September 1, 2008
The EPA's Mission is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment--air, water, and land--upon which life depends. Nationwide people exposed to land applied sewage sludge have tried to get the US-EPA to investigate or even listen to community adverse health complaints. To date, none of the health complaints from land applied sewage sludge have been tracked, compiled or investigated.
The agency has not brought in the CDC or the US DHHS for assistance. This is a direct violation of the EPA Mission Statement. August 21, 2003, our community filed a formal complaint with the US-EPA. A month later I tried to discuss the matter with the Region 4 Enforcement Office in Atlanta. Mr. Fox would not discuss our health problems. His solution was to send a hydrologist to get a sample of my well water for nitrates. When I explained that I had the test done two weeks before and had results under the level of concern, the hydrologist came anyway. The hydrologist refused to test the two surface waters around our property for nitrates because that was not his job.
Calls to the EPA Office in Washington, DC resulted in "nobody is assigned" to discuss health problems from biosolids. NC DHHS offered no assistance because the "EPA said the process was safe." The county health department has no authority of enforcement or review of the land application program and again we were tolld, "the EPA says it is safe."
Visits from Synagro Technologies and the municipality generating the sludge intimated that we were not really sick, but had an adverse and psychological reaction to odors. The odors were noxious, but I have not found any scientific evidence that odors cause high Staphylococcal infections, necrotizing fasciitis, babies with chronic sinusitus, increased incidents of Streptococci infections, increased rates of Hypothyroidsm including juvenile Hashimoto's thyroiditis, respiratory distress, two incidents of hives after outdoor exposure with one resulting in anaphylaxis, burning eyes, skin rash on any exposed skin during land applications, headaches, high incidents of atypical pneumonia or community acquired pneumonia.
Consultation with lifetime community members have resulted in disturbing data regarding the cancer prevelence in this community. Forty-eight (48) homes are sited near the sludge applied farms and there have been thirty-two (32) deaths by cancer within the last five years. Currently we have seven (7) more active cancer cases. This house count only involved those near the perimeter of the land application sites.
This small rural community is at least 10 miles from major highways, industry and cities. Seven farms in 2003 applied sewage sludge and now only three continue the applications. Sludge has been spread in our area since 1991 and millions of gallons of sludge and waste water is applied to clay farmland and pastures each year.
Four tributaries go through sludge appliied farmland to supply the 700 acre Cane Creek Reservoir with water for Chapel Hill, NC. The creek and tributary water is seldom tested going into the reservoir and the farmers refuse to allow testing of creek or trubutary waters or silt from the surface waters running through their sludge applied fields.
I have an inoperable brain tumor, and Giant Cell Arteritis or swelling of brain arteries which has caused temporary blindness or if it continues, permanent blindness from damage to the optic nerves. Physicians have stated they "think" I have developed a sensitivity to some chemical(s) in the sewage sludge because my condition becomes more severe with each application. My next door neighbor is 42 and he had a brain tumor and lung tumor removed in March. Now he has two more tumors in his spinal cord and it is inoperable. His suvival rate is less than 20%. The neighbor on the other side of me has been in the hospital since February 2008. They just removed her leg--not from diabetes, but because she has been unable to get out of bed since surgery in February at Duke to remove dead (necrotizing fasciitis and MRSA) tissues in an attempt to close a surgical incision done September 2006. She will never be able to return return home.
Do we know that sludge is the cause of all the health problems in an area without industry, heavy traffic, or other environmental pollutants? No. Does the EPA know that the sludge applications did not contribute to and/or cause these abnormally high and deadly health problems? No. In the Preamble to the 40 CFR Part 503 in 1993, the EPA promised to complete studies including human health evaluations from exposure to land applied sewage sludge and to substantiate the doubtful scientific basis for the 503 plan within five years. To date, none of the studies have been done. The EPA has become a "partner" with the industry it was to regulate. The industry controls this section of the EPA. Millions of taxpayer dollars have gone directly to the industry controlled Water Environment Research Foundation for "research." However, human health and safety research has not been a priority for the EPA nor any other federal regulatory agency.
The only research produced so far regarding human health has been "for hire" scientists funded by the sludge industry. Human life and health are America's greatest assets. How can we continue to allow the EPA to violate its mission and avoid responsibility for a program that would not stand up to any rigorous standards today? Not only are rural communities at risk, but the entire food chain with ongoing contamination from using sewage sludge on the fields to using reclaimed water for irrigation causing illnesses and deaths.
Unless the EPA, USDA, FDA and other federal agencies are split into administrative and enforcement divisions, this will continue. Now the enforcement is based on "discretion" rather than the law. If the enforcement divisions were under Congressional oversight and control, perhaps industries would no longer control the US federal programs and human health would once again become a priority.
Nancy Holt, Mebane NC