GreenYes Digest V97 #131

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Fri, 22 Jan 1999 17:11:45 -0500

GreenYes Digest Fri, 6 Jun 97 Volume 97 : Issue 131

Today's Topics:
Biosolids and composting (2 msgs)
Mercury switches in automobiles
new recycling program - need advise.
Request for C&D data
toxics from burning wire insulation

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Date: Thu, 05 Jun 1997 16:56:35 -0500
From: "Susan K. Snow" <>
Subject: Biosolids and composting

Debbie said:

>I believe biosolids and compost should be used as fertilizer for >growing
crops. There are three important cycles: carbon-oxygen, >nitrogen, and
water. Using biosolids and compost puts back in these >cycles what growing
crops takes out.


If one lives in the corn belt, no doubt you've heard about the
stockyards and the stink and groundwater pollution they contribute.
Long before the chemical industry began dumping chemicals down the drain
and into publically-owned wastewater treatment works, cow manure was
used as fertilizers on farms, gardens, lawns nationwide. Even with all
the pharmaceutricals injected into cattle, I doubt that it's worse than
the allowable poisons dumped into sewage treatment plants.

Suggested reading includes:
The Sewage Sludge Fact Packet
Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403
Fax (410) 263-8944; Internet:

And the book by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton entitled TOXIC SLUDGE

In the book, TOXIC SLUDGE IS GOOD FOR YOU, the authors speak about the
linguistic detoxification of sewage sludge and how it became known as
biosolids in the chapter entitled <The Sludge Hits the Fan>.

But first, they cite HarperCollins Dictionary of Environmental Science
in defining sludge as a 'vicous, semisolid mixture of bacteria- and
virus-laden organic matter, toxic metals, synthetic organic chemicals,
and settled solids removed from domestic and industrial waste water at a
sewage treatment plant.' **Over 60,000 toxic substances and chemical
compounds can be found in sewage sludge, and scientists are developing
700 to 1,000 new chemicals per year...**

Stephen Lester at CCHW (is cited in both sources of information) as he
collected data from researchers at Cornell University and the American
Society of Civil Engineers showing that sludge typically contains the
following toxins:
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), Chlorinated pesticides (DDT, dieldrin,
aldrin, endrin, chlordane, heptachlor, lindane, mirex, kepone, 2,4,5-T,
and 2,4-D; chlorinated compounds such as dioxins; polynuclear aromatic
hydrocarbons; heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead,
and mercury.
To learn what emerging science says of these chemicals, see:
Also, see
To learn more about hormone disruptors, and the book OUR STOLEN FUTURE,
see the web site from the authors of the book at:

What else is in sewage sludge, other than hormone disrupting chemicals?
Bacteria, viruses, protozoa, parasitic worms fungi; and other
miscellaneous materials including asbestos, petroleum products,
industrial solvents, not to mention radioactive wastes.

According to an article entitled Sewage Treatment Plants which came from
the files of the ERF and is among the articles in their Sewage Sludge
Fact Pack:

**...Nationally, there are about 15,000 POTWs (publically-owned
wastewater treatment works) discharging treated wastewater at the rate
of approximately 26 billion gallons per day...<Included in this are 2.7
billion gallons per day of wastewater containing hazardous wastes, which
are discharged into public sewers by industries.> Before treatment by
the industrial sources, this wastewater contains more than 360 million
pounds of priority metals, 88 million pounds of priority organic
chemicals, and at least 140 million pounds of non-priority organic
chemicals [OTA, 1987].**

**Under a special provision in the Resource Conservation and Recovery
Act, 300 to 700 POTWs also accept hazardous waste shipped by truck,
train, rail, or dedicated pipe. An unknown number of POTWs also have
accepted leachate from Superfund sites. <These wastes are not subject to
pretreatment regulations; however, the POTWs may be liable for impacts
from sludge disposal [OTA 1987].> **

