Stop Toxic Humanure on Farm and Ranch Land in Oklahoma
Stop Toxic Humanure on Farm and Ranch Land in Oklahoma
PFAS, Humanure (Sewage Sludge), and Oklahoma’s looming Water and Farmland Crisis
Why should we care about sewage sludge contaminated with PFAS, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, and antibiotic resistant bacteria being distributed as free fertilizer on Oklahoma farmland?
Our family moved to Luther, Oklahoma when our daughter was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that attacked her brain after what should have been a simple case of strep throat. We had hoped that living in the country would allow our children to grow up in an environment with clean air, clean water and the best chances for a healthy childhood. Unfortunately, that is now threatened by the widespread use of sewage sludge on the surrounding farmland, and over the Garber Wellington aquifer that provides water for many Oklahomans. After sewage sludge is applied to neighboring farms, we cannot open our windows, go for a walk, or let our immune compromised daughter play outside until the risk of exposure to hazardous dust particles in the air and the metallic stench has dissipated, sometimes weeks later. By that time, we are overrun with disease carrying biting flies. (10)
Unsuspecting farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma are lining up to apply free sewage sludge to their land. They are assured that this sewage sludge is safe and beneficial. They are unaware of the risks of permanent contamination of their land, their hay, their livestock, and their water. Many of them are unknowingly applying toxic waste to land that it is directly over major Oklahoma aquifers. If left unchecked, cattle ranchers in Oklahoma could suffer the fate of the Boyceland Dairy, with hundreds of cows poisoned and killed by contaminated sewage sludge applied to their land.
“In McElmurray v. Augusta-Richmond County, farmer Andy McElmurray accepted sludge to his 1,730 acres dairy farm only to witness the death of his land and lifestyle. With the filtered information and constant reassurance of safety of the sludge, Andy had no idea that the sludge contained levels of arsenic, toxic heavy metals and PCB’s two to 2,500 times federal health standards. His cows died a slow and painful AIDS-like death while Andy searched for an answer. Finally, he discovered that the sludge he had been accepting as free and “safe” fertilizer was the cause of his problems. Even years after halting sludge application, his farm is still too toxic to support plants and livestock….
Although McElmurray’s neighboring farmer, Bill Boyce also won his court case, Boyceland Dairy v. City of Augusta, he lost his fourth generation family farm after accepting sludge as a fertilizer for cultivation and grazing. Despite constant reassurance from sludge haulers and the city of Augusta, Bill witness the steady decline and death of his prize-winning dairy herd, known as Georgia’s Boyceland Dairy. In 1999, Bill had independent testing performed on the milk from his cows. The stunning test results revealed high levels of thallium, molybdenum and cadmium. EPA lists thallium at a toxic heavy metal that can cause gastrointestinal irritation and nerve damage. Although the USDA regards thallium as one of the most dangerous agents of potential bioterrorism against the nation’s food supply, thallium is not required for testing in sludge. Bill Boyce is no longer in the fourth generation farm he had hoped to pass on to his children. The farm was sold and a low-income housing development was erected where the Boyce farm once fed America.” (2)
“The city of Augusta recently settled a lawsuit with him over the dead cows for $1.5 million. Another nearby dairy farmer, Bill Boyce, won a $550,000 court judgment against the city on his claim that sludge was responsible for the deaths of more than 300 of his cows. The Alaimo ruling acknowledges that the sludge applications on the McElmurray farm were responsible for killing hundreds of dairy cattle. In the ruling, Judge Alaimo said, “senior EPA officials took extraordinary steps to quash scientific dissent and any questioning of EPA's biosolids program.” The court ruling effectively condemned the production of food chain crops on 1,730.5 acres of land.” (1)
Other farms around the country have been found to have dangerously high levels of PFAS in soil after years of applying sewage sludge to their farmland.
“…Drinking water isn’t the only thing in jeopardy. Just like other PFAS manufacturers, Tyco sent its waste to a local sewage treatment plant, where farmers obtain sludge for fertilizing their fields.
“We foolishly thought that we had institutions that would protect us from this sort of thing, that this couldn’t happen anymore,” says Oitzinger (the former mayor of Marinette, Wisconsin) “What we’ve discovered is that those institutions didn’t protect us.” The DNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources) has since asked the wastewater treatment facility to stop selling sludge to farmers and launched a larger investigation into the matter earlier this year. For many farm owners, however, this action may have come too late—and there are no quick fixes. PFAS do not easily break down and can persist in the environment for decades, if not centuries.”(3)
Dairy farmers are facing the loss of their herds, their farms, and their livelihood.
“More than two years after learning drinking water and milk tanks on his 100-year-old Stoneridge Farm were contaminated with a class of chemicals linked to cancer and other health concerns, farmer Fred Stone still can’t sell his milk and is losing hundreds of dollars a day, every day…the wastewater sludge he was licensed by the state to spread on his fields and other fields across York County contained PFAS, a class of industrial chemicals linked to cancer, fertility issues, hormone disruption and more... Public health advocates on Tuesday held a press conference at the farm where Stone described the nightmare he says has “ruined” his farm, while officials called for expanded testing and an end to sludge spreading and use of PFAS chemicals in products.”(11)
The EPA admits they do not know the dangers of biosolids and their stance is “apply at your own risk.”
“The EPA identified 352 pollutants in biosolids but cannot yet consider these pollutants for further regulation due to either a lack of data or risk assessment tools. Pollutants found in biosolids can include pharmaceuticals, steroids and flame retardants. The EPA’s controls over the land application of sewage sludge (biosolids) were incomplete or had weaknesses and may not fully protect human health and the environment. The EPA consistently monitored biosolids for nine regulated pollutants. However, it lacked the data or risk assessment tools needed to make a determination on the safety of 352 pollutants found in biosolids. The EPA identified these pollutants in a variety of studies from 1989 through 2015. Our analysis determined that the 352 pollutants include 61 designated as acutely hazardous, hazardous or priority pollutants in other programs.”