1. What are Biosolids?
"Biosolids is a term coined in the United States (by the sludge industry) that is typically used to describe several forms of "treated" sewage sludge that is intended for agricultural use. Although sewage sludge has long been used in agriculture, concerns about offensive odours and disease risks from pathogens and toxic chemicals may reduce public acceptance of the practice" (source: Wikipedia)
2. Why do Biosolids exist?
Sewer sludge is left after all water has been extracted in sewer treatment plants. The sewer-sludge industry has looked for a cheap and expedient way to rid cities of their toxic sewage for a long time. Biosolids / sewer sludge contains nasty toxins!
3. Who wants this stuff?
Only the people who make money a priority over safe & clean food and water. The industry sees this as a cheap way to disperse a lot of toxins throughout the environment. The truckers see it as a lot of potential contract work - hauling toxins out into rural areas. The government backs it as they don't wish to fund safer methods of dealing with modern effluent.
4. Where are Biosolids dumped?
It is often dumped on farms, ranch lands, forests, and to cover over industrial wastelands and mining sites. Where ever it is dumped, it can enter the food chain by leaching through soils and into water systems. It is also taken up by insects, aquatic life, birds and mammals being exposed to it in their natural habitat.
5. Why are Biosolids bad?
The list of toxic chemicals that appear in biosolids goes into the thousands. Only a handful are regularly tested for. There are pathogens, prions, metals, pharmaceuticals, nano materials, and many other contaminants of emerging concern. They are the poisons removed from the water to make that water safe. It is the left-over byproduct - concentrated and collected.
6. It really smells awful - is it ok to breath?
"In 2005, EPA listed bioaerosols as one of the major concerns. Our research on bioaerosols confirms that they should be a major priority as they are one of the main paths of exposure to the pollutants in sludge/biosolids.There has always been enough scientific studies done that show there is a danger to the public from inhalation of viruses, bacteria, fungi and dust off of sludge sites and from composting." (source: http://deadlydeceit.com/airborne_aerosols.html)
7. Are there alternatives to land application of biosolids?
There are ways to turn sewer sludge into useable power by a number of approaches. Countries like Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and Korea are reducing their toxic burden upon the land and at the same time returning energy to the grid.
Read more in our Sludge Facts!
WHAT TOXINS ARE CONTAINED IN SEWAGE SLUDGE?
Here are just some of the many toxins that were detected by the EPA in sewage sludge from 74 randomly selected publicly owned water treatment/sewage sludge plants in 35 states (Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey Report, 2009).
For understandable reasons, the EPA study had to limit the analysis to relatively few toxins; it is likely that sewage sludge contains many more toxins that have not been included in the EPA study.
‘Class B biosolids,’ which are the principal type of biosolids applied to land, also contain a variety of enteric pathogens (e.g., E.coli, salmonella). These were also not included in the recent EPA study.
Twenty seven of the 28 metals analyzed were found in every sewage sludge sample. The most prevalent were barium(1), beryllium(2), manganese(3), molybdenum(4), and silver(5). The other metals included: aluminum, antimony, arsenic, boron, cadmium, cobalt, lead, mercury, selenium, thallium, tin, vanadium, yttrium, and zinc.
Of the six organics analyzed, four were found in at least 72 samples, one was found in 63 samples, and one was found in 39 samples. The most prevalent ‘organics’ are: pyrene(1), fluoranthene(2), 4-Chloroaniline(3).
3. Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs)
PBDEs are a particular class of flame retardant chemicals used in plastics, foams, fabrics and other materials. All 7 of the flame retardants studied except one (BDE-138) were essentially found in every sample; BDE-138 was found in 54 out of 84 samples.
Of the 72 pharmaceuticals analyzed, three (i.e., ciprofloxacin, diphenhydramine, and triclocarban) were found in all 84 samples and nine were found in at least 80 of the samples. However, 15 pharmaceuticals were not found in any sample and 29 were found in fewer than three samples.
Among the detected pharmaceuticals are antibiotics, antibiotic derivatives, and disinfectants: azithromycin(1), ciprofloxacin(2), doxycyclin(3), erythromycin-4(4), tetracycline(5), 4-epipetracycline(6), miconazole(7), ofloxacin(8), trilocarban(9), triclosan(10), the antihistamine medicine diphenhydramine(11), anticonvulsant, mood stabilizing drugs or antidepressants: fluoxetine(12), carbamazepine(13), and the heart burn medicine cimetidine(14).
5. Steroids and hormones
Of the 25 steroids and hormones that were analyzed, three steroids (i.e., campesterol, cholestanol, and coprostanol) were found in all 84 samples and six steroids were found in at least 80 of the samples. One hormone (i.e., 17-a-ethynyl estradiol) was not found in any sample and five hormones were found in fewer than six samples.
Detected were widely used phytosterols (1): Beta Stigmastanol, Campesterol, and Stigmasterol, Cholesterol (2), markers of human fecal matter contamination: the cholesterol derivatives coprostanol and epicoprostanol (a coprostanol isomer formed during treatment of wastewater ), hormones with androgenic activities: testosterone, androsterone, androstenedione (a direct precursor to testosterone), estrogenic hormones natural and synthetic estrogens: estriol, estrone,17-α-estradiol, 17-β-estradiol, β-estradiol-3-benzoate, 17-α-ethynyl estradiol(3*), equine estrogens (‘Premarin’): 17α-dihydroequilin, equilenin, equilin, progestins: norethindrone and norgestrel(4), progestogens: progesterone(5).
Spreading toxins in the forests of North America - a cheap method of ridding cities of their toxic burden - not green, not sustainable!!