The article goes on to describe the municipal waste water treatment
process. It contains a chart citing the fate of toxic chemicals
entering POTWs. The use of chlorine to kill pathogens. This section
**...All metals, however, and many of the more complex chemicals and
their residues, pass through municipal wastewater treatment systems
unaffected. These pollutants enter into the environment in the
wastewater effluent or sludge. Having received the receiving water, the
effluent, toxic pollutants and all, become part of the water supply.
Toxic pollutants in the sludge are dispersed into the environment,
whether the sludge is buried, spread on land, or incinerated...Most
municipal sewage treatment systems are doing well to prevent their
receiving waters from becoming cesspools of human wastes. They are
wholly inappropriate for the attempted detoxification of wastes
containing metals and synthetic chemicals, whether these pollutants are
discarded by industries or by households...the toxics problem has not
improved. With the growing dependency on toxic chemicals and stricter
regulation of hazardous waste disposal, public sewers systems have
become an inexpensive and expedient disposal option. As of 1986, POTWs
in the U.S. were dischraging toxic chemicals into surface waters at the
rate of 39 million pounds per year while emitting 51 million pounds per
year of toxic chemicals into the air. SLUDGE [emphasis added.] from
these facilities carries an addition 28 million pounds per year of toxic
chemicals into landfills, onto land-application sites, or to sludge
incinerators [EPA 1986a].**

**Both for industries which discharge directly to waterways and for
those which use public sewer systems, EPA standards have focused almost
entirely on 126 priority pollutants. However, many other toxic
pollutants are known to be present in signficiant quantities in both
direct and indirect discharges, according to the OTA. For example, EPA's
data indicates that raw wastewater from chemicals, plastics, and
synthetic fibers contains 2.5 pounds of non-priority organic chemicals
for every pound of priority organic chemicals [OTA 1987]...EPA estimates
that 90 percent of all VOC emissions from POTWs are comprised of the
following chemicals [EPA 1986a], all of which are common industrial
solvents and cleaning agents: Benzene; Chloroform; Ethyl benzene;
Methylene chloride; Tetrachloroethylene; Tetrahydrofuran; Toluene;
1,1,1-Trichloroethane; Trichloroethylene; Xylenes...Information on total
VOC emissions from individual sewer systems is incomplete...**

'Sewage Treatment Plants', the author writes:
**Because of toxic pollutants, sludge disposal is a major public health
and environmental issue. In Milwaukee, where processed sewage sludge is
sold as garden fertilizer, the product has been linked to outbreaks of
amylotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) although no
definite causality has been proven [Milwaukee Sentinel 1987. The
Metropolitan Sanitation District of Greater Chicago was forced to
withdraw sludge marketed as garden fertilizer after heavy metals were
found to be accumulating at high levels in gardens to which it had been
applied [The Neighborhood Works 1979].**

If you wish to make an educated statement about biosolids, I urge you
first to read these sources which were NOT written to promote of using
toxic sludge/biosolids as fertilizer. There are lots of industries that
do not want you to know with what we are all being poisoned.
However, ignorance is part of the problem. Become part of the solution
by educating yourself beginning with these references.

Susan Snow


Date: Fri, 06 Jun 1997 00:51:55 -0500
From: Jim McNelly <>
Subject: Biosolids and composting

Susan K. Snow wrote:
> Debbie said:
> >I believe biosolids and compost should be used as fertilizer for >growing
crops. There are three important cycles: carbon-oxygen, >nitrogen, and
water. Using biosolids and compost puts back in these >cycles what growing
crops takes out.
> [snip]
> If one lives in the corn belt, no doubt you've heard about the
> stockyards and the stink and groundwater pollution they contribute.
> Long before the chemical industry began dumping chemicals down the drain
> and into publically-owned wastewater treatment works, cow manure was
> used as fertilizers on farms, gardens, lawns nationwide. Even with all
> the pharmaceutricals injected into cattle, I doubt that it's worse than
> the allowable poisons dumped into sewage treatment plants.


You have been attacking the beneficial use of organics for months now
using mostly pre-RCRA (before 1980) data and unsubstantiated guilt by
inference. You have attacked not only biosolids, but paper products,
and now animal manures.

Are you suggesting in your literature review that pharmaceuticals in
animal manures are a biohazard for use in the soil and garden? This is
pure emotionalism and totally lacking in substantial data.

You state "no doubt you've heard about the stockyards and the stink and
groundwater pollution they contribute"

Why not join or get involved with groups such as sustainable farming
associations or the Composting Council that are trying to educate
organics managers into seeing their materials as resources, not wastes,
that they need not stink, and that organics can be managed through
composting to prevent groundwater pollution. Why are you attacking
organic matter, the only resource that is able to free our farming
system from the use of chemicals, which are the real pollution source?

I have talked with literally hundreds of wastewater treatment officials,
members of the Composting Council, and regulatory officials and not a
single person I have spoken with is taking the book "Toxic Sludge is
Good for You" seriously. The author's credentials are questionable, the
data outdated, the conclusions somewhat paranoid, and the book generally
lacking in any good scientific research. I put it up there with UFO
conspiracy cultists.

