PA Legislative Fact Sheets Available - PWEA Biosolids Committee and Mid Atlantic Biosolids Association respond to legislative activity.
In the previous issue of the "Water Quality Manager," Biosolids Corner described how biosolids managers were collaborating on public outreach efforts. PWEA's Biosolids Committee and the Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association (MABA) were attending concerned citizens meetings and proactively meeting with the media to counteract misinformation that was being distributed by the United Sludge Free Alliance (USFA). Since May, USFA held several public screenings of the film, "Sludge Diet". These viewings were held at various locations throughout Berks County. Several Biosolids Committee members attended these viewings and reported the video contained a wealth of misleading information and was designed to generate an emotional response.
USFA held another "sludge seminar" on June 13th, 2009 at Kutztown University. The first speaker was Representative David Kessler. Fortunately, biosolids committee members met him in the parking lot and spoke to him about the importance of biosolids land application. As a result, he did not say anything negative about land application. He focused on waste-to-energy issues, biofuels, soybeans to ethanol, organic farming and how wastewater treatment plants can use methane from anaerobic digesters to create heat and electricity. Kessler promised to hold a hearing in July on waste-to-energy in Harrisburg. This hearing did not take place.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Caroline Snyder, a retired professor from New Hampshire had some interesting things to say —although much was not actually true. The following are some quotables from her talk. Keep in mind, as you read these, that USFA is using these statements to convince our legislators to pass unnecessarily stringent legislation, and our local communities to pass restrictive land application ordinances.
· "The Sierra Club is financing $200,000 to oppose the land application of sewage sludge. They created a group that focuses on sewage sludge called; Citizens for Sludge Free Land. The Sierra Club does not want any more studies to go underway; they feel that there is enough information to ban this practice."
· Snyder claims EPA hired a Public Relations firm to deceive the public about sewage sludge. They named the sludge biosolids to give it a better name.
· "University of Georgia is collecting scientific evidence documenting deaths caused by sewage sludge and explaining how these illnesses happen."
· "Pretreatment is not enforced. Endocrine disruptors are found in sludge in parts per billion. This results in feminized fish. This is linked to wastewater treatment plant effluent."
· "Testing sludge is important because 80% of waste water is from highly industrialized urban areas."
· "The sewage sludge industry tries not to document adverse impacts. Scientists that do document adverse impacts get maligned."
· "Exceptional Quality (EQ) sewage sludge is a verbal detoxification. It is much worse because it is not regulated. Class A does not have a lot of nitrogen but it has the same metals. Pathogens are more robust in EQ sludge and can re-grow. You can put down three to five times more an acre anytime and anywhere. There is no tracking and it is sold in hardware stores. EQ saves wastewater treatment plants a lot of money and there is no waiting period between harvesting and grazing animals. Watch out for EQ sludge."
· "Penn State was once in the forefront of research when Doctor Baker was there. Now that Penn State has been bought off by the sewage sludge industry, they are not doing honest research. Greg Evanylo at Virginia Tech, the University of Arizona, and the University of Washington have all been bought off. Also, the studies they conduct do not have the right focus. They are not looking for problems. The University of New Hampshire has done honest research. When I ask Penn State about sewage sludge, I get the brush-off. This is because biosolids contractors funded all of their research."
So there you have it. Just some examples of the misinformation being broadcast to the farming community, the media and most recently, our state legislators and local elected officials.
PADEP is planning to revise the land application regulations. This process will require the ‘opening’ of the regulations for public comment. Undoubtedly there will be some citizens who will assert pressure through this process to severely restrict the options of wastewater treatment plants to manage its biosolids. This includes recycling through land application and possibly even land filling. We need to position ourselves as a credible group of advocates to balance the onslaught of comments from those who will be asking PADEP to make its regulations unnecessarily stringent.
The Biosolids Committee has been holding weekly conference calls to strategize on the issue. The MABA executive director, Michael Wardell and PMAA representative, Pete Slack, have also been involved. Representative Bud George planned a legislative hearing about proposed anti-biosolids House Bill 1341 for July 29. HB1341 is an anti-biosolids bill that would have significant ramifications to wastewater treatment plants and their ratepayers. The hearing was postponed. However, before that occurred the Biosolids Committee offered to provide speakers and was told there is no more room for additional speakers. The hearing was postponed due to the state's budget negotiations. In preparation for the next hearing date, letters have been drafted to the legislators from PWEA by Alison Shuler, President, from MABA by Bill Toffey, Herschel Elliot, PhD, Penn State and the scientific community, and from ALCOSAN.
It is important that we speak with one voice and emphasize the most important issues. HB 1341 is unlikely to be withdrawn. The biosolids community is preparing a series of key messages and talking points for use by biosolids generators and contractors to use in meetings with their respective legislative representatives. It is important to begin establishing contact with your legislator and provide them accurate, sound scientific-based messages regarding the generation and recycling of biosolids.
MABA developed legislative fact sheets about biosolids to distribute to the legislators. If you would like a copy of this packet and guidance on how to approach your legislators call MABA Executive Director, Michael Wardell at (845) 901-7905 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in joining the PWEA Biosolids Committee contact Chairperson, Stefan Weaver at email@example.com.
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