A survey conducted by the German Emnid polling institute found that 79% of Germans reject the installation of wind turbines in forests. That’s the result of a survey commissioned by the Deutschen Wildtier Stiftung (German Wildlife Foundation).
Not only are there plans to disfigure and destroy forest regions in Germany, it is already a sad reality in Vermont (New England). Here an aerial photo of a portion of the Lowell Mountain wind park shows how the once natural mountain was blasted with dynamite and forests cleared and industrialized. Photo: courtesy of Daniel F.
When asked if they agreed with the statement: “For the construction of more wind energy, in general no forest areas should disappear or be cut down.”, 79 percent replied with: “I agree!” Only 11% agreed with: “for additional wind parks also forest areas should be cleared away or cut down.” The Emnid Institute survey also determined that the public’s interest in the issue of wind parks in forests is very high. Only 8% said that the issue did not interest them.
For the Deutsche Wildtier Stiftung, the Emind results prove that a large majority of the German population reject wind parks in forests. “Wind power at any cost must not be the result of the Engergiewende,” emphasized Prof. Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt, Chairman of the German Wildlife Foundation. “The citizens of Germany do not want forests to become the victims of a one-dimensional climate policy.“ People think it is important to keep forests and biodiversity intact. Even 65% of those responding said: “In the case of any doubt, the construction of wind turbines must yield to the protection of birds and other animals”.
The thoughtless construction of wind energy in the forest is a serious threat. “Opening up forests to allow wind parks leads to the endangerment of rare species,” Prof. Dr. Vahrenholt criticized. Every year in Germany up to 240,000 bats are killed by wind turbine rotors. Although they are able to dodge the moving rotors, the negative pressure in the rotor’s wake causes the bats’ lungs to burst. Most of the domestic bats are on the endangered species list.
Bird species like the rare lesser spotted eagle, the red kite and the black stork are especially sensitive to turbines. For example half of the breeding population of the black stork disappeared in just 6 years at the Vogelsberg site in the state of Hesse after 125 wind turbines were constructed. Many predatory birds die in collisions with rotors.
“So far only the state of Saxony Anhalt has opted not to allow wind parks in forests,” says Prof. Vahrenholt. In German states with large forest areas, such as Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine Westphalia, Hesse and Brandenburg, there are already decrees to allow the construction of wind parks despite regional resistance to them,” said Vahrenholt.
Moreover Emnid found that among those surveyed, wind energy in forests is not a matter of personal preference, but one of a greater good – namely forest as a space for life. On the question: “Would you feel disturbed about wind turbines in the forest?”, 43% answered with “yes”.
There’s a massive spike in cancer cases in Argentina that is strongly associated with glyphosate-based herbicides. These herbicides are a huge earner for agribusiness. But don’t worry, Patrick Moore says you can drink a whole quart and it won’t harm you. Who needs independent testing? He says people regularly try to commit suicide with it but fail. They survived – just. So what’s the problem? Perfectly safe. Patrick Moore says he is ‘not an idiot’. So he must be right. Right?
Anyway, all that scare mongering about GMOs and glyphosate is a conspiracy by a bunch of whinging lavishly funded green-blob types. Former UK environment minister Owen Paterson said as much. He says those self-serving anti-GMO people are damaging the interests of the poor and are profiting handsomely. They are condemning “billions” to lives of poverty.
He voted for the illegal invasion of Iraq, which has led to the death of almost 1.5 million Iraqis. His government has plunged millions into poverty and food insecurity in the UK. He now wants to help the poor by giving them GM courtesy of self-interested, corporations and their lavishly paid executives. What was that about self-serving, lavishly funded groups? As a staunch believer in doublespeak, hypocrisy and baseless claims by self-appointed humanitarians with awful track records, Paterson’s sound-bite smears and speeches are good enough for me.
So with that cleared up, hopefully we can move on.
Then there’s all that ‘anti-capitalist twaddle’ (another pearl of wisdom from Patrick Moore) about smallholders being driven from their lands and into poverty due to a corporate takeover aimed at expanding (GM) chemical-intensive agriculture. I showed Mr Moore a paper by an economics professor who had studied the devastation caused by the above in Ethiopia. That’s where the ‘anti-capitalist twaddle’ retort came in. As I’m also a staunch believer in the power of baseless, ill-informed abuse, I was once again convinced.
What about all that rubbish about GM not having enhanced the world’s ability to feed itself? You know, all that stuff about the way it has been used has merely led to greater food insecurity. Nonsense. I watched a prime-time BBC programme recently. Some scientist in a white coat in a lab said that GM can feed the world. He’d proved it in his lab. In reality (not in a lab), the fact it hasn’t done anything of the sort over the past 20-odd years doesn’t matter. He wore a white coat and held GM patents, so he definitely knows best!
I once read that industrialised agriculture is less productively efficient than smallholder agriculture that feeds most of the world. And then I read that the world can feed itself without GMOs. According to all of this, it is current policies and the global system of food production that militate against achieving global food security.
That’s just a big old load of rubbish put together by a bunch of conspiracy mongers. Who are these people? Food and trade policy analysts, political scientists, economics professors and the like. A bunch of whining anti-capitalist promoters of twaddle. None of them have studied molecular biology so how can they possibly be qualified to talk on this? I’d rather listen to a man in a lab who says GM can feed the world. He’s much more qualified to speak on politics, trade, the environment or anthropology than a bunch of lefties who don’t know one side of a petri dish from the other.
I happen to believe a profitable techno-fix is the way to go. A techno-fix that comes courtesy of the same companies whose global influence and power are helping to destroy indigenous agriculture across the world. But this is for the good of the traditional smallholder because these companies really, really care about the poor. Okay, okay, I know the top execs over at Monsanto are bringing in a massive annual cheque – but $12.4 million per year helps motivate a CEO to get out of bed in the morning and to develop empathy with the poor – unlike that elitist, self-serving green blob lot who rake in big money – according to hero-of-the-poor, the handsomely rewarded millionaire Owen Paterson… err, let’s swiftly move on.
To divert your attention away from all that scare mongering, conspiracy theory twaddle, I want you to concentrate solely on the science of GM and nothing else. But only on the version of ‘science’ as handed down from the great lawgiver in St Louis which creates it in its own image, not least by dodging any problematic questions that may have prevented GM from going on the market in the first place. Some troublemaker recently wrote a book about that, but someone said it wasn’t worth reading – so I didn’t bother (‘Altered Genes, Twisted…’ something or other – the word escapes me; it doesn’t appear in my lexicon).
So how about joining like-minded humanitarians and the handsomely-paid people over at big bioworld? We believe in mouthing platitudes about freedom and choice while serving interests that eradicate both. And let me add that scientists know that anyone who disagrees with them is just plain dim. C S Prakash recently posted a claim that implied such on Twitter. He’s a molecular biologist, so it must be true. Of course, there are scientists who disagree with us but they are quite clearly wrong – wrong methodology, wrong findings, wrong career turn – we’ll make sure of that!
In finishing, let me make the case for GM clear, based on logic and clear-headed rationality. There are those who are just too dim to understand any of the issues to do with GM so they should put up, shut up or go away and read or write about conspiracy theories on their blogs or in their peer-reviewed non-science journals that aren’t worth the paper they are written on given that the ‘peers’ in question are probably also a bunch of left-leaning wing nuts.
By comparison, unlike those self-serving ideologues, we are totally non-political. Okay, we might be firmly supporting a neoliberalism that is dominated by unaccountable big corporations which have captured policy-making space nationally and internationally, but any discussion of that is to be avoided by labelling those who raise such matters as politically motivated. We get you to focus on ‘the science’ – that is ‘our science’ – and nothing else. The fact that some of us tend to label anyone who disagrees with us as anti-science, anti-capitalist, socialists or enemies of the poor (or even ‘murdering bastards‘) says nothing at all about our political agenda.
And the lavish funds and powerful strategic position of big agribusiness means the pro-GMO lobby can smear, exert huge political influence and also restrict choice by preventing the labelling of GM food. You see, too much choice confuses people. We take the public for fools who will swallow anything – hopefully GMOs and our sound-bite deceptions.
So rests the case for GMOs. Eloquently put? I certainly think so. But I would say that, wouldn’t I? I’m paid to.
Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.
The Pasión River in northern Guatemala is a disaster area. Beginning on June 6, residents along the river in the municipality of Sayaxché, Peten, began to find millions of fish, their primary source of food and income, floating dead in the river. Community members quickly accused the Palm firm, Reforestadora de Palma del Peten, S.A (REPSA) of contaminating the river. Communities have called the pollution of their river an “ecocide.”
“Unfortunately, there has been a massive pollution of our river,” said Rigoberto Lima, a community representative from Sayaxché. “We need to put an end to the problem of palm in northern Guatemala.”
The Public Ministry of Guatemala initially declared a red alert on June 11; days after the fish first began to appear floating in the river. The Public Ministry initially confirmed that the disaster was caused by run off of the pesticide Malathion into the river, but in the weeks after, they would take back the accusations against the palm company.
