David Lewis, Ph.D., formerly a senior-level research microbiologist at EPA-ORD, was terminated by EPA for publishing two articles in Nature that raised concerns over the 503 sludge rule. He currently serves as director of research for the Focus for Health Foundation. Dr. Lewis kindly agreed to an interview for the MOTHER EARTH NEWS blog addressing the issue of agricultural use of sewage and industrial sludge, aka – biosolids. He is one of the most prominent scientific voices in the growing opposition to biosolids land application. Dr. Lewis’ publications are frequently cited as an example of solid, unbiased scientific evidence of the danger posed by this practice. Read Part 1 of this interview below and Part 2 here.

Lidia: Dr. Lewis, thank you so much for taking your time to address this issue today. Let’s start with clearing up some confusion with the nomenclature. Is there a difference between “sewage sludge” and “biosolids”? Or it is just a different name for this same thing, which is simply a municipal waste?

Dr Lewis: Sewage sludge is semi-solid organic matter, mostly human feces and animal fats, which settles out at wastewater treatment plants. More than half of the sewage sludges produced in the United States are biologically and chemically treated, usually by adding lime, to reduce odors and indicator pathogen levels. Once treated, the product is called biosolids. It is repeatedly applied to farms, forests, school playgrounds, public parks and other public and private lands at rates measured in tons per acre.

Lidia: Does the EPA’s Part 503 rule, a regulation that’s intended to protect public from potential health dangers of biosolids, deliver on its promise?

6/13/2016 9:14:34 AM

What is this article/author/phD telling the common household? How should I dispose of my kitchen/bathroom waste? How does permaculture play with all this science?

3/1/2016 4:12:27 PM

Dear Steve Wilson... your quote "Class A biosolids products are subjected to further treatment by processes like composting and thermal drying, and are considered pathogen free"... Who exactly is CONSIDERING the Class A concentrated toxic sewage sludge---- PATHOGEN FREE? It is either pathogen free or not... There should be no "consideration". Maybe the 'sludge industry' that you work for or the EPA, or a state agency--- looked at it and 'considered' it pathogen free. Additionally, will it continue to BE PATHOGEN FREE? and what pathogens were tested for.. and not tested for?

2/29/2016 6:09:07 PM

Steve Wilson, a Project Manager for Brown and Caldwell, provides consulting services to the federal government and biosolids industry. Not surprisingly, he’s upset over research I published as a senior-level (GS-15) U.S. EPA Research Microbiologist in Nature and other leading peer-reviewed scientific journals documenting adverse health and environmental effects of biosolids. I was even presented the Science Achievement Award by EPA Administrator Carol Browner for my research demonstrating how climate change can affect the toxicity of chemical groups found in biosolids. This must be very disconcerting to someone who earns his living trying to convince federal agencies that “sludge magic,” as most EPA research scientists called it, is really true. That is, all of the same chemical pollutants known to cause cancer, birth defects, neurological disorders, and a host of other health problems in air and water are perfectly safe when spread on school playgrounds and home gardens at millions of times higher concentrations. He must really believe it because he uses that same “logic” to argue that biosolids “consist primarily of microbial biomass,” not human feces. Surely someone who promotes biosolids for a living must be aware that human feces is, in fact, primarily microbial biomass. David L. Lewis, Ph.D., Research Director, Focus for Health Foundation https://www.focusforhealth.org/davidlewis/

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