Reliable scientific information concerning public health and environmental risks associated with land-applying recycled waste products, including processed sewage sludges (biosolids) containing potentially hazardous chemical and biological wastes.

NEW! Biosolids: Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey 2009.
This long over-due EPA survey of toxic chemical compounds detected in biosolids confirms that sewage treatment plants do not remove most hazardous chemicals; in fact, treatment often creates new pollutants and superbugs that end up in land applied sludges. The survey tested for only 145 chemicals from 74 sewage treatment plants across the nation and found hormone disrupting chemicals, pharmaceuticals, PAHs, fluoride, and chloroanaline in virtually every biosolids sample. Some samples contained unregulated and inadequately regulated metals at extraordinary high levels. Many of the detected chemicals are toxic, persistent, magnify in the food chain and can damage developing organisms in parts per trillion. This survey as well as the more recent EPA Inspector General's data indicating the virtual failure of the nation's industrial pretreatment program-- should finally put to rest the myth that current US regulations governing the land application of sewage sludge protect agriculture, human health, and the environment.

NEW! EPA OIG Report. This report underscores the inadequacy of EPA's pretreatment program, as hundreds of hazardous chemicals discharged by industry into sewage treatment plants end up in treated wastewater and sludge 2014.
Only major industrial users need to pretreat their hazardous waste before piping it into sewage treatment plants. Instead of requiring these users to reduce or eliminate their hazardous discharges in the first place, OIG is merely recommending some monitoring, tracking, and suggesting that each major user submit the required annual report. Meanwhile, not only priority pollutants, but a vast array of newly identified chemicals of concern will continue to be discharged into sewers and cause biosolids to become even more contaminated.

NEW! Nanomaterials in Biosolids Inhibit Nodulation, Shift Microbial Community Composition, and Result in Increased Metal Uptake Relative to Bulk/Dissolved Metals. Environ. Sci. Technol. 49 (14) pp 8751-8758. (2015)
This is groundbreaking research of the adverse effects on plants grown on soils treated with engineered metal-containing nanomaterials (ENM). Unlike previous nanoparticle plant investigations, this research was done under environmentally realistic field scenarios. Biosolids from treated ENM-containing sewage indicated greater metal availability and adverse effects on nitrogen-fixing legumes, relative to biosolids from treated sewage that contained no ENMs. "Results suggest that soil accumulation of ENMs could potentially affect critical ecosystem services, agricultural productivity, and ultimately human well being."

How EPA Faked the Entire Science of Sewage Sludge Safety: A Whistleblower's Story. Independent Science News June 9th 2014.
US EPA’s 503 sludge rule (1993) currently allows application of treated sewage sludges (aka biosolids) to farms, forests, parks, schools, playgrounds, homes, and gardens. Biosolids are the insoluble wastes that settle out at water treatment plants. They contain complex mixtures of industrial chemicals, heavy metals, mercury, phthalates, flame retardants, many common drugs and pathogenic agents. While working at EPA, senior scientist David Lewis published evidence showing a New Hampshire teenager Shayne Conner died, and other neighbors were harmed, from exposure to land-applied sewage sludge. Lewis became involved further when dairy herds on two Georgia farms were poisoned after grazing on sludged land. This is an excerpt from his new book, Science for Sale.

The Dirty Work of Promoting Recycling of America's Sewage Sludge 2005: Int J Occup Environ Health; Vol 11 (4) : 415-427.
Serious illnesses, including deaths, and adverse environmental impacts have been linked to land application of treated municipal sewage sludge. EPA and the wastewater treatment industry have worked with Congress to fund wastewater trade associations to promote land application, supporting industry-friendly scientists and discouraging independent research, to prevent local governments from restricting land application and to thwart litigation against municipalities and the industry. (Archived Documents 1-60)

Baltimore Sludge Pilot Project Puts Children at Additional Risk 2008: Int J Occup Environ Health; Vol 14 (3): 240-41.
Workers, wearing no protective clothing, were instructed to till the vegetated top layer with high powered rototillers to loosen soil that contained lead levels as high as 2400 mg/kg. Then this soil was mixed with sewage sludge compost, rototilled again, and raked right up to the basement windows of the buildings. This experiment was supposed to protect children from lead poisoning; instead, children living in the test area, were put at even greater risk.