However, these accusations were supported by a toxicological study preformed by University of San Carlos, which found elevated levels of the pesticide, and other agro-chemicals in the river. The report determined that the local palm industry was responsible for the contamination.
The contamination affects 106 kilometers of river, and 65 communities. These poor communities have all been forced to rely more and more on the river for their sustenance because of the expansion of palm in the region.
Communities have called on the government to perform an investigation into the pollution of the river.
Late in the evening of June 23, nearly 45 members of communities along the Pasión River arrived to Guatemala City to denounce the pollution of their river. Following a late afternoon press conference, the community members began a sit-in outside the offices of the Presidential Commission Against Discrimination and Racism in Guatemala City to condemn and repudiate the contamination of their river by the palm company. They also demanded that the company be temporarily shut down for threatening life, and that they be allowed to be involved in the investigation of what occurred in Pasión River in order to ensure transparency.
The following day, members of the Public Ministry visited the encampment. Community members expressed frustration at being treated with disrespect and contempt by the state and the firm.
Denial of Responsibility
On June 17, the company, the mayor of Sayaxché, and community members gathered in Guatemala City to sign a document stating that the company “was not responsible for the death of the fish,” and that there “was no ecocide.” In exchange for the signing of the document, the company agreed to provide the communities with water, the improvement of town streets, and the construction of wells.
The document also states that the company is committed to taking better care of the river, but they stress, “They are not the cause of the killing of fish.”
REPSA is a subsidiary of the powerful Grupo Olmeca, Guatemala’s largest palm oil producer, which is owned by the powerful Molina family. The conglomerate was the first to begin the production of African palm in the late 1980s, and today cultivates nearly 46,000 hectares of land in Escuintla, Ocós in San Marcos, and Coatepeque in Quetzaltenango, and Sayaxché.
Those affected by the pollution do not agree with this declaration.
This isn’t the first time that communities in Guatemala have accused the palm industry of polluting their rivers.
Communities in the Municipality Chisec, Alta Verapaz filled a complaint in the Guatemalan Public Ministry against the Ixcan Palm Company in 2013, for the contamination of their river. The following year, communities in Peten also filed a complaint in the Public Ministry against the pollution of their river. In both cases, the Pubic Ministry failed to investigate the contamination.
“This is not the first time that the fish have died in our rivers,” said Margarita, a representative from the Organization of Women of Alta Verpaz. “In 2013, there was massive death of fish in the rivers of northern Chisec. We have made denouncements against the palm firms in the region.”
The Public Ministry and Environmental ministry have called previous contaminations “accidents,” which have not resulted in new regulations.
The failure of the government ministries to respond to the concerns of the communities has increased frustrations with the expansion of palm across the FRANJA of Guatemala, which stretches from Huehuetenango in the west to Izabal in the east. These frustrations have led communities to demand that the government begin to regulate the industry, and end the expansion.
“The palm companies cannot keep expanding,” said Margarita. “They cannot continue to keep sowing, buying, and accumulating more land. We have demanded that the government put in place a law that caps the amount of land used for palm, and allows for us poor farmers to have access to land.”
Expansion of Palm Across Guatemala
The first palm plants were brought to Guatemala in the late 1980s and have since spread like a virus across Guatemala and Central America. The expansion was strengthened especially in the years after the signing of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which guaranteed multinational companies with security in their investments into sectors such as palm oil.
The fruit of the palm is a high-yielding oil plant, which has gained a significant importance in the processed food industry. Palm oil production has spread because of the increased demand in the United States and Europe as vegetable oil used in a wide range of products including soaps and waxes, as well as popular food products such as Nutella, and Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby Ice Cream. Increasingly the production has been promoted as a renewable biofuel, which has further brought people into the industry.
The bunches of palm oil berries, commonly called Racimos, contain roughly 2,300 berries, and are harvested by hand. From there they are loaded onto a truck, and taken to the processing plant.
The expansion has exasperated the crisis over land that has historically plagued the region; in Guatemala, 3 percent of the population owns nearly 85 percent of arable land.
According to statistics from the Guatemalan National Bank, production of palm oil has spread by nearly 270 percent since 2006. This expansion has been partially influenced by a campaign by the Guatemalan Ministry of the Economy to attract foreign direct investment. In 2011, the ‘Invest in Guatemala” campaign was launched, in which the ministry claims that “88 percent of fertile land is vacant.”
But as production of palm has expanded, small farmers have been pushed further and further to the margins.
“We need the fish,” said Juan Choy. “We are living without land. People are migrating to Mexico and the United States, and families are disintegrating. Where are we supposed to produce? There is no land. The cost of meat has skyrocketed, and our maize is coming from Mexico.”
Jeff Abbott is an independent journalist currently based out of Guatemala. He has covered human rights, social moments, and issues related to education, immigration, and land in the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala. Follow him on twitter @palabrasdeabajo
Fluoridation, Americans are told, is necessary for the prevention of tooth decay. We must drink it and we must give our children fluoridated water in order for everyone to have a healthy smile — or so we have been advised for the last 60 years.
A whopping 43 studies have linked fluoride ingestion with a reduction in IQ. A study out of the Harvard School of public Health concluded, “children in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-fluoride areas.”
Even more independent studies have linked the associated health risks of fluoride to interfering with the endocrine system and increasing the risk of impaired brain function; two studies in the last few months, for example, have linked fluoridation to ADHD and underactive thyroid.
Dozens more studies show the ineffectiveness of fluoride ingestion in preventing dental caries; they actually show an increase in dental fluorosis instead of a reduction in decay.
Approximately 1.2 grams of sodium fluoride will kill an adult human being. That was the low estimate that Dominic Smith ingested when he died from an overdose of fluoridated water at Hooper Bay, Alaska on May 23, 1992. Approximately 200 mg will kill a small child.
Approximately 72% of all water supplies in the United States have fluoride dumped into them
Most fluoride additives used in the United States are produced from phosphorite rock. Phosphorite is mainly used for manufacturing phosphate fertilizer. Phosphorite is refluxed (heated) with sulfuric acid to produce a phosphoric acid-gypsum (calcium sulfate-CaSO4) slurry.
The heating process releases hydrogen fluoride (HF) and silicon tetrafluoride (SiF4) gases, which are captured by vacuum evaporators. These gases are then condensed to a water-based solution of approximately 23% FSA.
Approximately 95% of FSA used for water fluoridation comes from this process. The remaining 5% of FSA is produced in manufacturing hydrogen fluoride or from the use of hydrogen fluoride to etch silicates and glasses when manufacturing solar panels and electronics.
In other words, instead of fertilizer and electronic companies paying to dispose of their wasteful byproducts in a responsible manner, they are given your tax dollars and this once toxic waste is magically transformed into a benefit for your teeth.
If the fact that fluoride lowers your IQ, is linked to ADHD, is an endocrine disrupter, is poisonous, is a hazardous bi-product of phosphate fertilizer production, and is being given to you without your consent, doesn’t get you riled up, then maybe the fact that the most highly regarded group of scientists in the world in assessing the effectiveness public health policies putting out a study showing that fluoridating the water supply “does not reduce cavities to a statistically significant degree in permanent teeth,” will help to change your mind.
“From the review, we’re unable to determine whether water fluoridation has an impact on caries levels in adults,” says study co-author Anne-Marie Glenny, a health science researcher at Manchester University in the United Kingdom.
According to Newsweek, the authors also found only two studies since 1975 that looked at the effectiveness of reducing cavities in baby teeth, and found fluoridation to have no statistically significant impact here, either.
“Frankly, this is pretty shocking,” says Thomas Zoeller, a scientist at UMass-Amherst uninvolved in the work. “This study does not support the use of fluoride in drinking water.” Trevor Sheldon concurred. Sheldon is the dean of the Hull York Medical School in the United Kingdom who led the advisory board that conducted a systematic review of water fluoridation in 2000, that came to similar conclusions as the Cochrane review. The lack of good evidence of effectiveness has shocked him. “I had assumed because of everything I’d heard that water fluoridation reduces cavities but I was completely amazed by the lack of evidence,” he says. “My prior view was completely reversed.”
There is no evidence supporting the purported benefits of fluoridating the water supply, but its use continues
This study is yet another blow to the unethical and immoral process of forcing individuals to consume a deadly product against their will.
The fact that fluoridation is still happening with the mounds of evidence against speaks to the incompetent nature of the state and the special interests lining their pockets in order to dump their toxic waste into the US water supply.
Even more upsetting, is the fact that when you tell people about the negative effects of consuming fluoride you are somehow labeled a conspiracy theorist; as if the mountain of evidence backing up your claims is non-existent.
Many people have no idea that their toothpaste has a poison warning!