His point is basically this, as I understand it, which appears to be
yours, and please correct me if I misunderstand your point, "Organics
are a biohazarad because they may contain some concentration of
something which was man made".

If we are to accept this argument, perhaps we should all stop breathing
air and drinking water as well. I do not agree that everything that is
synthetic or processed by humans is harmful.

I find your repeated attacks on valuable organics on the various lists
offensive and evidence of the type of irrationality that gives fuel to
the Rush Limbaughs and "Wise Use" corporate extremists. As I have told
you in private e-mail, do not expect that your attacks will go

I also repeat the challenge I asked several weeks ago, of which you have
not replied. Please provide any evidence of any real biohazard in
organic matter that is not currently regulated in the concentration it
appears and I will personally see to it that it is brought to the
attention of the organics management industry and if there is evidence
that there is a biohazard that can be documented to harm plants,
animals, or humans, I am certain that the pre-treatment rules can and
will be modified to reduce the concentration or to restrict the use of
that organic matter.

But my point is basically this. People on this and other lists are not
going to walk away from these electronic conferences taking your claims
at face value and become opposed to the beneficial use of organics as
you are. This is an intelligent group of readers that have seen
environmental claims come and go, and while we sympathise with the
general concern regarding synthetics in the environment, I doubt that
your "guilt by association or smell" argument is one that we want to go
out on a limb for. I believe that I speak for a silent majority (I
can't believe that I am using that term!) when I suggest that you
provide some actual concentrations of biohazards in specific cases with
sufficiently high concentrations to warrent concern.

The claim (summarized) that chemicals are in wastewater, biosolids come
from cleaning wastewater, therefore biosolids have chemicals" is not a
strong enough argument to broad-brush such negativity upon the
beneficial use of organic matter.

Don't you think that the attack on animal manures is going too far?


Jim~ McNelly NaturTech Composting Systems, Inc. 320-253-6255 Information on Composting and Sustainable Futures The Humusphere HTTP://


Date: Thu, 5 Jun 1997 08:23:49 -0600 From: "John Reindl 608-267-8815" <> Subject: Mercury switches in automobiles

Dear List Members -

Recently, I learned that many automobiles have mercury switches in the hoods and trunks to turn on the light when the hood or trunk is opened.

These switches consist of glass vials with electrical contacts coming into the vial and the mercury makes the contact as it moves from one part of the vial to where the contacts are.

Do any of the states require -- and enforce -- laws for these switches to be removed by auto salvagers, crushers or shredders before the hulks are recycled? Does anyone know what is the cost to the salvagers/recyclers to remove and properly manage these switches?

This seems to me to both be an inappropriate use of mercury -- mechanical switches would work well for turning on these lights -- and an appropriate place for manufacturer's responsibility -- if the auto manufacturers want to use mercury in these switches, then they should take them back to manage properly, rather than imposing financial and environmental costs on others.

Any information or thoughts would be welcome.

John Reindl, Recycling Manager Dane County, Wisconsin (608)267-1533 - fax (608)267-8815 - phone


Date: 05 Jun 1997 09:28:09 PDT From: "Jeffrey Smedberg, Re" <SCRUZA.DPW179@HW1.CAHWNET.GOV> Subject: new recycling program - need advise.

To: OAS --HW1SSW1 Internet Addressee

FROM: Jeffrey Smedberg, Recycling Programs Coordinator dpw179 454-2373 SUBJECT: Re: new recycling program - need advise. Sara Jones wrote: >We are a small envrionmental group in Owen County,Indiana who have helped >our county write a grant to get a small recycling drop off center >started...I have a few questions I would like to ask. snip.. >2) Any idea where we can get a good (cheap) price on recycled plastic >household recyling bins? We need about 500 to begin with.

There are several established curbside programs in this area that used to use stacking plastic crates and have recently upgraded to carts for larger capacity and semi-automated loading into the truck. Seems this switch must free up lots of used crates that some other program could use. You will want to find one close to home to reduce transportation costs.

>>>=========================================================<<< Jeffrey Smedberg, County of Santa Cruz Public Works, CA USA Internet: Voice (408)454-2373 Fax (408)454-2385


Date: Fri, 6 Jun 1997 11:03:22 +0200 From: Bujatti Wolfgang <> Subject: Request for C&D data

Info about Construction and Demoliton Waste in Austria/EU can be accessed at: (GIF-picture with annual amount of waste)

or from the appropriate part of the Austria Federal Management Plan at:

Result: 35.5 million tonnes (non-hazards, not domestic) per year (1995) of which *about 61.7 % is construction and demolition waste (22.3 Mio.t), *about 6.5 % is waste from water purification, sewage treatment and water utilization *about 9.8 % is timber waste and *about 22 % are other non-hazardous wastes.

