Waiter, There Is Toxic Sludge in my Organic Soup!

(NOTE: Visit the SourceWatch Portal on Toxic Sludge)

Fifteen years ago, the Center for Media and Democracy in my book Toxic Sludge Is Good for You first exposed the deceptive PR campaign by the municipal sewage industry that has renamed toxic sewage sludge as "biosolids" to be spread on farms and gardens. Unfortunately, the scam continues to fool more people than ever, even in San Francisco which is often dubbed the country's greenest city.

I suspect that Bay area celebrity chef Alice Waters would never dump sewage sludge onto her own organic garden, nor serve food grown in sludge in her world famous natural foods restaurant Chez Panisse. The mission of her Chez Panisse Foundation is to create "edible schoolyards" where kids grow, prepare, and eat food from their own organic gardens. But Francesca Vietor, the new executive director of the Chez Panisse Foundation, is at the same time actively promoting dumping toxic sludge on gardens in her role as Vice President of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Donate to CMD!

SFPUC has been deceptively bagging toxic sewage sludge as 'organic compost' and giving it away to unsuspecting gardeners, people to whom the word 'organic' connotes the highest level of pure, toxin-free food production. On March 4, 2010, the Organic Consumers Association and dozens of San Francisco community groups protested at the mayor's office causing the city to put its sludge "compost" giveaway on hold, but only temporarily.

John Stauber is an independent writer, his views are his own


SFPUC claims to use organic compost in the scientific sense. Not only that but it claims composting kills all disease causing organisms (pathogens). However, it uses a fraudulent high heat test method which causes >97% of the E. coli in compost to go dormant. The scientific claim is that only E. coli from humans will survive at the elevated temperature of the fecal coliform test which enumerates less than <3% of the E. coli in the compost. EPA has acknowledged that any gram negative bacteria (animal, plant or soil) will produce gas and/or acid at the high temperature is designated fecal coliform. Research on Salmonella in compost by the Los Angeles County Sanitation Department in 1981 state, "Optimal recoveries in the low bacteria sample occurred at the 21% moisture level at 28 to 360C after a 5-day incubation. The population increased more than four orders of magnitude under these conditions. The indigenous salmonellae initiating this growth had survived in a desiccated state for over 1 year prior to providing the proper moisture-temperature combination for the repopulation to occur. --- as long as a demonstrated potential exists for repopulation of salmonellae in a commercial soil amendment product produced from composted sludge, a potential health hazard exists for the user." http://thewatchers.us/EPA/2/1981-salmonella-regrowth-compost.pdf In 1988 compost research, LA Sanitation Depart. stated, "Although the use of sludge as a soil amendment is attractive, it is not without potential health risks. Toxic chemicals, including heavy metals and industrial organics, may enter the food chain and present long-term health risks." The plague causing bacteria Yersinia (pestis?) was consistently found in static pile compost. CDC authorities state, "Outbreaks in people still occur in rural communities or in cities." significant increases in bacterial populations, including salmonellae, occurred during subsequent production of commercial soil amendment products. http://deadlydeceit.com/D_M_sludge.html Not only that, but "Efforts to characterize major unknown organic components were limited to computer comparisons of GC/MS peaks to the NBS mass spectral library. In none of the cases was a tentative identification made. Manual review of those components with a high degree of fit with an NBS library compound (>8O%) allowed probable compound class assignment for many peaks. Virtually all of the major components classified appeared to be aliphatics or carboxylic acid type compounds. A majority of the sample extracts exhibited a hydrocarbon "hump" in the ion chromatograms. The peaks reviewed, therefore, were superimposed on this background. As a result, a significant portion of the major peaks were multi-component peaks whose identities remain completely unknown. http://thewatchers.us/EPA/1/1988-trace-organics-inorganics-DM-sludge.pdf

That's just pure evil, they shouldn't mislead people like that. toxic sludge should be seen as just that, toxic.

Why do we citizens have no power? Are the politicians going to let the big corporations kill us all? Why don't they see what happening?

We the citizens have no power because of idiots like you handing it over to the politicians in the first place. It's not the "Big Corporations" deceptively handing out toxic sludge as organic compost, it's the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, A.K.A. an extension of the GOVERNMENT...

It's disturbing that they are calling it that. It isn't compost at all, organic or otherwise! Ugh... When local colleges sell compost, should I now worry about it being biosolids/sludge instead of the advertised compost? Ugh...

What bothers me is we just don't know what we are eating. We have supermarket chains that tell us we are getting the healthiest food, but we find out that most of it is sitting in huge warehouses slowly going off. I'm sick of the lies and bullshit that we are told.