They’ve ignored the Harvard study and the many like it, they’ve ignored the thousands of dental professionals who’ve come out against it, and they have ignored the unethical significance associated with mass medication without consent. Will the government and the naysayers finally come to their senses and stop ignoring this problem now that the Cochrane Collaboration, which is widely regarded as the gold standard of scientific rigor in assessing effectiveness of public health policies has confirmed that it’s pointless? We remain optimistic.
Glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, will finally undergo analysis for its effects on endangered species by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), thanks to the persistence of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).
The group has been trying for eight years to get the EPA to look at glyphosate, along with atrazine and two chemicals similar to atrazine: propazine and simazine. Glyphosate was found two months ago by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer to be a probable human carcinogen and was banned for sale in garden centers in France earlier this month.
“This settlement will finally force the EPA to consider the impacts of glyphosate—widely known as Roundup—which is the most commonly used pesticide in the United States, on endangered species nationwide,” said Brett Hartl, CBD’s endangered species policy director. “With more than 300 million pounds of this stuff being dumped on our landscape each year, it’s hard to even fathom the damage it’s doing.”
Roundup appears to be responsible for the 90% drop in the number of monarch butterflies in the United States. The butterflies feed on milkweed, which has been just about eliminated because of Roundup use in fields near butterflies’ habitats.
Monsanto spokesman Robb Fraley said Roundup meets standards set by regulatory and health authorities. However, the EPA hasn’t ever taken a close look at glyphosate’s effect on endangered species.
Atrazine chemically castrates frogs and may be linked to increased risks of thyroid cancer, reproductive harm and birth defects in humans, according to CBD. “The EPA should have banned this years ago,” Hartl said. Up to 80 million pounds of atrazine are used each year in the United States on corn, sugarcane and sorghum, as well as lawns and golf courses.
The EPA’s agreement is only the beginning of a long, slow process. The agency has agreed to complete its assessments by 2020.
To Learn More:
Big Win for Environmentalists Will Force EPA to Study Glyphosate (by Elizabeth Warmerdam, Courthouse News Service )
Settlement: EPA to Analyze Impacts of World’s Two Most Widely Used Pesticides on 1,500 Endangered Species (Center for Biological Diversity)
UN Report Links California’s Favorite Herbicide, Monsanto’s Roundup, to Cancer (by Ken Broder, AllGov California )
EPA Sued over Not Protecting Decimated Monarch Butterflies from Monsanto (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Ken Broder, AllGov California )
EPA Approves Rise in Glyphosate Residue for Monsanto’s Herbicide (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov )
Chemical waste produced by the laboratories of Ariel University, in the illegal West Bank settlement of the same name, threatens Palestinian agricultural land in Salfit, locals reported.
According to the locals, Ariel University pours its chemical waste into the settlement’s sewer network which runs into the agricultural lands owned by Palestinians in Selfit thus polluting the groundwater, soil and air.
Environmental researcher Khalid Al-Maaly said Ariel University does not take the environment in the surrounding areas into account when pouring hazardous materials into the land turning it into a dumping ground because the waste flows without treatment.
According to Al-Maaly, nearly 20,000 students are enrolled at the university.
He called on the environmental institutions to visit Salfit and witness the suffering caused by the university’s sewage.
Al-Maaly stressed that the presence of Ariel University on Selfit’s land is contrary to international law which considers this area occupied and therefore state institutions cannot be built on it.
Last month, Israeli authorities expanded the university’s campus by constructing new laboratories and student dorms over lands confiscated from Palestinians in Selfit.
US EPA’s 503 sludge rule (1993) allows treated sewage sludges, aka biosolids, to be land-applied to farms, forests, parks, school playgrounds, home gardens and other private and public lands. According to a recent EPA survey, biosolids contain a wide range of mutagenic and neurotoxic chemicals, which are present at a million-fold higher concentrations (ppm versus ppt) compared with their levels in polluted air and water (1). Biosolids contain all of the lipophilic (fat-soluble) chemical wastes that once polluted our rivers and lakes, but which now settle out at sewage treatment plants and become concentrated in sewage sludges. Most biosolids contain ppm concentrations of heavy metals, including chromium, lead, and mercury. They contain similarly high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and semi-volatiles, such as bis (2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate, Benzo(a)pyrene), and polybrominated diphenyl ether congeners (PBDE flame retardants). Most biosolids also contain pathogenic agents and ppm levels of many common drugs, including ciprofloxacin (Cipro), carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro), and fluoxetine (Prozac).
While working at EPA Dr David Lewis published evidence that teenager Shayne Conner (of New Hampshire) died and other neighbors were harmed from living near land applied with sewage sludge (Lewis et al 2002). He furthermore became involved after dairy herds of two Georgia farms (McElmurray and Boyce) were poisoned after grazing on sludged land. He testified in lawsuits following each incident, against his employer (EPA), which is where many of the following depositions were obtained. The following article is an excerpt from Chapter 4 (Sludge Magic) of his new book (Science for Sale: How the US Government Uses Powerful Corporations and Leading Universities to Support Government Policies, Silence Top Scientists, Jeopardize Our Health, and Protect Corporate Profits). The lawsuits referred to are Lewis v. EPA 1999; Lewis v. EPA 2003; and USA, ex rel. Lewis, McElmurray and Boyce v. Walker et al. 2009. The depositions below piece together an unprecedented and coordinated multi-agency scientific scheme involving EPA, USDA, local and city municipalities, Synagro Technologies (a waste management company), various universities, and the National Academies of Science.
The effort was intended to misleadingly present sewage sludge as scientifically safe, to hide the evidence that it was not, to deliberately misreport the contents of municipal sludges, and smear David Lewis with a scientific misconduct charge after he blew the whistle.
From “Sludge Magic” by Dr David Lewis:
The Men Behind the Curtain
1) Alan Rubin – EPA
Alan Rubin, who was a career chemist at EPA’s Office of Water, is considered the primary author of EPA’s 503 sludge rule. He was one of a number of office scientists at EPA headquarters involved in retaliations against scientists and private citizens who reported adverse health effects associated with biosolids. Time magazine (September 27, 1999) ran a short article about Rubin mailing “death threats” on EPA and Water Environment Federation (WEF) letterhead to private citizens concerned about biosolids, saying, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee!”
When deposed in my U.S Department of Labor cases, Dr. Rubin explained what motivated these attacks:
RUBIN QUESTIONED BY ATTORNEY STEPHEN KOHN (1999) (2)
Q. Are you proud of the work you did?… Do you feel, in any
way, hurt or upset to have someone like Dr. Lewis criticizing
it?… Professionally hurt, a little?
Q. How so?…
A. Well, I think my professional reputation, to a large extent, is
based on my association with biosolids, 503 and its technical basis.
So I feel my reputation would be somewhat disparaged if the basis
of the rule, and the scientific findings were shown to be in error.
Rubin coined the term “sludge magic” when EPA’s proposed 503 sludge rule was undergoing internal peer review at EPA’s Office of Research & Development in 1992. Dr. Robert Swank, the research director at the EPA lab in Athens, Georgia, where I worked, called Dr. Rubin. When Swank asked him to explain how sewage sludge renders pollutants non-bioavailable, Rubin replied, “It’s magic.” During his deposition, Rubin deferred to USDA agronomist Rufus Chaney when questioned about scientific studies supporting sludge magic:
RUBIN QUESTIONED BY MR. KOHN (1999) (3)
Q. You called it sludge magic?
A. Yes, that is my term. “sludge magic” [means] there are unique
properties in the biosolids matrix that sequester metals, that
sequester organics. By sequester I mean significantly reduce the
mobility to move from the biosolids out to the environment,
and the matrix is really complex, and has organic material in
it, organic pollutants, I’m talking about organic materials, like
unit type materials, and carbohydrates, and manganese, and
iron, and phosphorus, and all of these work together with the
soil in a matrix to significantly reduce, if not eliminate movement
of pollutants from the biosolids out to the environment.
The processes, some of them are understood, some of them are not
that well understood, but the whole thing taken together is called
magic. So I coined the term magic.
Q. And the “sludge magic” which prevents harmful stuff that is
in the sludge escaping the sludge?
A. Moving at any significant flux or rate out to the environment
to create doses of pollutants that would harm plants, animals or
Q. … these studies [are] kept somewhere?
A. No, they are actually—well, Chaney is probably the one that
has them all, he is like a walking encyclopedia.
So, after working in EPA’s biosolids program for over thirty years, the primary author of EPA’s 503 sludge rule still couldn’t explain how biosolids prevent potentially harmful levels of pollutants from being taken up by plants, animals and humans.
2) Rufus Chaney-USDA
My attorney, Ed Hallman, deposed Dr. Rufus Chaney at USDA’s Animal Manure and By-Products Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. His position reflects the importance that the USDA places on protecting biosolids:
CHANEY ANSWERING MR. HALLMAN (2009) (4)
I’ve been appointed in a category which is above GS-18 called
senior scientific research service. Within that, there are no subgrades.
