Letter to the Editor, Lancaster New Era,
E-mailed by Ben Oostdam
March 19, 1999:
Sludge, Government Spokespersons and Manheim- Our Backyard.
Last night's headline "Manheim Plant OK'd for New York Sludge" is not just an unpleasant surprise.
It is an outright betrayal by our government agencies, federal, state and local.
We were promised
public hearings about the matter, but did not.
Governor Ridge at least identified the problem of PA
being converted to the Nation's waste dump,
but his spokesman said he was not familiar with the
A & M. contract,
and PA Department of Environmental Protection officials were not involved in
the New York-Mascara deal,
according to their spokeswoman.
Perhaps the Government office and PDER ought to have "listenpersons" on their staff and also
they are hired for: protect PA's environment.
If the New York and Philadelphia sludge were too toxic to dump in the ocean, - a process which Congress
outlawed against the testimony of numerous oceanographers - then no amount of processing
will make it economical and save for disposal in our own backyard
in the quantities concerned: well over a hundred tons a day.
Yet the temptation is there, since New York pays close to a hundred dollars per ton;
one would be tempted to buy up farmlands and use them for sludge disposal
in one's backyard oneself.
It is ludicrous to have the decisions on such a weighty issue be made by New York,
the very suppliers of the sludge, which have ample space themselves for landdisposal
if that is not considered detrimental anymore.
Merely think of the problems involved in disposing of more than a hundred tons
of processed "beneficial" sludge per day.
It would require more of a salespitch and expertise in marketing
than just being able to process the sludge without developing any smell.
I bet it will not just be sold cheaply, but given away for free and soon A & M may pay you for taking it ....
and do not be misled by their spokesman's assurance that one will hardly notice a chance,
since excess sludge will go to West Virginia....
At the end of June 1998, I wrote a letter to the Editor drawing attention to the decision
of the Government of Namibia to outlaw the dumping of New York's solid waste in that country,
which ought to be followed by PA.
Instead of having that letter published, I agreed with the editor to have Ad Crable investigate the issue.
Ad then found out and published the pleasant news that the sludge was not to come....
so no need for to publish my letter.
Fortunately, I sent copies to the PA Governor, Senate and DEP, and also opened up a
website dealing with Sludge in Pennsylvania (now accessible at
In this site, you can see that the USEPA has greatly relaxed its requirements and
allows land-applications of Cadmium in concentrations more than 30 times as high
as are allowed by the Dutch government.
Also, that we are wrong now to think that sludge is bad;
instead, "biosolids"- the new term for which we paid thousands of dollars, is "beneficial".
Well, if it is so good, why not dump it in the ocean again?
Ben Oostdam, Ph.D., Professore Emeritus of Oceanography