A Complaint from Citizens for Sludge-Free Land 2012: New Solutions; Vol 22 (2):213-220.
The King et al paper deliberately disseminates narrowly focused, biased, inaccurate and misleading information, based on questionable risk assessment assumptions and fails to consider most peer reviewed articles and field reports that have identified serious health and environmental problems linked to biosolids exposure. It clearly violates the recent EPA guidelines of scientific integrity. We urge ASM to remove its imprimatur from the paper. The American Society for Microbiology should not be in the business of marketing biosolids.

Latest Documents and Links:

NEW! National Research Defense Council (NRDC) Press Release: Sludge May Be Hazardous to Your Health. [Document 129]

NEW! National Public Radio's deceptive article promoting the use of sewage sludge (biosolids) to grow the nation's food should be retracted. Such reporting hurts NPR's credibility and is unworthy of NPR's mission. [Document 128]

NEW! The supermarket chain Whole Foods will no longer sell produce grown on land treated with biosolids. [Document 127]

NEW! Ten Government-Industry Myths about Biosolids. [Document 126]

NEW! Partial List of Hazardous Waste Industry is Permitted to discharge into Sewers. [Document 125]
Every entity connected to a sewer is permitted legally to discharge any amount of hazardous and acute hazardous waste into sewage treatment plants. All that is required is an annual notification.

NEW! Sierra Club Policy on Compost and Composting. [Document 124]
The Sierra Club opposes using composts made from toxic industrial wastes, including sewage sludges, fly ash, foundry sand, and coal ash.

Contaminated Branded Products. [Document 123]
Since The US has no statutory standards that control compost quality, farmers, landscapers, and gardeners might want to avoid using composts containing toxic ingredients and industrial waste. Here is a partial list of such contaminated products.

Does Early Exposure to Germs really have lasting Benefits? [Document 122]
A recent article and image in the international journal Nature prompted us to post the following comment:
Promoting the eating of dirt and playing in mud may not be wise for inner-city children whose yards contain high levels of lead or for rural kids living and playing adjacent to fields that have been treated with sewage sludge or other soil amendments containing persistent and toxic pollutants and antibiotic resistant pathogens. We know of at least one eleven-year old child who died of staphylococcal septicemia after being exposed to such toxin-laced "mud."

First Commercial sludge-to-energy facility in the US. [Document 121]
Because the facility provides a recycling service, the company is paid by the Southern California cities and sanitation districts for managing their sewage sludge. Cement kilns are ideal customers for this product because not only does it provide a renewable replacement for coal, but the non-combustible portion of E-fuel is mixed into the cement itself.

Sampling of tar from sewage sludge gasification. [Document 120]
Sewage sludge is a residue from wastewater treatment plants which is considered to be harmful to the environment and all living organisms. Gasification technology is a potential source of renewable energy that converts the sewage sludge into gases that can be used to generate energy or as raw material in chemical synthesis processes.

Sewage Treatment Plants are Breeding Grounds for Superbugs. [Document 119]
Research at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health " suggests that the wastewater treatment process contributes to the selective increase of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the occurrence of multi-drug resistant bacteria in aquatic environments.

Biosolids is not a Fertilizer. [Document 118]
Farmers contemplating using biosolids should not be misled by the deceptive promotional literature of the biosolids industry. Biosolids use does not "improve soil naturally," as one ad in the March-April issue of N.H.Farm Bureau's Communicator claims. Instead, sludge gradually degrades soil with an array of synthetic industrial chemicals that don't break down and don't belong on farmland.

Avoid using composts and soil amendments that contain sewage sludge. Read labels carefully, because sludge composts are often marketed as "organic" and "natural." Sewage sludge, also called biosolids, is human waste mixed with industrial waste, some of it highly toxic. Sludge contains pathogens and thousands of unmonitored and unregulated industrial chemicals which can poison soil and be absorbed by plants. See documents 104, 111, and 113.

Zinc-induced antibiotic resistance in activated sludge bioreactors. [Document 116]
These research results show that sub-toxic levels of Zn can cause increased antibiotic resistance in waste treatment microbial communities at comparatively low antibiotic levels, probably due to developed cross-resistance resulting from pre-exposure to Zn.