There is a group —there is only about ten of us in all of
my agency that have reached that level.… I would say I’m the
US Department of Agriculture’s most knowledgeable scientist
Chaney further testified that EPA scientists have never understood the science he developed, which proves heavy metals and toxic organic pollutants in biosolids cannot harm public health or the environment.
CHANEY ANSWERING MR. HALLMAN (2009) (5)
EPA withdrew the original proposed rule and completely
rewrote it. Actually I played a very significant role in what
the rule became. It’s evident in the record. And even at the
end I provided comments through USDA, approved at higher
levels, saying that the rule needed a few more revisions before
it was issued. But, yes, I was heavily involved in bringing to
fore the science about biosolids that needed to be the basis for
Chaney explained that the unique properties of sewage sludge prevent pollutants from becoming bioavailable. In other words, they can’t be taken up or absorbed by plants and animals’ and they pose little or no risk to public health or the environment no matter which pollutants are present, or what their concentrations are.
One of Rufus Chaney’s primary collaborators, Jay Scott Angle, replaced Gale Buchanan as the agricultural dean at University of Georgia (UGA) in 2005, the year we filed a qui tam lawsuit over “the Gaskin study” (Gaskin et al 2003)(6). After EPA funded this study, one of its employees, Robert Brobst, who is charged with investigating reports of biosolids-related adverse health effects, provided UGA with data fabricated by the City of Augusta, Georgia (see Figure 1.). This fabricated data was used in the Gaskin study which EPA then used to discredit any links between biosolids and cattle deaths on two Georgia dairy farms owned by local farmers, the McElmurray and Boyce families (4). President Bush appointed Buchanan under secretary of agriculture for research, education and economics the following year (7).
Two years earlier, the director of UGA’s School of Marine Programs was advised not to hire me as a faculty member “because we’re dependent on this money… grant and contract money… money either from possible future EPA grants or [from] connections there might be between the waste disposal community [and] members of faculty at the university.” (8)
Many wastewater treatment plants throughout the United States aren’t working properly, and are constantly in need of being repaired or upgraded to keep up with population growth. To help with this problem, EPA created a revolving loan program under the Clean Water Act to pump billions of dollars into the states to keep their wastewater treatments plants pumping properly. Chaney reasons that because the system as a whole is in constant need of repair, and there are still no documented cases of adverse health effects in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, “sludge magic,” as Rubin calls it, works even when waste treatment plants don’t.
Chaney further reasoned that any peer-reviewed scientific articles claiming that land application of biosolids poses a risk to public health or the environment must be false because no scientists funded by the US government and other reputable institutions have documented adverse effects from biosolids since the 503 sludge rule was passed in 1993.
In 1992, EPA’s sludge rule failed to pass a scientific peer review in EPA’s Office of Research & Development. Chaney blamed scientists in EPA’s Office of Water for this failure:
CHANEY ANSWERING MR. HALLMAN (2009) (9)
They originally proposed a rule where they even had the data
screwed up. I don’t know how much you know about that. But
the original rule would have essentially prohibited all land
application…. So there were lots of errors the first time around,
stupid errors. They didn’t—they didn’t review it with USDA or Food
and Drug Administration before they put it on the street and they
suffered and had to withdraw it and start over.
In his deposition, Chaney stated that adverse health effects from biosolids were documented in the scientific literature before 1992, and that he himself authored many of those studies.
CHANEY QUESTIONED BY MR. HALLMAN (2009) (10)
Q. And you believe that all the studies you’ve seen, including
the ones that you have coauthored and worked on, indicate that
the land application of sewage sludge in accordance with 503 is
safe… and is not a danger to human health and welfare, is that
correct, if it’s applied in accordance with those regulations?
A. I won’t disagree with that. I had advised EPA that I wanted
a lower cadmium limit…. I won the battle because pretreatment
and the universal understanding of the unacceptability of cadmium
in biosolids has led to biosolids declining to 1 to 2 ppm in
most cities in the United States. Biosolids has become remarkably
less contaminated because of what we’ve done with the 503 and
because of the publications, such as mine, which showed adverse
effects of previous practices.
The phenomenon by which biosolids have become far less contaminated with cadmium is clearly evident in the data that the City of Augusta reported to EPA and the State of Georgia. These are the same (Gaskin) data that EPA and UGA published and later used by the National Academy of Sciences to conclude that Augusta’s biosolids were not responsible for hundreds of cattle that died on two dairy farms (McElmurray and Boyce) where it was applied. The data purportedly show (Fig. 1 pdf here) that monthly cadmium levels in the city’s sewage sludge fluctuated wildly up to 1, 200 ppm from January 1980 to February 1993, the very month that EPA promulgated the 503 rule.
Chaney wants everyone to believe that cadmium, which was making people and animals sick, dropped to safe levels all across the country the moment EPA passed its sludge regulation in February 1993. No regulatory agency at the state or federal level, however, ever monitors levels of cadmium, or anything else, in biosolids (11). They simply accept whatever data the cities provide.
In Augusta’s case, we know that the city’s “sludge magic” was faked. The city’s former plant manager, Allen Saxon, confessed when deposed by Mr. Hallman.
Judge Anthony Alaimo, who ruled on a lawsuit against the USDA filed by the McElmurray family, ordered the USDA to pay for crops the family couldn’t plant because their land was too contaminated with cadmium and other hazardous wastes from Augusta’s biosolids. Judge Alaimo wrote, “In January 1999, the City rehired Saxon to create a record of sludge applications that did not exist previously.” (12)
That same year, EPA gave UGA a federal grant to publish Augusta’s data as part of the Gaskin study (Gaskin et al 2003). As soon as Mr. Saxon finished making “sludge magic” happen, all of the original data Augusta reported to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) between 1993 and 1999 magically disappeared, and not just in Augusta. They turned up missing from the EPD records in Atlanta as well. EPA doesn’t know what happened to the data, nor does the EPD, nor the City of Augusta, nor UGA. All of the data just magically disappeared from city and state records at the same time cadmium purportedly disappeared from Augusta’s sewage sludge.
According to Rufus Chaney, it just doesn’t matter whether the data are fake or real. He explained in his deposition: (13)
CHANEY QUESTIONED BY MR. HALLMAN (2009)
Q. Ms. Gaskin could have totally made up all that data and you
would still rely on it because it was in a peer-reviewed study; is
A As long as it—as long as it was in general agreement with
general patterns established in hundreds of papers….
To sum up Chaney’s position, because Gaskin’s paper concluded that Augusta’s sludge did not pose a health risk, it’s valid research even if the data were fabricated. On the other hand, people should disregard scientists who report problems with biosolids, even if their work is published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. That’s because researchers at universities funded by government and have published hundreds of papers concluding that biosolids don’t put public health or the environment at risk.
In 2004, Chaney commented on the US Composting Council’s (USCC’s) list serve about my termination by EPA acting assistant administrator Henry Longest, who developed EPA’s sludge policies in the late 1970s (14). USCC is headed by Lorrie Loder, Synagro’s product marketing director. Chaney, of course, supported Longest’s decision to end my career for publishing research that raised public concerns over biosolids (Lewis et al. 2002). He contrasted our BMC study with the Gaskin study:
CHANEY USCC (2004) (15)
The paper by Gaskin et al. [Gaskin, J. W., R. B. Brobst, W. P.
Miller, and E. W. Tollner. 2003. Long-term biosolids application
effects on metal concentrations in soil and bermudagrass
forage J. Env. Qual. 32:146-152.] reports objective measurements
on the soil metal concentrations, and metals in forages
growing on the soils….[Lewis’s] publication [Lewis D. L., D. K.
Gattie, M. E. Novak, S. Sanchez, and C. Pumphrey. 2002.
Interactions of pathogens and irritant chemicals in land-applied
sewage sludges (biosolids). BMC Public Health 2:11.] contains none
of the data from examination of biosolids exposed subjects, and lacks the
comparison with randomly selected individuals from the general
populations. It is not valid epidemiological science….
I support the whistle-blower rule and process as strongly as any
other citizen or government employee. I happen to believe that
Dr. Lewis has been treated fairly. Claims and opinions about
public health are not peer-reviewed scientific evidence. EPA and
other agencies have to base rules on the peer-reviewed papers,
and to consider the weight of evidence. Some papers are more
complete in proof of the issue tested, as I noted above regarding
proof that some source caused a specific human infection.
Our study published in BMC-Public Health had documented several cases linking Synagro’s biosolids to illnesses and deaths, including the death of Shayne Conner in New Hampshire (Lewis et al. 2002). Chaney’s statements about our study are drawn from a white paper Synagro published in 2001, which contains false allegations of research misconduct against me and my coauthors. In 2004, Synagro withdrew its allegations after EPA dismissed the allegations as meritless and not based in any facts (16). Synagro’s white paper, which Chaney parroted, states, for example:
SYNAGRO WHITE PAPER (2001) (17)
[Steps Lewis should have taken] include analysis of biosolids
composition, fate and transport of chemicals and pathogens,
determination of dose-response relationships, and methodology
for and identification of the cause of health ailments purportedly
associated with an environmental contaminant….
