GreenYes Digest V97 #204

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GreenYes Digest Fri, 22 Aug 97 Volume 97 : Issue 204

Today's Topics:
[Fwd: Rachel #560: A New U.S. Waste Strategy Emerges, Part 1]
FW: McTrash
Robin's TEXAS aplogy and sense of humor....
Suggested Coke Actions
TEXAS and America Recycles (McDonald's) Day
TV interview

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Problems you can't solve otherwise to

Date: Thu, 21 Aug 1997 06:57:41 -0500
From: "Susan K. Snow" <>
Subject: [Fwd: Rachel #560: A New U.S. Waste Strategy Emerges, Part 1]

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New waste strategies are putting the poisons in everyone's backyard. We
must alter our purchasing habits and buy or make less toxic products.
It's the only way we can save our children's future and life on earth.
Susan Snow

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Subject: Rachel #560: A New U.S. Waste Strategy Emerges, Part 1
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A new strategy for disposal of hazardous materials is emerging in
the U.S. After years of unsuccessful efforts to gain public
acceptance of waste disposal in the oceans, in landfills, and in
incinerators, frustrated environmental officials at the federal
and state levels now advocate spreading hazardous materials onto
and into the land, essentially dispersing dangerous toxins into
the environment, leaving no fingerprints.

Typical projects include these:

** For several years, New Jersey Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) has been using monies earmarked for "recycling"
to run experiments placing toxic incinerator ash in road beds.
In June of 1996, the research entered the real world when toxic
ash from the Warren County, N.J., municipal trash incinerator was
mixed with asphalt and spread onto the streets of Elizabeth,
N.J., a major city. The "ash recycling" operation took place in
the dead of night, but local activists managed to videotape
it.[1] New Jersey DEP officials defended the operation, saying
it was completely safe and exempt from all state and federal
waste management laws because it was termed "recycling."[2]

** The phosphate fertilizer industry is lobbying U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for permission to spread
radioactively-contaminated phosphogypsum onto roadbeds, or to use
it as a fertilizer. Phosphogypsum is a waste product of
phosphate mining, principally in Florida. By the year 2000, some
870 million cubic meters (30.7 billion cubic feet) of radioactive
phosphogypsum waste will be piled up, awaiting disposition.
Phosphogypsum contains 30 picoCuries of radium per gram. Radium
has a half-life of 1600 years. The phosphate fertilizer industry
proposes to hide this radioactive material beneath roadways. The
amount of phosphogypsum available in the year 2000 would require
1.3 million kilometers (807,000 miles) of highway --about
one-fifth of all the roadways under state and federal control in
the U.S. Radioactive waste consultant Marvin Resnikoff says such
a program would be a "major public health disaster" because it
could cause thousands of cancers among unsuspecting citizens.[3]

** U.S. EPA is actively promoting the "beneficial use" of sewage
sludge contaminated with industrial toxins. "Beneficial use"
includes ploughing contaminated sludge into soil as fertilizer
for crops intended for animal feed and for human food. Many such
projects are under way across the country, to the dismay of local
citizens concerned about the accumulation of toxic materials in
the nation's agricultural soils.

In 1990, EPA wrote, "The Agency will continue to enthusiastically
promote and encourage the recovery and reuse of sludge wherever
its safe environmental use is possible."[4,pgs.47254-47255] To
assure the public that almost any sewage sludge poured on crops
is "safe," EPA has made exceptionally creative use of risk

Sewage sludge is the mud-like material that remains after
bacteria have digested the human wastes that flow from your
toilet into your local sewage treatment plant. If human wastes
were the only thing entering the sewage treatment plant, then
sewage sludge would contain only nutrients and should undoubtedly
be returned to the land.

Unfortunately, most sewage treatment plants receive industrial
toxic wastes, which are then mixed with the human wastes,
creating a pernicious mixture of nutrients and industrial
poisons. Furthermore, many American cities have sewage systems
that mix storm water runoff with the regular sewage; every time a
rain storm scours these cities' streets, additional toxins are
added to the sewage sludge.

U.S. industry currently uses roughly 70,000 different chemicals.
Any of these may be found in sewage sludge, depending upon what
chemicals local industries and households are using. In 1988,
EPA sampled sludge from 180 sewage treatment plants, but they
only looked for 409 chemicals, without sampling for the roughly
69,600 others that they might have looked for. The "detection
limits" for many organic chemicals were set so high that few were
detected even though many were doubtless present.[5] Of the
original 409, EPA narrowed the list to only 28, which were
labeled "of concern," ignoring the other 381. From that list of
28, EPA then picked 10 metals that they would regulate: arsenic,
cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel,
selenium, and zinc.

