only in southwest Washington and from KATU Channel 2 TV news out of Portland, OR. Here's a link to the KATU story with VIDEO. PLEASE LOOK AT IT. I am trying to get people to realize how important this is to all of us.


Sewage Sludge on farmland from Tina Motley-Pearson on Vimeo.

If you are not aware of what Class B biosolids are, please read my recent blog post, From Toilet to Table. It will lead you to a lot of shocking information. And since writing it, I've learned of many more news stories having to do with illness, even death, caused by this material.

Every time I get one of those mailings from the City of Tacoma advocating TAGRO, the locally produced and promoted biosolid product, I feel sick. There are many news stories showing how UNSAFE biosolids really are. Promoting sludge as fertilizer is nothing more than a huge PR campaign folks, to get you to help dispose of this nasty stuff, because they simply don't know what to do with all of it.

I interviewed Wahkiakum County Commissioner Blair Brady to get the details. You can read excerpts from that interview below.  (note: the word "Ecology" throughout this quote, refers to the Washington State Department of Ecology)

Blair Brady: "One of my constituents read an advertising notice from Ecology in our local newspaper regarding the application of biosolids, to which end the word got out. It was a previously unknown issue in our county. The gentleman who owns a farm along Grays River had applied for, and was in the process of receiving, a permit to apply sludge, septic/human waste/industrial waste on his farmland, treated minimally for odor.

"Once this came to our attention we requested and received from Ecology another meeting, at which time approximately 150-200 people showed, local residents who had done their homework and were very well informed as to a number of problems with this human/industrial waste product and proceeded to give their evidence and testimony to Ecology, at which time Ecology considered it, took it, and returned a response. I think they changed a setback, but basically continued to issue a permit to apply what I consider to be a dangerous product. We as county commissioners have decided, or two out of three of us have decided, that is an unacceptable public safety and environment issue to allow to occur in our county.

"We realize the need to dispose of human waste and there has to be a way to do that. But with the modern technology limited as it currently is, we decided we could not accept anything that contained live organisms in it, also called pathogens, which include hepatitis and a whole myriad of other types of diseases and organisms. We had told Ecology we were going to be doing this, and we had a number of phone conversations with the regional director. We even had a meeting with Sally Toteff, the Western Regional manager of Ecology and a couple of other people from her office that manage the biosolids program, along with the three commissioners from Lewis County who also have concerns in this issue.

"At that meeting, I felt it was pretty much a waste of time. We had dialogs and they were rather heavy handed. They threatened to sue us if we were to proceed and it was basically going to be their way or the highway and they were not really interested in changing their position on the issue, stating that 'We’re the only ones that have the authority to regulate this.' So what that relates to, is forcing us to take a less-safe product.

"We proceeded after that, to pass an ordinance banning any application of biosolids below a Class A level of treatment, anywhere in our county, wherever Ecology would permit it. Two days after we passed our ordinance, they applied septage for two days and they claimed 'Oh we just became aware of your ordinance.' and they have discontinued since then. Ecology has admitted to us that they do not have the resources to adequately monitor this program either.

"After they applied this septage to this gentleman’s land, this land is supposed to be fenced off for a certain time frame, of livestock and everything else. Well, two days after the application, his cattle were in that field grazing. They’d broken through the fence or something.

"Our 19th district state delegation of legislators and Senator Brian Hatfield wrote a letter to the Attorney General’s office requesting an AG’s opinion on the right of Ecology to force this upon us. The Attorney General’s office refused to render opinion to them. Then a few days after receiving their request, filed a law suit against Wahkiakum County. It’s bizarre that legislators can’t get the Attorney General to render an opinion. (Note: That's part of the AG's job. Click here for information.)

"It’s just kind of a shame that the recently announced gubernatorial candidate (Attorney General Rob McKenna) has decided to come down with a heavy hammer on small little Wahkiakumlands on this issue.

"This community is really pushing to become more organic farm based and create jobs and incomes for people to keep their farms through going certified organic. And I don’t see how the property this has been applied to could ever be used for that again."

You can e-mail Blair Brady at

Other recent news stories about sludge:

And a book: Toxic Loopholes: Failure and Future Prospects for Environmental Law

For links to many other stories, just look at my blog post From Toilet to Table

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