Such studies should involve a comparison of outcomes for subjects
who are exposed to biosolids (treatment groups) and other subjects
who are not exposed (control groups)…. The leading study,
a comprehensive multi-year study of Ohio farm families living
near land-applied fields, reported “no adverse health effects…in
either people or animals.” (Cit. 38.) While Dr. Lewis admitted
that this study was based on sound epidemiology, he refuses to
apply its techniques….
Our BMC paper does, in fact, contain this information. It includes, for example, data we obtained from the patients’ medical records, and a dose-response analysis of exposed and unexposed individuals in an area near a field treated with biosolids (Figure 2)(18). This field lay approximately 300 feet from a house where Shayne Conner suddenly died from respiratory failure. Conner’s parents, Tom and Joanne Marshall, sued Synagro, which bought out the company that applied the biosolids. EPA ethics officials approved of my serving as an expert witness for plaintiffs, and required that I donate any expert witness fees to EPA or other governmental or nonprofit organizations. By serving as an expert witness, I was able to obtain access to medical records and other critically important information tied up in Marshall v. Synagro.
In Conner’s neighborhood, we were able to gather information on symptoms from all but one family, including family members who reported no symptoms. We found:
LEWIS ET AL. BMC PUBLIC HEALTH (2002) (19)
Based on a least-squares analysis, proportions of individuals
with symptoms increased linearly from 40 to 80 h (r2 0.98) with
time exposed to wind blowing from the field; all occupants in
households with exposure ≥ 80 h reported symptoms (Fig. 2).
Proportions of individuals with symptoms also decreased linearly
with distance from the field from 130 to 320 m (r2 0.95); all
occupants in households living ≤ 130 m from the field reported
As reported in our BMC article, we mainly investigated the most common form of treated sewage sludges, called Class B biosolids:
LEWIS ET AL. BMC PUBLIC HEALTH (2002) (20)
County records indicated that biosolids-related complaints for
individual patients described in this study were concurrent with
land application of Class B biosolids.
As mentioned earlier, most bacterial populations that are killed back can re-establish themselves within a few days after biosolids are stockpiled, or spread on land (21). It’s like cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. Eating it fresh out of the oven is one thing, but after it’s been sitting out for a few days is a different matter. Biosolids are rich in proteins, which allow staphylococci to proliferate just as they do with turkey dinners (22).
We discovered that one out of four residents who reported irritation of the skin, eyes, or respiratory tract from exposure to biosolids had staphylococcal infections involving S. aureus or S. epidermitis. Two of the three deaths linked to biosolids were caused by S. aureus infections. Because multi-antibiotic resistant bacteria are common at wastewater treatment plants, biosolids-related infections are of particular concern (23).
During her depositions, Julia Gaskin testified that she believed Augusta’s biosolids harmed the McElmurray and Boyce dairy farms; and she pointed out that her study included ample data supporting the dairy farmers’ lawsuits.
GASKIN ANSWERING MR. HALLMAN (2009) (24)
A. Now, you have characterized that the EPA has used this
against them. There is certainly data in here that could have been
used to support them as well.
Q. What data?
A. The fact that we had high cadmium and molybdenum in three
fields that had been—and forages in three fields that had been
greater than six years. The fact we saw a reduction in copper and
molybdenum ratios with long-term biosolids application.
3) Thomas Burke – EPA
Responding to congressional hearings into EPA retaliations against me, my EPA laboratory director, and others who have questioned the science EPA uses to support its sludge rule, EPA called upon the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council (NRC) to reevaluate its scientific basis. Ellen Harrison, an NRC panel member from Cornell University, provided the panel with copies of my unpublished manuscripts and two in-press, peer-reviewed journal articles (BMC Public Health, 2002; ES&T, 2002) (25). Harrison, director of the Cornell Waste Management Institute, and her coauthors published a well-documented, peer-reviewed article concluding that EPA’s current sewage sludge regulation does not protect human health, agriculture, or the environment (26). She was also part of a group of NRC panel members selected to brief EPA on the academy’s findings when their report was electronically released on July 2, 2002. She testified in my labor case: (27)
HARRISON QUESTIONED BY MR. KOHN (2003)
Q. I’m looking for a larger-picture question here, what would
you state would be Dr. Lewis’ major contribution in terms of the
concerns he was raising to the National Academy review process?
A. David is the only scientist that to that time had raised the
scientific issues that might lead to exposure and disease and so
David’s ideas in that regard, I think, were important to sort of
framing the National Academy panel’s in recognizing that…
there are a lot of gaps here, there are plausible routes of exposures
that we haven’t assessed. So David’s role was—I mean
in my book David was a hero in this regard basically. Despite
the incredible flack he was getting, [he] put forward reasonable
scientific theories, backed by some research to suggest that
there were plausible routes of exposure and that in fact illness
might be resulting. He, I mean as far as I’m concerned, he kind
of turned the whole thing around… I think without David’s
involvement we wouldn’t be at all where we are today in terms
of looking at the safety issues anew. David raised-David gave a
legitimacy to the allegations that has made it impossible to ignore
the alleged health issues…. So I think David has probably been
the most important player in all this.
Although the report drew heavily upon my unpublished manuscripts, the electronic version only cited one paper, an ES&T article. Susan Martel, an NRC staff member, explained to Harrison that all but one reference to my work were removed from draft versions of the NRC report based on input from panel members. Then, according to Martel, the panel chair, Thomas Burke, removed the one remaining reference to my ES&T article from the final copy of the report, which is posted on the NRC’s website (28). Burke, who was Dean of Johns-Hopkins School of Public Health at the time, was recently appointed head of EPA’s Office of Research & Development by President Obama.
Burke removed the one remaining reference to our research after he and Martel received the following email from panel member Greg Kester, who was the biosolids coordinator for the State of Wisconsin: (29)
Hi Tom and Susan—In contrast to your message that the briefings
went well, I am quite disturbed by what I have heard transpired
at the EPA briefing this morning. Among other items, I
heard that EPA staff in the biosolids program were referred to
as “the usual suspects” and basically denigrated for their work in
the program. The message was also taken that their work should
be devalued and the work of David Lewis should be elevated. I
did not agree to such representation nor do I believe much of the
committee did. We specifically noted that EPA should not be criticized
for the work they did.… While EPA may not have been
moved by the criticism, there are those on the Hill who would
love nothing more than to criticize EPA.
One year earlier, Synagro VP Robert O’Dette had emailed Kester a copy of his white paper accusing me of research misconduct. Kester, in turn, forwarded it to senior officials at EPA headquarters and other EPA offices throughout the country (30). In his email, Kester stated: (31)
This paper presents many of the issues raised by Dr. Lewis in the
New Hampshire case and provides compelling refutation. It was written
by Bob O’Dette of Synagro.
The NRC panel used Synagro’s white paper in its deliberations over my research, and rewarded O’Dette by using a photo he submitted for the cover of the NRC report. Although the panel liberally borrowed from my unpublished and in-press papers without citing the source, it was careful to credit O’Dette as the source of its cover photo. Then, after removing my in- press, peer-reviewed articles documenting scores of cases of adverse health effects across the country, the NRC panel falsely reported: “There is no documented scientific evidence that the Part 503 rule has failed to protect public health.” (32)
But the fallout from what the NRC panel did wasn’t over yet. In 2008, a Nature reporter called me wanting my response to a federal judge, Anthony Alaimo, ruling that data in the Gaskin study were fabricated to cover up cattle deaths linked to hazardous wastes in Augusta’s sewage sludge. Nature, as it turned out, was putting together a two-page news article and editorial about our research at UGA, pointing out that a multi-university study in Ohio had independently confirmed our findings:
NATURE EDITORS (2008) (35)
In what can only be called an institutional failure spanning
more than three decades—and presidential administrations
of both parties—there has been no systematic monitoring programme
to test what is in the sludge. Nor has there been much
analysis of the potential health effects among local residents—
even though anecdotal evidence suggests ample cause for concern.
In fact, one of the studies used to refute potential dangers,
published in the Journal of Environmental Quality in 2003
by researchers at the University of Georgia in Athens, has been
called into question ….
Even the National Academy of Sciences seems to have been
taken in. A 2002 report from the academy cited the then unpublished
Georgia work as evidence that the EPA had investigated
and dismissed claims that sewage sludge had killed cattle, but
the study had not looked at the dairy farms in question. And
although it may be technically true that there was no documented
evidence of sludge applications causing human illness or death,
the academy also cited work by an EPA whistleblower, David
Lewis, suggesting at least an association between these factors.
If anything, recent research underscores those findings. The
Georgia citation notwithstanding, the academy did outline a
sound plan for moving forward. It recommended among other
things that the EPA improve its risk-analysis techniques; survey
the sludges for potential contaminants; begin tracking health
complaints; and conduct some epidemiological analyses to determine
whether these reports merit concern.