Sewage sludge regulations --known as the Clean Water Act Part 503
regulations --were published in the FEDERAL REGISTER February 19,
1993.[6] The regulations were based on a
"comprehensive"[4,pg.47252] risk assessment of a "highly exposed
individual."[4,pg.47249] In other words, EPA asked how much of
each of the 10 pollutants a highly-exposed individual would be
exposed to in various scenarios. If their risk assessment showed
that this individual would not be harmed by a particular level of
pollutants, EPA declared that level safe.

There are several serious flaws in such a procedure. First, no
risk assessment is ever "comprehensive" (especially not one based
on only 10 out of 70,000 possible chemicals) and to label it such
is misleading. Tomorrow's science will very likely prove today's
science wrong, so no risk assessment is ever "comprehensive."
Secondly, EPA assumed that the "highly exposed individual" did
not have any other exposures to toxins besides the exposures
created by the sewage sludge. Clearly, this is a false
assumption because each of us is exposed to tobacco smoke,
automobile exhaust, pharmaceutical preparations, pesticides, and
a host of other pollutants in our daily air, water, and food.

Third, and most importantly, concern for the "highly exposed
individual" omits the major category of dangers inherent in
"beneficial use" of sewage sludge: the slow but steady buildup of
toxins in soils and in food-chains that begin in the soils (such
as earthworms or insects to birds).[7] As Robert Goodland of the
World Bank and waste consultant Abby Rockefeller have recently
written, "Land application [of sludge] was implemented in Sweden
in the early 1980s with disastrous results, which to date the
U.S. EPA seems to be ignoring. Such a practice must lead to
accumulation in living tissues of heavy metals and persistent
organic chemicals: first they accumulate in the soil, then in
decomposer microbes and soil-conditioning invertebrates. Other
life forms are damaged as thousands of non-biocompatible
substances move up the food chain. The toxic effect on crops, as
well as on the consumers of such crops, is buying risks for the
future."[8] It has been shown, for example, that sewage sludge
applied to soils can increase the dioxin intake of humans eating
beef (or cow's milk) produced from those soils.[9]

The fundamental problem with sewage sludge is that its four main
categories of potential pollutants --nutrients, pathogens, toxic
organics, and heavy metals --behave differently and cannot all be
managed by any single kind of treatment.[8] The goal of "safe
management" of such a complex toxic mixture simply cannot be met
at any reasonable cost. Ploughing it into cropland doesn't
change that fact.

** In Pennsylvania, state environmental officials are promoting
the "beneficial use" of coal ash and incinerator ash as a soil
amendment, to rehabilitate coal mines and strip-mined lands.[10]
A private firm, Beneficial Ash Management, in Morrisdale, Pa.,
reportedly supplies the ash, which it gets from "power plants,
mid-sized industries, and paper manufacturers." Professor Barry
Sheetz of Pennsylvania State University, funded by U.S. EPA, is
providing the engineering know-how to harden the toxic ash into a
cement-like material, which is then placed in mines and onto
strip-mined land. The cement-like material is then covered with
"synthetic soil" and left. Professor Sheetz says he hopes this
provides a permanent solution to the problem of acid mine
drainage. More likely, it promises to provide a cheap, permanent
solution for toxic wastes generated by coal-burning power plants
and incinerators as far flung as the American Ref-Fuel
incinerator in Essex County, N.J.; International Paper Company's
plants in Erie, and Lock Haven, Pa.; and the Tobyhanna (Pa.) Army
Depot, saving each of these facilities large sums of money that
would otherwise be spent on toxic waste disposal, and absolving
them of liability because their wastes will never again be
identifiable or traceable.

** In Washington state, the SEATTLE TIMES recently published a
series titled "Fear in the Fields," which documented the
disposal, nationwide, of industrial wastes on farmers' fields as
"fertilizer." The TIMES reported, "Manufacturing industries are
disposing of hazardous wastes by turning them into fertilizer to
spread around farms. And they're doing it legally...."

The TIMES gave this typical example:

"A dark powder from two Oregon steel mills is poured from rail
cars into the top of silos attached to Bay Zinc Co. under a
federal permit to store hazardous waste. "The powder, a toxic
by-product of the steel making process is taken out of the bottom
of the silos as a raw material for fertilizer.

"'When it goes into our silo, it's a hazardous waste,' said Bay
Zinc President Dick Camp. 'When it comes out of the silo, it's no
longer regulated. The exact same material. Don't ask me why.
That's the wisdom of the EPA.'"[11]
--Peter Montague
(National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)

[1] Sandy Lovell, "Environmentalists fume as incinerator ash
pavers strike in the dead of night," NEWARK STAR-LEDGER June 21,
1996, pg. 39.

[2] Maryann Spoto, "Judge delays ruling on paving Elizabeth roads
with incinerator ash," NEWARK STAR-LEDGER June 15, 1996, pg. 13.