A Critical Review of the U.S. EPA's Risk Assessment for the Land Application of Sewage Sludge. [Document 115]
The Federal Clean Water Act defines sewage sludge as a pollutant, and it needs to be treated as one. It is not a fertilizer. There are too many variables and too many unknowns to properly regulate the land application of sewage sludge in a way that adequately protects human health and the environment. There are other methods to manage sludge that are more environmentally friendly and safer.

Lewis' Response to EPA-UGA Settlement Proposal. [Document 114]
I don't know which is more shocking--EPA and UGA offering to buy our silence by dropping $60,000 in court costs--or thinking we can be bought off in the first place! My answer is NO. I'm not going to help them hide what they did. They may escape justice over a legal technicality--but they will not escape the sound of my voice. Tell EPA and UGA that they can have my old house and pickup truck to cover their court costs. EPA and UGA must choose between fake data and a good reputation. They will not keep both by paying me to keep quiet.

Uptake of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products by Soybean Plants from Soils Applied with Biosolids and Irrigated with Contaminated Water. [Document 113] Chenxi Wu, Alison L. Spongberg et al. Environ. Sci. Technol.,2010,44 (16) pp.6157-6161
Land application of these biosolids and the reclamation of treated wastewater can transfer those PPCPs into the terrestrial and aquatic environments, giving rise to potential accumulation in plants.

In silico screening for unmonitored, potentially problematic high production volume chemicals prone to sequestration in biosolids. [Document 112] Randhir P. Deo and Rolf U. Halden. Journal of Environmental Monitoring, 2010, 12, 1840-1845.
Thousands of high production volume chemicals are used in the US at rates exceeding 450 000 kg ( 1 million pounds) per year, yet little is known about their fates during wastewater treatment and upon release into the environment.

Contents of Sewage Sludge-Tip of the Iceberg [Document 111]
Once spread on land, these contaminants persist for centuries, to decades, to months, affecting soil, water, plants, air, animals, and people.

UGA Wins, Scientific Integrity Looses: [Document 110]
Rather than improving the [503] rule to better protect public health, EPA employees who developed the rule began to fund a network of researchers at grant universities, including UGA, to silence critics and publish research supporting it. When scientific integrity was weighed against future grants to be gained by helping EPA employees publish fabricated data, scientific integrity lost.

Letter to Farmers from Biosolids-Free Nova Scotia: [Document 109]
We have concluded that, unless sewage waste is completely free of industrial,commercial and hospital contaminants or pathogens, using the product as a soil additive or fertilizer on agricultural soils is too risky an endeavor to ensure public health and safety-even if "treated."

The Gatekeepers: A Summary of Court Records in Civil Actions Filed by David L.Lewis, Ph.D., R.A. McElmurray,III and G. William Boyce. Land Application of Sewage Sludge (Biosolids): 1997-2010: [Document 108]

EPA Fired Oil-Degradation Expert Concerned about Deepwater Oil Rigs: [Document 107]
In 1998 the US Environmental Protection Agency detailed one of its top scientists, David Lewis, to the University of Georgia, in part, to investigate the possibility of an offshore drilling rig mishap in the Gulf of Mexico and how to deal with it. Robert Perciasepe, formerly head of EPA's Office of Water, now EPA Deputy Administrator, was involved in stopping Lewis' research.

Virginia Farmers Deceived About Sewage Sludge Safety: [Document 106]
CFSL's March 27 letter to the VA Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and to EPA Region 3, requests that no more sludge permits be issued in Campbell County. VA code specifies that such permits, to be valid, can only be granted with the informed consent of the landowner. However,information provided by DEQ,the VA Cooperative Extension Service,and Nutri-Blend Inc about the serious risks associated with land applying sewage sludges is out-dated, inaccurate, incomplete, and deceptive.