##################################################################### # Mag. Wolfgang Bujatti # Federal Ministry of Environment, Y. & F. of Austria # HOME: Zieglergasse 8/5, A-1070 Vienna - Tel: +43/1/52 68 961 # OFFICE: Stubenabstei 5, A-1010 Vienna - # # Tel:+43/1/515 22/3517 Fax:+43/1/515 22/7502 or 7333 # WASTE: # # (Subscribe WASTE your@email-address) # news:sci.environment.waste # news:gov-us.topic.environment.waste ( #####################################################################

>---------- >Von: eddy[] >Gesendet: Mittwoch, 28. Mai 1997 19:37 >An: Electronic Postmaster >Cc:;; >Betreff: Request for C&D data > >> Dear Listmembers, >> I am doing the research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's >> constructing management dept. >> >> This research is to predict the "Annual tonnage of Construction >> and Demoliton Waste". In order to develop the predicting model to forecast >> the tonnage, we need a great number of data sets to put into the model. >> >> The only problem of our research right now is we have not got enough >> number of "Annual Tonnage of C&D waste". >> >> If anyone knows or has the access to such data in your area, pls kindly >> provide us at the address below. In providing the data,pls also tell >> us what area the data are collected from, so we could match them with >> the right predicting demographic variables. Also these data do not need >> to be from the US only, they could be from anywhere the world >> >> Should there be any question, pls let me know any time either by phone or >> email appearing below. >> >> Thank you very much for your invaluable help. >> >> Eddy >> >> ********************************************************************* >> Akapop Nimmannit (Eddy) >> M.S Construction Engineering and management >> HOME ADDRESS : 5002 SHEBOYGAN AVE. #328, >> MADISON ,WISCONSIN 53705, >> USA >> >> TEL. : 608-278-1925 >> EMAIL : >> >> ********************************************************************* >> >> >> > >********************************************************************* > >HOME ADDRESS : 5002 SHEBOYGAN AVE. #328, > MADISON ,WISCONSIN 53705, > USA > >TEL. : 608-278-1925 >EMAIL : > >********************************************************************* > >


Date: Thu, 5 Jun 1997 08:13:43 -0600 From: "John Reindl 608-267-8815" <> Subject: toxics from burning wire insulation

Hi Greg and others -

The wire is being burned to remove the insulation, since the scrap dealers pay about 35 cents a pound for bare wire and 9 cents a pound for wire with insulation.

It is not a large quantity that is being burned -- like you say, it's pounds and pounds.

Thinking more about what is happening in our yards (the area of death has spread about 15-20 feet this year already), I think it may be from another cause than the ash from the burning of wire.

I have two reasons for thinking this. One, in talking about this more with my neighbor (who, by the way is a Forest Products Lab researcher working on recycling issues around the world), he has been burning the insulation off wire for many years, and the problem of our plants dying just started last year.

Second, the materials that people have told me about that could be in the ash (lead from PVC plastic, copper from the wire, possibly dioxins) tend to be immobile in the soil or not cause outright killing of plants.

So, there either has to be something else going on chemically, or some other material that is causing our vegetation to die. Perhaps, for example, the akalinity of all the various ashes us killing the plants by adding high levels of salt to the soil.

However, one thing has been told to me time and time again (although without any backup data) -- the burning of the insulation is said to produce very toxic fumes (such as dioxins and HCl), and should be stopped.

Any leads on this problem would be greatly appreciated.

John Reindl Madison, WI

> > How much insulation was this guy burning? If he had enough to fertilize > plants with, this sounds like he's burning pounds and pounds of wire. > Why would anyone need to strip that much wire? > > Greg Westin > > > >This is somewhat a personal issue. My neighbor has been burning the > >insulation off copper wire in his fireplace and then putting the ash on > >the the soil in the back of his property. Unfortunately, everything > >(his lilac bushes, my grass) has died downhill from where he put the > >ash. > > > >When I talked to my state environmental agency about this, they went > >nuts, saying that I needed to give them my neighbor's name and address, > >that they had to take enforcement action against him, that burning the > >insulation releases very toxic fumes (including PCBs), and that the ash > >was extremely toxic and that the soil would have to be removed and > >taken to a toxic waste site, etc, etc. > (608)267-1533 - fax (608)267-8815 - phone


End of GreenYes Digest V97 #131 ******************************