Sludge News

Maine takes the lead as the first state in the nation to ban the land application of sewage sludge and sludge-derived compost.

Good information for farmers from Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners

The disposal of sewage sludge (aka "biosolids") on land has been promoted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1993. Millions of tons of hazardous sewage sludge have subsequently been spread on agricultural land and forests by corporate waste haulers and used as a soil amendment or fertilizer by landscapers and homeowners. This practice is a health and environmental disaster.

Sewage sludge is a byproduct of wastewater treatment. It serves as a sink for chemicals that bind to solids. These chemicals include flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, and PFAS.

The EPA is required to identify and regulate toxic chemicals in municipal sewage sludge. The last sludge survey made by the agency was in 2009. The EPA chose to analyze 231 chemicals of emerging concern, of which 123 were detected, including per and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), so-called "forever chemicals," which persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in humans and animals. They have been associated with serious health effects in humans, including developmental and reproductive toxicity, ulcerative colitis, and cancer.

In November of 2018, the EPA's own Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report that concluded that the EPA is "unable to assess the impact of hundreds of unregulated pollutants in land-applied biosolids on human health and the environment."

We must ban the land spreading of sewage sludge in every state to end the systematic contamination of soil and water from the toxicants that are always found in it.

The Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter published a report in June 2023 with excellent policy recommendations. Another important document, Fatal Fertilizer: PFAS Contamination of Farmland from Biosolids and Potential Federal Solutions, that outlines policy recommendations can be found here.