Case For Caution Revisited: Health and Environmental Impacts of Application of Sewage Sludges to Agricultural Land: [Document 105]

Courts Finally Recognize Spreading Sewage Sludge on Farmland is A Very Bad Idea: [Document 104]

Biosolids Facts. Biosolids is another word for Land Applied Sewage Sludge: [Document 103]

Sewage Sludge Products Should Not be Applied to our Agricultural Lands where Food Crops are Grown. July 11,2009 Letter to the Editor by Murray McBride, Cornell Professor of Crop and Soil Science and Director of the Cornell Waste Management Institute: [Document 102]

The Local Nose Knows Best What to do with Sewage Sludge: Read the posting here.

Citizens for Sludge-Free Land post comment on Docket ID No.EPA-HQ-ORD 2008-0547. Re: Problem Formulation for Human Health Risk Assessment of Pathogens in Land-Applied Sludges. [Document 100] [Document 101]

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: Sludge Guide [Document 99]

CFSL asks Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to Clean Up EPA's Office of Water and Phase out the Land Application of Sludge.
It is crucial that Congress re-establishes honesty and integrity within the EPA Office of Water. It is crucial that your committee investigates the root problem: EPA's role in deliberately and knowingly covering up sludge incidents, its role in manipulating test results and data, its role in the misuse of government funds, and its role in quashing scientific dissent by discrediting even its own top research scientists. Meanwhile, Citizens for Sludge-Free Land appeals to your committee to introduce legislation that phases out the risky practice of spreading this unpredictable and highly complex contaminated waste on the nations' fields, farms, and forests.
Read the entire document here

The Sierra Club opposes the land application of sewage sludge and urges EPA and the industry to investigate and support safer, non-polluting alternatives for sludge use and disposal. Sierra Club Policy

Published Articles since 1997

Scientists using federal grants spread sludge on yards in poor, black neighborhoods to test whether it might protect children from lead poisoning in the soil. Families were assured the sludge was safe and were never told about any harmful ingredients. Read the story here

Sewage-Based Fertilizer Safety Doubted US District Court Judge orders Dept. of Agriculture to compensate farmer whose land was poisoned by sludge, killing hundreds of cattle and contaminating milk. Read the story here.

Health Survey of Residents Living Near Farm Fields Permitted to Receive Biosolids.(2007) [Document 98] Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health, Vol.62. No.1. /The findings suggest an increased risk for certain respiratory, gastrointestinal, and other diseases among residents living near farm fields on which the use of biosolids was permitted.

/Cf. David L.Lewis et al. Interactions of Pathogens and Irritant Chemicals in Land-Applied Sludges (Biosolids) (2002) BMC Public Health.

Qui Tam Complaint [Document 94]
To protect their careers, EPA defendants, Walker and Brobst, worked with the University of Georgia "to mask and cover up any evidence linking Augusta cattle deaths to sewage sludge." They violated numerous provisions of the Clean Water Act; they "knowingly and intentionally" published false and fabricated data to prove that the sludge applied to the two dairy farms did not contain hazardous wastes; they helped defend Augusta against lawsuits from the injured farmers; and they discredited and neutralized one of their own scientists, Dr. David Lewis, in order to stop him from "uncovering the falsity of the Gaskin paper" and their related illegal and unethical activities.

The Sludge Diet
The highly acclaimed 52-minute documentary that includes scientists, victims, activists, farmers, and government officials,
from the US, Canada, France, and Switzerland, discussing the health and environmental problems linked to using sludges as "fertilizer."

To order The Sludge Diet, contact the Canadian distributor, Paul Maltais, at

NH Sludge Company gets Toxics Action's Dirty Dozen Award [Document 95]

Archived Documents and Links 1-60
Archived Documents and Links 61-118
Additional scientific studies confirming the hazards of spreading sewage sludge on land:
For information about sludge victims visit:

This website is owned and operated by Citizens for Sludge-Free Land (CSFL) which is solely responsible for its content. CSFL is a state-chartered, not for profit organization. Our mission is to correct misinformation about the risks and reported incidents associated with exposures to land-applied sewage sludges (a.k.a. biosolids) disseminated by EPA, USDA, state agencies, and associated industry groups. We advocate regulatory reform to better protect public health, sustainable agriculture, and the environment. We also provide assistance to communities who want to promulgate local ordinances to reduce the risks to their health, live stock, groundwater, and soil.

CFSL P.O. Box 38 North Sandwich NH 03259