To read the NRC report, the Nature reporter located it on EPA’s website rather than the NRC’s website. After I filled the reporter in on what happened, Nature ran the following correction, which contained even more misinformation from the NRC in an attempt to explain why it removed the last remaining reference to our work in the final version of its report.
NATURE EDITORS (2008) (36)
Correction: The 2002 biosolids study from the National Academy
of Sciences (NAS) did not reference research into health impacts
by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) whistleblower
David Lewis, as reported in our News story “Raking through
sludge exposes a stink” (Nature 453, 262–263; 2008). The citation
was included in a prepublication draft that is still posted on
the EPA’s internet site, but the NAS panel voted to remove the
reference before final publication. An NAS spokesman said the
panel decided the information was not relevant as the panel was
not charged with evaluating health impacts.
At least panel member Ellen Harrison got in the last word about the National Academy of Sciences removing the last remaining reference to our work:
HARRISON TO NATURE EDITORS (2008) (37)
The NAS made this change to the report without permission from
the panel. This is a violation of the NAS procedures requiring full
committee consensus on reports. I would not have approved the
removal of this reference since it was clearly relevant to the work
of the committee…. the unilateral action of NAS to remove the
reference was highly inappropriate.
4) Robert O’Dette – Synagro Technologies Inc.
EPA and Water Environment Federation (WEF) officials involved in the National Biosolids Public Acceptance Campaign systematically funded scientists who supported the 503 sludge rule while eliminating those who did not. In 2002, a Texas county commissioner invited me to speak at a public hearing about a growing number of illnesses linked to Synagro’s biosolids in his area. I agreed on the condition that he invite Synagro to have its own expert rebut my arguments. So, the commissioner wrote a letter to the company’s VP for government relations, Robert O’Dette, who had authored Synagro’s white paper containing allegations of research misconduct against me and my coauthors at UGA. In his reply, O’Dette explained how the system works: (38)
What we don’t need are more so-called scientists whose research
findings are predetermined by scientific or personal bias. These
people will find their work rightly discredited and their funding
will disappear while credible researchers continue to have
Synagro sent its own expert, Ian Pepper from the University of Arizona, to give a presentation at our conference, and it held its own conference across the street with others speaking on its behalf.
5) Tracy Mehan, III – EPA
On December 24, 2003, Tracy Mehan, Asst. Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, issued a letter in which he used the Gaskin study to dispel any link between biosolids and cattle deaths on the two dairy farms (39) Attorney Ed Hallman read Brobst’s testimony, then questioned Gaskin:
BROBST, GASKIN QUESTIONED BY MR. HALLMAN (2009) (40, 41)
We, the authors, at least Julia and I, will stand by that the study
had nothing to do with the dairy farms. I mean, we both said
that on several occasions, and I believe we will both stand by
that. And I have conveyed that to headquarters. If they choose to
not listen or choose to listen, that’s up to them. I don’t have any
say in how they make these paragraphs and how they form things
and form their conclusions. I wouldn’t have done it that way.
Q. Do you recall any conversations that you’ve had with
Mr. Brobst about the study had nothing to do with the Boyce
and McElmurray farms?
Q. Tell me the substance of those conversations.
A. I, the substance of the conversations were concerns that our
study was being used, that people were citing our study as if the
dairy farms were part of what we had sampled, and they were
not. And I had concerns about that, that even though the JEQ
article clearly said beef cattle farms, that some people were not
being clear about that fact.
Q. Did you ever voice those concerns to anyone besides
A. I voiced those concerns to Mr. Brobst and also at one point
Q. Who is that?
A. He is the director of the Northeast Biosolids Association.
Q. What did you tell him?
A. I told him that I was concerned that the JEQ article was
being conflated with the dairy and that our study did indicate
that there was not a widespread problem, but it did not specifically
address the dairy concerns.
5) Henry Longest, II – EPA
When Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich greeted me in his office overlooking the National Mall in 1996, he looked at me and said, “You know you’re going to be fired for this, don’t you?” “I know,” I replied, “I just hope to stay out of prison.” The speaker had just read my commentary in Nature, titled “EPA Science: Casualty of Election Politics.” It reflected the proverbial crossroads in my life. Since I was five years old, I wanted to become a scientist and have my own laboratory. Giving up my research career was not something I took lightly. It reflected my conclusion that EPA’s commitment to removing pollutants from water and concentrating them on land will eventually cause as much, if not more, harm to public health and the environment than these same pollutants caused in rivers and other aquatic systems. As soon as I turned age 55 in 2003, EPA’s Acting Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research & Development, Henry Longest, terminated me ─ the Agency’s only research scientist to ever publish first-authored research articles in Nature, Lancet and Nature Medicine. As acting deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Water in the late 1970s, Longest was the first high-ranking EPA administrator to promote land application of sewage sludges.
Science for Sale: How the US Government Uses Powerful Corporations and Leading Universities to Support Government Policies, Silence Top Scientists, Jeopardize Our Health, and Protect Corporate Profits by David Lewis can be obtained here.
1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Biosolids: Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey Report —Overview, January 2009, EPA 822-R-08-014. http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/biosolids/tnsss-tech.pdf
2. US Dept. Labor, Office of Administrative Law Judges. Case No.99- CAA-12, Deposition transcript of Dr. Alan Rubin, p. 149. Lewis v. EPA, Apr. 27, 1999.
3. Ibid, pp. 168-172.
4. USA, ex rel. Lewis, McElmurray and Boyce v. Walker et al. United States District Court, Middle District of Georgia, Athens Division. Case No. 3:06-CV-16-CDL. Deposition transcript of Dr. Rufus Chaney, Jun. 26, 2009.
6. Dendy LB, U. of Maryland administrator named dean of UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. University of Georgia, June 3, 2005.
7. University of Georgia, Bush taps former UGA dean for REE under secretary. Jan. 19, 2006.
8. Lewis v. EPA, U.S. Department of Labor, CA 2003-CAA-00005, 00006. Deposition of Robert E. Hodson, Ph.D. Jan. 31, 2003.
9. Ibid, USA, ex rel. Lewis,et al. R Chaney Deposition, p. 21.
10. Ibid, USA, ex rel. Lewis,et al. R Chaney Deposition, p.53-54.
11. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2002. Land Application of Biosolids Status Report; Report 2002-S-000004; Office of Inspector General. Washington, DC.
12. McElmurray v. United States Department of Agriculture, United States District Court, Southern District of Georgia. Case No. CV105-159. Order issued Feb. 25, 2008.
13. Ibid, USA, ex rel. Lewis,et al. R Chaney Deposition, p. 157.
14. Chaney R, USCC Listserve, October 5, 2004.
15. Ibid, USA, ex rel. Lewis,et al. R Chaney Deposition, p. 13-17.
16. Lewis v. EPA, U.S. Department of Labor, Case Nos. 2003-CAA-6, 2003-CAA-5, Joint stipulations, March 4, 2003; USEPA, Stancil F, Branch Chief, ESD, to Russo R, Director, ERD, Apr. 22, 2003; Thomas AL, Synagro, to Adams M, President, University of Georgia, Dec. 21, 2004.
17. Synagro Technologies, Inc. Analysis of David Lewis’ Theories Regarding Biosolids, p. 4, 6, Sept. 20, 2001.
18. Lewis DL, Gattie DK, Novak ME, Sanchez S, Pumphrey C. (2002) Interactions of pathogens and irritant chemicals in land-applied sewage sludges (biosolids). BMC Public Health 2:11. www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/2/11.
19. Ibid, Lewis et al., BMC-Public Health, 2001. Results, Environmental Assessment.
20. Ibid, Lewis et al., BMC-Public Health, 2001. Methods, Assessing environmental conditions.
21. Gattie DK and Lewis DL. 2004. A high-level disinfection standard for land-applied sewage sludge (biosolids). Environ. Health Perspect. 112:126-31.
22. Khuder S, Milz SA, Bisesi M, Vincent R, McNulty W, Czajkowski K. Health survey of residents living near farm fields permitted to receive biosolids. Arch. Environ. Occup. Health 62, 5–11 (2007).
23. Reinthaler FF, Posch J, Feierl G, Wüst G, Haas D, Ruckenbauer G, Mascher F, Marth E. Antibiotic resistance of E. coli in sewage and sludge. Water Res. 2003 Apr; 37(8):1685-90; Sahlström L, Rehbinder V, Albihn A, Aspan A, Bengtsson B. Vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE) in Swedish sewage sludge. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 2009.
24. USA, ex rel. Lewis, McElmurray and Boyce v. Walker et al. United States District Court, Middle District of Georgia, Athens Division. Case No. 3:06-CV-16-CDL. Deposition transcript of J. Gaskin, p. 293-4, Jun. 20, 2009.