[3] Garry Lenton, "Runoff from old coal mines pollutes state's
streams; 2 PSU [Pennsylvania State University] Professors create
remedy to help separate rainwater, shafts," HARRISBURG PATRIOT
April 21, 1997, pg. A3. [4] Environmental Protection Agency, "40
CFR Part 503; National Sewage Sludge Survey; Availability of
Information and Data, and Anticipated Impacts on Proposed
Regulations; Proposed Rule," FEDERAL REGISTER November 9, 1990,
pgs. 47210-47283.

[5] R.D. Kuchenrither and S.I. McMillan, "Preview Analysis of
National Sludge Survey," BIOCYCLE (July 1990), pgs. 60-62.

[6] The "Part 503" sewage sludge regulations are available on
diskette from the National Technical Information Service [NTIS];
telephone 1-800-553-6847; purchase item No. PB93-500478INC;
price: $60.00.

[7] See, for example, J.G. Babish and others, ORGANIC TOXICANTS
[Special Report No. 42] (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University, 1981).
And see Thomas S. Davis and others, "Uptake of
Polychlorobiphenyls Present in Trace Amounts from Dried Municipal
Sewage Sludge Through an Old Field Ecosystem," BULLETIN OF

[8] Robert Goodland and Abby Rockefeller, "What is Environmental
Sustainability in Sanitation?" IETC'S INSIGHT [newsletter of the
United Nations Environment Programme, International Environmental
Technology Centre] Summer, 1996), pgs. 5-8. The International
Environmental Technology Centre can be reached at: UNEP-IETC,
2-1110 Ryokuchikoen, Tsurumi-ku, Osaka 538, Japan. Telephone:
(81-6) 915-4580; fax: (81-6) 915-0304; E-mail:; URL:

[9] Simon R. Wild and others, "The Influence of Sewage Sludge
Applications to Agricultural Land on Human Exposure to
Polychlorinated Dibenzo-P-dioxins (PCDDs) and -Furans (PCDFs),"
ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION Vol. 83 (1994), pgs. 357-369. And see:
Michael S. McLachlan and others, "A Study of the Influence of
Sewage Sludge Fertilization on the Concentrations of PCDD/F and
PCB in Soil and Milk," ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION Vol. 85 (1994),
pgs. 337-343.

[10] Personal communication with Marvin Resnikoff, Radioactive
Waste Management Associates, New York, New York; phone: (212)

[11] Duff Wilson, "Fear in the fields; how hazardous waste
becomes fertilizer," SEATTLE TIMES July 3, 1997, pgs. A1, A10.

Descriptor terms: hazardous waste disposal; land farming;
agriculture; dioxin; epa; regulation; sewage sludge; phosphate;
phosphogypsum; strip mine reclamation; acid mine drainage; pa;
nj; or; wa; msw; incineration; incinerator ash; part 503
regulations; clean water act; beneficial use; beneficial ash
management, inc.; barry sheetz; fertilizer; biosolids;

Environmental Research Foundation provides this electronic
version of RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY free of charge
even though it costs our organization considerable time and money
to produce it. We would like to continue to provide this service
free. You could help by making a tax-deductible contribution
(anything you can afford, whether $5.00 or $500.00). Please send
your tax-deductible contribution to: Environmental Research
Foundation, P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403-7036. Please do
not send credit card information via E-mail. For further
information about making tax-deductible contributions to E.R.F.
by credit card please phone us toll free at 1-888-2RACHEL.
--Peter Montague, Editor



Date: Thu, 21 Aug 1997 11:50:14 -0700
From: Robin Salsburg <>
Subject: FW: McTrash

Hopefully, this article will make up for my previous "mc-stake" in my
comment about Recycle America Day.

Robin Salsburg

Following an 8/19 decision by the German Federal
Administrative Court in Berlin, city councils in Germany may levy
taxes on fast-food chains as a means of reducing trash caused by
packaging. The court ruled in favor of the city of Kassel, which
in 1992 imposed about a 25-cent tax for fast-food restaurants on
each disposable item made from synthetic material. McDonald's
and other outlets had challenged the decision, saying that only
the federal government and not local councils could raise taxes
(Judy Dempsey, FIN. TIMES, 8/20-21). "There is no need for
further legal authority when the primary aim of the tax is to
reduce rubbish," ruled the Berlin high court. German Environment
Minister Klaus Toepfer said on 8/21 that he was "very pleased"
with the verdict" (Anna Tomforde, London GUARDIAN, 8/22). He
said he plans to investigate whether a fast-food packaging tax
should be imposed nationwide to prevent a "patchwork" system in
which some counties raise the tax and others do not (FRANKFURTER


Date: Thu, 21 Aug 1997 12:57:58 -0700
From: "Adams, Jesse" <>
Subject: Robin's TEXAS aplogy and sense of humor....


