Sewage Sludge Contents / Tip of Iceberg
Heavy Metals, Pathogens, Synthetic Chemicals, Hydrocarbons, Petrochemicals &
Organochlorines, Pharmaceuticals, Steroids & Hormones.
This list of contents represents only the “tip of the iceberg” of toxics
concentrated in sewage sludge. Federal and most state and local land application regulations limit concentrations of only nine heavy metals and one “indicator” pathogen in land applied sewage sludge (in BOLD). Heavy Metals MERCURY, MOLYBDENUM, ARSENIC, CADMIUM, SELENIUM, Pathogens
Bacteria FECAL COLIFORM, Viruses Adenovirus, Astrovirus, Protozoa Cryptosporidium, Helminths (Parasites) Ascaris lumbicoides Fungi Aspergillus fumigatus, Prions (spongiform encephalopathy)
While Federal law and regulations limit none of contents below, they allow
localities to set more restrictive limits on sewage sludge and soil contamination.
Some states do so &/or permit precautionary local control, and others do neither.
Once spread on land, the contaminants above and below persist for centuries - to
decades - to months affecting soil, water, plants, air, animals and people.
Unlike pesticides (distinct chemicals subject to specific analysis), sewage sludge is
a very complex, variable and concentrated mixture of the vast multitude of unstudied and unregulated hazardous wastes dumped into sewer systems.
Dioxins & Furans Dioxins,
Furan (71), 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-Furan,
Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxin/Polychlorinated Di-
benzofuran (PCDD/PCDF), Tetrahydrofuran, 2,4-
“Organics” (carbon-based) Acetone, Chloroform, Pesticides & Insecticides Aldrin, Chlordane, PCBs (PolyChlorinated Biphenyls) PCB-1016, PBDEs (PolyBrominated Diphenyl Ethers) BDE-28, Hydrocarbons, Petrochemicals, Organochlorines Pharmaceuticals Steroids & Hormones 17 Alpha-Dihydroequilin,
“Acceptable” levels of exposure to sewage sludge contaminants are based on
obsolete and faulty scientific data and processes. In 2002 and 2010, the National Academy of Sciences and National Institutes of Health established those facts [3, 1].
The risk assessments upon which these levels are based neglected dietary
impacts on children; multi-pathway exposure; synergistic impacts; infectious organism exposure; ecological, wildlife, food chain, soil microorganism & forest soil impacts; long-term heavy metal accumulation; and used a cancer risk safety factor 100 times less protective than used for air and water pollution. References: 1. “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk - What We Can Do Now”, President’s Cancer Panel, 2008–
2009 Annual Report, National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, April 2010.
2. Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey, Statistical Analysis Report, January 2009, U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water (4301T), EPA-822-R-08-018.
3. “Biosolids Applied to Land: Advancing Standards and Practices”, National Research Council, July
2002, Committee on Toxicants and Pathogens in Biosolids Applied to Land, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, National Academy Press.
4. “In silico screening for unmonitored, potentially problematic high production volume (HPV)
chemicals prone to sequestration in biosolids”, Deo & Halden, Journal of Environmental Monitoring, July 2010, 12, Center for Environmental Biotechnology, Arizona State University.
5. “Fate of organohalogens in US wastewater treatment plants and estimated chemical releases to
soils nationwide from biosolids recycling”, Heidlera, et al, J. Environ. Monit., 2009, 11, 2.
6. “National Water Program Research Compendium 2009-2014”, EPA 822-R-08-015, 10-30-08, US
7. “Organic chemicals in sewage sludges”, Harrison, et al., Science of the Total Environment, 2006,
367, 481–497, Cornell Waste Management Institute, Cornell University, 6-5-06.
8. “Survey of Organic Wastewater Contaminants in Biosolids Destined for Land Application”, Kinney,
et al., Environmental Science & Technology, 2006, 40, 9-13-06 (American Chemical Society).
9. “Flame Retardants: Persistent Pollutants in Land-Applied Sludges”, Hale, et al., Nature, 412, 12,
July 2001, Department of Environmental Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
10. “Land Application of Sewage Sludges”, 1998 CU Recommends From: 1998 Cornell Recommends
for Integrated Field Crop management; A Cornell Cooperative Extension Publication, C.U.N.Y.
11. “Fate of Pathogens During the Sewage Sludge Treatment Process & After Land Application”, J.
Smith Jr: Senior Environmental Engineer - EPA Center for Environmental Research Information, Cinn, Ohio, & J.B. Farrel, Consultant, Cinn, Ohio (1998).
12. “Dioxins and furans in sewage sludges: A review… significance… agricultural…”, Jones et al.,
Critical Reviews Environ. Sci. & Tech., 27, 1, January 1997, Lancaster University, U.K.
13. “Biosolids & Sludge Management”, Krogman, et. al., Rutgers U. Coop. Ext., Solid Waste
Management, Dep't. of Environmental Sciences, N.J., Water Environment Research, 69, 4, 6-97.
14. EPA “Technical Support Document for the Round Two Sewage Sludge Pollutants”, EPA-822-R-
15. “Pathogen risk assessment methodology for municipal sewage sludge landfilling and surface
disposal”, U.S. EPA, 1995, EPA 600/R-95/016.
16. NSSS USEPA 1988 “National Sewage Sludge Survey Availability of Information & Data, and
Anticipated Impacts on Proposed Regulations; Proposed Rule”; Fed Reg, vol. 55, # 218, 11-9-90, pgs 47210-47283, Table I-12.
17. “Land Application of Wastewater Sludge”, Younos, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1987,
Chapters 1 (Intro) & 7 (“The Health Effects of Land Application of Sludge”).
18. “National Survey of Elements & Other Constituents in Municipal Sewage Sludges”, R. Mumma,
et. al. Arch. of Environ. Contam. Toxicol. vol 13, 1, 1984.
CSI (Center for Sludge Information), Atascadero, Calif. [email protected]
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