25. Martel S, National Academy of Sciences, to Harrison E, Mar. 27, 2002 [Email].
26. Harrison, EZ, McBride MB and Bouldin DR. Land application of sewage sludges: An appraisal of the US regulations. Int. J. Environ. and Pollution, Vol.11, No.1. 1-36. Case for Caution Revisited 2009.
27. Lewis v. EPA, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Administrative Law Judges, Case No. 98-CAA-13, Deposition of Ellen Harrison, p. 34-35, 76, Mar. 21, 2003.
28. Harrison E, Cornell Waste Management Institute, to Lewis D, Mar. 5, 2003 [Email].
30. Kester G to EPA officials Rubin A, Hais A, Roufael A, Carkuff A, Sajjad A, Bastian R, Brobst R, Sans C, Hamilton D, Hetherington D, Gross C, Lindsey A, Home J, Ryan J, Smith J, Colletti J, Dombrowski J, Dunn J, Walker J, Fondahl L, Dominy M, Meckes M, Murphy T. Subject: FW: Dr. David Lewis, 09/24/01 [Email].
32. National Research Council. Biosolids Applied to Land: Advancing Standards and Practice, Overarching Findings, p. 4. National Academy Press. Washington, DC, 2002.
33. Burkhart J (NIH/NIEHS) to Lewis D, copied to Burleigh K (NIH/NIEHS), Subject: EHP ms 6207. May 07, 2003 [Email].
34. Ibid, Gattie, Lewis, 2004.
35. Stuck in the mud—The Environmental Protection Agency must gather data on the toxicity of spreading sewage sludge [Editorial]; Tollefson J. Raking through sludge exposes a stink. Nature, 2008, Vol. 453, p. 258, 262-3, May 15, 2008.
36. Nature editors. Correction. Nature 453; 577, May 28, 2008 doi:10.1038/453577d http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080528/full/453577d.html
37. Harrison E. Correspondence at Nature.com. June 17, 2008.
38. O’Dette R, Synagro Technologies, Inc., to Stavinoha TD, Commissioner Precinct 1, Fort Bend County, TX. Nov.18, 2002.
39. Mehan GT III. USEPA, Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, to Mendelson J III. Dec. 24, 2003 [Letter].
40. Ibid, Gaskin deposition p. 269, Jun. 22, 2009.
41. Ibid, Gaskin deposition p. 372-4, Jun. 22, 2009.
For more information go to the Bioscience Resource Project webpage on Sewage Sludge.
Lawmakers in Germany have been told that an EU agreement for a $25 billion state subsidy by the UK to build a nuclear power station is illegal and should be annulled, in another twist in Europe’s nuclear energy farce.
The German Bundestag’s Economic and Energy Committee took evidence on the European Commission’s approval of $25 billion worth of state aid for the construction of a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point, in Somerset, southwest England. The hearing followed recent claims by German energy cooperative Greenpeace Energy that the EU state aid approval contravenes competition rules. In October 2014, the European Commission approved the state aid for the construction of Hinkley Point C, which allows the UK government to assure the future operator a fixed electricity price over a period of 35 years and to guarantee inflation surcharges and credit guarantees.
The German Government had informed the European Commission that “political expectations” made it clear that the promotion of renewable energy should not lead to the encouragement of nuclear power plants, according to, the Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs, Brigitte Zypries.
A political coalition of Alliance 90 and the Greens called for a stop to “subsidies for British nuclear power plant Hinkley Point C and legal action.”
In January, the Austrian government confirmed it is to take the European Commission to the European Court of Justice over the subsidy deal.
New Nuclear in Meltdown Fears
The Hinkley Point C proposal has already been beset by many years of delay — mostly because the reactor it is considering using has been plagued with problems. EDF has chosen the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), a third generation pressurised water reactor (PWR) design. It has been designed and developed mainly by Framatome (now Areva), EDF in France and Siemens in Germany.
However, the first ever EPR nuclear power station under construction in Flamanville, in northwest France, is already massively over budget and seriously delayed. Since construction began in April 2008, the French nuclear safety agency has found that a quarter of the welds inspected in the secondary containment steel liner were abnormal, cracks were found in the concrete base and it also ordered a suspension of concrete pouring on the site.
In November 2014, EDF announced that completion of construction was delayed to 2017 due to delays in component delivery by Areva. In the same month, Areva issued a profit warning and said it would suspend future profit predictions because of problems on a similar EPR power station project at Olkiluoto in Finland.
And in June 2015, the French nuclear safety watchdog says it has found “multiple failure modes” that carry “grave consequences” on crucial safety relief valves on the Flamanville nuclear plant in northern France, which could lead to meltdown.
Areva and EDF have been hit by the global backlash against nuclear plants since the Fukushima accident in 2011. Following the incident, Germany accelerated plans to close its nuclear power reactors, Italy voted in a referendum against the government’s plan to build new nuclear power plants and French President Francois Hollande announced the intention of his government to reduce nuclear usage by one third.
An intense struggle for dignity and the right to land is being waged right now in the green mountains of south western Colombia, and chances are, you haven´t heard of it. While the scant mainstream media coverage of the country focuses on soccer or peace talks between government and armed guerrilla groups, it ignores that same government’s attacks against communities defending their territory.
On May 28th, one thousand riot police officers entered a sugar cane plantation called La Emperatriz in the municipality of Caloto, in the state of Cauca, to evict nearly 300 members of the Nasa indigenous people. The indigenous community members had peacefully replaced the sugar monocrop for beans and corn, as part of the process they call the Liberation of Mother Earth. This follows other recent evictions in the nearby town of Corinto, which left many civilians wounded, and clashes since February that resulted in the killing of Nasa youth Guillermo Pavi.
These confrontations occur in the midst of the community’s historic effort to defend their right to a dignified life by recovering land stolen from them – land which has been falsely promised to be returned.
Why Liberation? Why These Lands?
The Nasa people inhabited a large portion of southwestern Colombia long before the Spanish invasion. However, over decades of deceit and violence, the most fertile areas were taken over by wealthy landowners and the Nasa were displaced to higher elevations. Seferino Zapata, an elder from Caloto, explains, “We were taken to the mountain, but we fought. I took part in the struggles in the 80s, when we had to pay to work the land for food. We recovered this very land where I now sit.”
But these land takeovers have cost lives. According to Arcadio Mestizo, a leader of the indigenous reserve Huellas Caloto, on a night in 1991 the police and paramilitaries carried out the massacre known as El Nilo, killing 20 adults and children. While the slaughter occurred about 4 kilometers from the plantation, it was planned the night before at La Emperatriz.
The largehacienda of La Emperatriz, once used to raise livestock and grow rice, now hosts the exclusive cultivation of sugarcane by the transnational company Incauca, owned by the millionaire emporium Ardila Lule and currently under investigation for price fixing. Cane production has significant environmental impacts, such as biodiversity loss and toxic residues. La Emperatriz is just a sample of the economic reality of a region which has been transformed into a ‘green desert’ where sugarcane grown to produce biofuels replaced subsistence crops that fed thousands.
Following a ruling in 2000 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Colombian state accepted its responsibility in the 1991 El Nilo massacre and agreed to transfer 15,600 hectares of land, including La Emperatriz, to the Huellas Caloto indigenous community. Trusting the agreement, the Nasa people suspended land takeovers. But time went by and the land promised by the government did not come through.
The Huellas Caloto indigenous leader Arcadio Mestizo explained, “In 2005, we re-started this struggle, now calling it Liberation of Mother Earth, and we began with La Emperatriz.”
Although in 2010 the government completed the transfer of the number of hectares of land promised, they are not the lands agreed upon, and much of it is not suitable for agriculture. So the Nasa vowed to “liberate” La Emperatriz hacienda.
The latest wave of liberation began in March, with the Nasa occupation of land, cultivation of maize, beans and cassava, and the construction of basic structures.
However, community leader Emer Pinzón said that in the morning this past May 28, the owner of La Emperatriz ordered their removal: “Riot police came in with their full war machinery ” and encountered 300 Nasa members armed with courage, shovels and stones to defend their efforts and dreams.
“The police brought, tanks, tractors and tear gas, and in four hours destroyed over two months of work,” Pinzón added. In addition to the constant threats by paramilitary groups, Pinzón reported that, during the eviction, riot police warned through megaphones, “this one will be worse than El Nilo.”
Mestizo added, “There is the 1991 precedent, and now we see us going in circles, but today the oppression happens in broad daylight, and fully institutionalized. [A massacre] can certainly happen again.”
This violence against civilians comes amid peace negotiations between the government and the FARC guerrillas.
Constanza Cuetia, a member of the Nasa community´s communications team, reflected, “The war is very much present in our communities. Targeted assassinations and recruitment of civilians continued during the ceasefire. In addition, the peace talks do not get to the heart of the conflict. The government’s delegate to the talks said that the [neoliberal] economic model will not be challenged in the negotiations.” Indeed, the government has justified the violent evictions defending the right to private property of a few, while ignoring the right of many for a dignified life.
