Copy of Letter to TIME

Ben Oostdam, September 22, 1999

Fight Against Sludge:

This is a response to your article in TIME of September 27, 1999 concerning EPA’s stance on sewage sludge
(happy to see you do not refer to it as “biosolids”).
While the US Congress and EPA forced New York and Philadelphia to discontinue ocean disposal of
treated sewage sludge, the far more undesirable alternative of land disposal is disguised by disinformation,
inappropriate regulation as well as grossly inadequate enforcement.
Lancaster County, PA is the prime example:
New York City arranged for a $ 93 million 15 year contract to truck their sludge to Manheim, PA
for treatment and use as fertilizer. This works out at a tempting $ 100 per ton for the contractor,
but obviously there is no market that can responsibly accommodate these quantities of “biosolids”.
Requests to the PA Department of Environmental Protection for information concerning this activity and a
recommendation to post summary monitoring results on the World Wide Web have not been acknowledged.
One of the county’s legislators is the Chair of the PA House Appropriations Committee and is not only involved
in land-application of sewage sludge on his family farms but also in extending the farm preservation program.
Since toxic trace elements from industrial input into sewage systems are difficult to remove,
EPA permits land applications of Cadmium in concentrations 30 times as high as those allowed in Holland.
Tests are made by the applicants/permittees which is like putting the fox in charge of the chickenhouse.
Test results are not generally accessible by the public, which is moreover surprisingly ignorant and unconcerned
about the sad ways in which our legislators and protection agencies perform their duties.
More details are available on the website:
and I am anxiously awaiting a letter from EPA Senior Scientist Alan Rubin to add to this site.

signed: Ben Oostdam