Sending this via the list also since I am getting returns from your

Got your note about "Messing With Texas". You have a great sense of
humor! Cultivate it, as it will serve you well when dealing with
insurmountable problems, frustratingly slow solutions....and riled up



Date: Thu, 21 Aug 1997 12:27:09 -0400
Subject: subscribe



Date: Fri, 22 Aug 1997 17:44:21 +0900
From: (Hop)
Subject: Suggested Coke Actions

Hi Alicia,

How are your plans going for Eco-Action week?

A few ideas came to mind as I read your e-mail. They are actions that have
worked well (ie. participation, media attention etc) in Australia and may
be appropriate for you to try:

1. Bottle washing! Remind Coke how easy it is to wash bottles. All you need
are a few empties, and a couple of buckets or tubs filled with water. Have
a petition &/or letter-writing stand nearby seeking laws to 'bring back

Such an action was undertaken by someone in Australian several years ago
(in the foyer of Coke's head office). Now he is a member of Parliament and
holds the balance of power!

2. Set-up your own deposit-refund stall for drinks sold on campus on a day
during Eco-Action week. This is a lot of fun and a lot easier to do than
you might first think. All you need do is arrange for a deposit (say 25c)to
be charged when someone buys a drink, and then you refund it at a nearby
stall when they return the empty! It'll cost you nothing, and if you have a
donation tin with some basic info about deposit-refund systems nearby
you'll end up filling it!

This type of action combines perfectly with some statistical analysis. All
you need do is keep track of how many drinks with deposits are sold, and
how many are returned for a refund. Experience says this will be from 80 to
95 percent - but it is good to calculate the rate you achieve and promote
the results to the world!

3. Coke Survey - to demonstrate support for refillables. Again, this is so
easy. Simply identify a soft-drink consumer (look from the tell-tail signs)
and ask them four simple questions requiring only a 'yes' or 'no' answer:
1. Are you a Coca-Cola drinker?
2. Do you think Coca-Cola should make their drinks
available in returnable refillable bottles?
3. Would you buy Coca-Cola in returnable refillable bottles?
4. If a deposit-refund system was introduced, would you
return your empty Coca-Cola container for a 20c refund?

When we conducted this survey in Australia we found that 90% of respondents
thought Coke should use returnable refillable bottles, and a similar number
would return empties for a 20c refund. Sixty two percent of those surveyed
were Coke consumers. Only 5% of existing Coke consumers would not buy Coke
in returnable refillable containers. However, more than 50% of
non-Coke-consumers would buy Coke if it were available in refillable

Good luck with Eco-Action week. Let me know if you decide to pursue any of
the above suggestions - I may be able to help you further with more
specific information.


>At Tulane we are holding an Eco-Action week. The main part about this
>is that we are collecting plastic Coke bottles and sending them back to
>Coke with the general message: use recycled plastic in your bottles, live
>up to your promise, have producer responsibility.
>We have some great plans and I will send them to you shortly. I just
>wanted to let you know that we are doing something to get coke's
>Do you know any Universities in your area that would be intereted in doing
>something similiar?
>Alicia Lyttle
>Chair:Tulane Recycles
>Steering Committee: GRRN


Date: Thu, 21 Aug 1997 11:44:20 -0700
From: Robin Salsburg <>
Subject: TEXAS and America Recycles (McDonald's) Day

No, Jesse, never heard of the "Don't mess with Texas" campaign. But =
believe me, after the flack I've received from my comment, I WON'T mess =
with Texas again. :-) My apologies to all those in the Lone Star State.


From: Adams, Jesse[]
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 1997 4:09 PM
To: 'Robin Salsburg';; 'Hop'
Subject: TEXAS and America Recycles (McDonald's) Day

>>>And apparently this Recycle Day originated in Texas. Now not
to slam Texas or anything, but I didn't realize they had very active or
innovative recycling programs there.<<<


Never heard of the "Don't Mess With Texas" campaign?? You must lead a
sheltered existence down there on the beach....;-)



Date: Thu, 21 Aug 97 00:12:17 PST
Subject: TV interview

I was recently interviewed by a media firm in Washington DC on the topic of
interstate waste, especially New York waste. They were especially interested
in why landfills were not a good option, and to what extent there could be
more composting. I wanted to get in some licks against Congressman Tom
Bliley, Commmerce Committee Chairman who is sitting on the Interstate Waste
bill. I was told that the following stations would run something on the
indicated dates. Since I won't see them, I would be interested in the quality
of the final product, especiallly if they include any mention of Bliley.

Rockford, IL, WIFR-TV, Channel 23, Aug 22

Topeka, Kansas, KSNT, Channel 27, Aug 25 or 26

New York City, Channel 10, Aug 30 or 31

Roger Diedrich
Fairfax, VA


End of GreenYes Digest V97 #204