However, resistance is strong. “These lands, as taught by our grandparents, belonged to our ancestors,” Pinzón said. “We will take it back for our youth, at any cost.”
Liberation as a Cure
The spokespeople of this community make it clear that the main reason for the liberations is not unfulfilled land agreements; this is only one ingredient in the recipe of reasons for why the Nasa struggle. “We do this to reclaim our land, but also to defend our social rights,” Mestizo explained.
Abel Coicué, a community leader, added, “we liberate these lands, both of the mountains and the lowlands, because they are ancestral and we have a right to them.”
‘’Everything done on the land sickens the earth further, and this disease is treated [by] liberating Mother Earth,” Paulina, a Nasa leader from nearby Corinto, noted. “It is about sowing spaces of freedom and life that allow us to live in balance and harmony.”
This strategy of liberation becomes even more urgent in light of the many “diseases” these territories face. “We have a major threat coming: mining, for which we must prepare,” Mestizo said. “Mining creeps in more quietly than sugarcane, and sometimes the community does not see it, but we have learned that mining companies, such as [South African] Anglogold Ashanti, have requested mining permits over our land, regardless if it is on a protected area or an indigenous reserve.’’
The Nasa people invite us to understand that their struggle is everyone’s struggle, and to take our part in it. ‘’This is not an issue for indigenous people in Cauca, Colombia, but it is a fundamental issue for all of humanity, whose main battlefield is here,” Mestizo explained. “We must understand and own this struggle, putting pressure on the capitalist who dispossess and abuses, and on the government that supports it.”
Click here to view a slideshow of this community and its struggle
Israeli Middle East commentator Meir Javedanfar and political scientist Kaveh Afrasiabi shared their strongly differing opinions on the latest report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
According to the article there are fears that Israel has been testing radioactive ‘dirty bombs.’ These kinds of weapon are intended to contaminate large areas with radiation, and can potentially have a long-lasting impact on the hit zone.
RT: The report claims Israel has dirty bombs for defense purposes only. Might this include preemptive strikes against countries like Iran?
Meir Javedanfar: Of course the state of Israel has never ever threatened to use any such weapons, Israel doesn’t even admit to having nuclear capabilities; it is something that has been reported only by foreign organizations. All that we understand is that the chances of Israel using such a weapon are almost zero. Israel’s alleged nuclear program is for defensive purposes only…
We [Israelis] are very worried if ISIS one day gets their hands on a dirty weapon they would use it against us, make no mistake. I think it’s very logical to be prepared for such a scenario.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Jew or Muslim; it doesn’t matter if you’re Sunni or Shia – this is an organization which would use such a weapon. You can’t use such a weapon back against them because ISIS leaders don’t care about their own population. So the least you can do is to be prepared.
RT: Do you think these allegations are correct? Do you think Israel is testing dirty bombs?
MJ: All I have is the same report that you’re reading from. If that report is true, Israel would only do this for defensive purposes, because if they do offensive testing of dirty bombs right now, it would carry a very high price for the state of Israel because right now we’re trying to convince Iran to stop its nuclear program. For Israel to go and test such weapons for offensive purposes it would be very counterproductive and very expensive… At the same time this is not about Iran, this is much more about ISIS; this is much more about Jihadi organizations.
RT: Israel is one of the staunchest critics of Iran’s nuclear program. Isn’t that a little hypocritical, if it really is secretly testing dirty bombs?
MJ: …The enemy in question is probably going to be the Jihadi organizations. Even in Israel we don’t think that Israel would use such weapons.
One of the reasons [there is ] this belief why the Americans invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11 attacks was because it is believed that [Osama] bin Laden was developing biological weapons; he was working on it, or he had plans to work on it. And this was something that they had to stop. And I think that is something that the states of Israel, Russia – and even Iran – have in common- all of us have to be prepared for the day if somebody like ISIS gets its hands on a dirty weapon, we could all be victims.
RT: There is a danger of arms escalation in region. If that is proved that Israel is experimenting with these dirty bombs, some countries might want to do the same thing, mightn’t they?
MJ: It really depends on what you use it for…. This was not aimed at any of our neighbors, we were not threatening anybody, we are not calling for anybody’s elimination, as the Iranian regime is doing to us. But you have to be realistic, this is not simulation.
RT: If this news is proved how, do you think it is going to go down in Iran?
MJ: I think this is something that Iran and Israel have in common: We are both potential victims of ISIS. ISIS is an extremist Sunni organization; so-called Sunni, I’m not sure they are real Sunnis; they are against Shia. When they take over Shia areas they are looting, they are burning, they are massacring and ethnic-cleansing Shia. Once they are finished with the Shias, the way they see it, the next target is the Jews… Both of us have to be prepared for the doomsday scenario… that if one day [ISIS] gets its hands on a chemical or biological weapon, first Iran would be the target, and then the state of Israel.
Kaveh Afrasiabi, political scientist, doesn’t agree with Meir Javedanfar’s viewpoint that the chances of Israel using dirty bombs “are almost zero.”
RT: The dirty bombs are reportedly intended for defense purposes only. Israel has the right to defend itself, doesn’t it?
Kaveh Afrasiabi: Well, so do all the other nations. I respectfully disagree with [Mr. Javedanfar] because you can’t find any nuclear weapons state that publically states that its weapons are for offensive purposes, everybody says it is for defensive. So if Israel detonated these dirty nuclear bombs, it’s in violation of its own commitments and the comprehensive test treaty, to which it is a signatory, although it hasn’t ratified. And I think it is a trial for a bigger test, and Israel is waiting to see the reaction by the international community to see if there is any will to stand up to it, and unfortunately there hasn’t been any. We saw that the US recently blocked the Middle East summit on nuclear disarmament – WMD-free in the Middle East – to appease Israel. A month later we hear this news that Israel has detonated not one or two, but 20 bombs. And I really question the timing of it coming on the verge of the deadline for the nuclear talks in Iran. One wonders if it’s part of ferocious Israeli propaganda effort to torpedo those talks.
RT: Do you think this test poses any real threat to Israel’s perceived enemies in the region?
KA: Of course, if Israel has tested these nuclear bombs, and has the capability to deliver them, as we all know they do, then that poses a clear and present danger to its Arab neighbors and beyond. And I really believe that Israel poses a nuclear threat to Iran and its allies in the region.
RT: If those weapons were being tested in Iran we would probably know what the international reaction would be. What do you expect the international reaction to be to Israel?
KA: This reflects the tremendous double standard that is operative in the international community that consistently turns a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear status and its refusal to allow the slightest inspection of its nuclear facilities. A part of that hypocrisy was demonstrated by the head of the UN’s Atomic Agency, Mr. [Yukiya] Amano, who about a year and half ago praised Israel’s nuclear air force instead of pressuring them to open up these facilities.
I really think that the time has come to stop [treating]Israel with kid gloves and put[ting] it into an exceptional bracket above international law, above proliferation concerns, and so on. At the time when Iran, which is a party to the non-proliferation treaty, has allowed the most extensive inspection of civilian nuclear facilities is under international sanctions and all the related pressures, and even military threat.
So the time has come to stop this hypocritical double standard on the part of the international community, and especially the Western states led by the US, which is the main defender and protector of Israel and its nuclear status.
Breast cancer rates are five times higher than expected near a defunct nuclear power plant in Wales, according to a study by environmental scientist Dr Chris Busby.
The power plant in Trawsfynydd, which has not been in use since 1993 but is yet to be decommissioned, relied on a nearby lake to operate its cooling system.
It’s alleged that contaminated water was returned to the same body of water.
Busby’s investigation claims 90 percent of those living in areas downwind of the plant have been tested.
The report, published in the Jacobs Journal of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, says: “Trawsfynydd is a ‘dirty’ nuclear power station. As it has carbon dioxide gas-cooled graphite block reactors, its releases to air are higher than most other types of nuclear reactor.
“In addition, all the liquid releases are discharged to the lake, where they have accumulated to the lake body sediment,” the investigation claims.
“Results show very clearly that the downwind population has suffered because of these exposures.”
“This is most clear in breast cancer in younger women below 60, where the rates were almost five times the expected.”
“Additionally we see a doubling of risk in those who ate fish from Trawsfynydd Lake, which supports the conclusion that it is mainly a nuclear power station effect that is being seen.”
Busby, who has acted as an adviser to the Green Party, has been the subject of controversy in the past.
In 2011, his claims there was a leukemia cluster in North Wales were met with opposition from other prominent environmental activists, including the [pro-nuclear energy] Guardian writer George Monbiot.
In a piece for the paper published in 2011, Monbiot wrote that Busby’s claims “were the result of some astonishing statistical mistakes.”
He claimed an assessment of Busby’s findings – which were not peer-reviewed – found that Busby has counted Welsh leukemia incidences twice and overestimated the number of child leukemia cases by 90 percent.
Public Health Wales is currently investigating, in co-operation with local health teams, whether or not such a cluster exists around Traswfynydd.