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It all began in New York City- part 2

  • Subject: [cg] It all began in New York City- part 2
  • From: TheBynums@aol.com
  • Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 06:24:38 EDT

Some of you who received the first part of "It all began in New York City" 
wanted to know what the game was, and who were the players. The game is the 
Federal and States' effort to sell toxic (biological, chemical, and 
radioactive) sewage sludge as a safe unlabeled fertilizer to unsuspecting 
users, such as farmers and home gardeners. 
The main players are the EPA, USDA, FDA, CDC (and their sales persons) and 
the National Academy of Science. The government Agencies created a toxic 
sludge disposal policy in 1981, which was formalized in 1993 as EPA's Part 
503 regulation. Part 503 implemented the policy and simply offered cities 
such as New York City, a down and dirty way to get rid of toxic sludge it 
could no longer dump in the ocean,  at the expense of public health.  The 
National Academy of Science (NAS) was hired in 1993 by the players to certify 
the EPA's scientific research methodology and assure the public no harm could 
come from toxic sludge use. The NAS Committee finished the report in 1996 and 
gave the Agencies what they paid for, a pat on the back. However, the NAS 
Committee failed to use even basic research methodology and the public harm 
was evidence in the South Bronx of New York City. The South Bronx is the 
first stop for toxic sludge in its journey to other states.

As an example, the 1996 NAS Committee report suggested that the ocean

dumping ban was a result of a public perception problem. These scientist 
wrote, "The

public reaction in 1988 to the appearance of medical wastes

along New Jersey shores (Spector, 1992) led to the enactment

of the Ocean Dumping Act (P.L. 100-68) that included a ban on

ocean dumping of sewage sludge." (p. 152)

     The NRC Committee quoted a New York Times reporter, as a

scientist. The June 29, 1992 article was titled, "New York

ending ocean dumping, but not problems."

     Furthermore, according to the NRC Report, "...., it is

difficult for the public to understand that the application

of sludge on cropland is safe when ocean dumping of sludge is

prohibited even though the major reason for prohibiting ocean

disposal of sewage sludge had to do with excess nutrient

loads on marine ecosystems rather than toxic pollutants or

beach safety concerns." (p. 161)

     There are a number of major problems with these

statements on ocean dumping: (1) the Public Law was actually

(P.L.  100-688), (2) the EPA tried to force New York City to

end the ocean dumping in 1981, however, the courts ruled

against the EPA, (3) Congress and the Senate reversed the

court ruling in 1986 and New York City was forced to move its

sludge dump site from the 12 mile site to the 106 mile site,

(4) "Adverse impacts at the site at least in part contributed

by sludge dumping include: bacterial contamination and

closure of shellfish areas; elevated levels of toxic metals

and organohalogens in bottom sediments in and near the site

including known fishing areas and within five nautical miles

of coastal beaches; community changes in relative abundance

and diversity of species; sublethal toxicity effects in

economically valuable species; bioaccumulation of certain

metals and organohalogens in fish and shellfish" (Senate

Report No.  199-431), (5) Furthermore, according to the

Senate Report, "With the onset of large scale dumping of

sewage sludge at the 106 mile site in 1987, fishermen began

to complain of significant decreases in catches and

incidences of diseased fish which were previously not found

at these depths. Some of the diseased fish have a shell

disease which is associated with sewage sludge and pollution

in coastal waters. This disease was found around the 12 mile

site.", (6) At that time (1987), there were no documented

scientific studies to produce evidence of the damage by

sludge at the 12 mile site and according to the Senate

Report, "Scientists are just beginning to explore the impacts

that sludge dumping may be having on marine resources in the

area potentially effected by sludge dumping at the 12 mile

site.", (7) The Bill also redefined "sewage sludge" (P.L 95-

153- 33 U.S.C.  1412a(d)) to mean any solid, semi-solid, or

liquid waste generated by a wastewater treatment plant.

Moreover, "EPA would be precluded from determining whether or

not the sewage sludge may unreasonably degrade or endanger

human health, welfare or amenities, or the marine

environment, ecological systems and economic potentialities.

These changes are made to reverse the 1981 District Court

decision which allowed ocean dumping of sewage sludge to

continue. In that case, the Court found that sludge dumping

by New York City had not "unreasonably degraded or endangered

human health.....", (8) two of the main points expressed in

the Senate report was, "it is difficult to monitor the

harmful effects of dumping sewage sludge in the ocean and

there is no way to clean up dumped sludge if such sludge is

determined to be harmful in the future."

     While the Committee, like the EPA, claims it does not know the

extent of sludge contamination in food, nor the harm it can

do to public health, they forge ahead in their attempt to assure the public

that toxic sludge used on crops and lawns is safe. 

But is it? We don't even have to leave New York City to get an idea of the 
damage to public health and the cover up by some public officials. At the 
same time the NAS Committee was telling EPA how good a job it had done, a 
different story was unfolding in: 

New York City

     In a South Bronx community in New York City, the faculty

and children of P.S. 48 experienced headaches, sore throats,

nausea, sinus congestion, runny eyes, nosebleeds, tight

chests and asthma.  More than a quarter of the 1100 students

had asthma and were frequently hospitalized. Forty-seven

percent of one first grade class had asthma and thirty-three

percent had been hospitalized. The school is located five

blocks from a pelletization plant which processes New York

City sludge into Class A sludge fertilizer. A terrible stench

emanated from the plant causing nausea and upset stomachs.

Within fifteen yards of the school, uncovered trucks

transported foul-smelling sludge (containing live disease

causing organisms, toxic organic chemicals and toxic heavy

metals) from the treatment plants to the pelletization plant


     The plant is owned by the New York Organic Fertilizer

Company (NYOFCO), which is a subsidiary of Whellabrator,

which in turn, is a subsidiary of Solid Waste Management of

Illinois, the biggest waste conglomerate in the nation.

     I am personally acquainted with one of the teachers at

PS 48.  Unfortunately, which says something for free speech

in the United States today, I can not reveal her identity

because she fears reprisal. She has already been demoted once

because of her activities to stop the pollution that has made

so many of them ill.  Although I can't mention her real name,

I can tell you that Ms. X is one of the most dedicated and

caring teachers, who wants to make a positive difference in

the lives of her students, that I have ever met.  The first

time I met her I was touched by her heart-wrenching account

of the situation at PS 48 where so many children, day after

day, were suffering from a range of symptoms--burning eyes,

coughing, nausea, stomach cramps, nosebleeds, sore throats,

and asthma. She said she had to do something.  She couldn't

stand by and ignore the silent unspoken pleas in their sad

little eyes asking for someone to do something to make it


     Ms. X has worked tirelessly in the children's cause.

Working with Jane Lilly-Hersley of Almaden, she organized a

branch of CURE.  When she wrote as an individual to various

regulatory agencies (City and State) protesting the situation

at PS 48, her letters were ignored.  It wasn't until she sent

letters with the CURE letterhead that her letters were even

answered. All of her activities and those of several other

teachers, and some parents who were fighting the air

pollution proved to be of no avail; no one in any position of

authority in the City or State would help them.  It wasn't

until United States Representative Jose Serrano of New York

became involved in their struggle that anything was done to

alleviate the distressing situation at PS 48.  When

Representative Serrano held a hearing at the school and

learned the extent of the adverse health effects the students

were experiencing there, he was appalled. In a personal

interview, Rep. Serrano told Jack Newfield of the New York

Post that he was taking immediate action to remedy the

appalling situation.  According to Newfield, Serrano was

asking the federal EPA to test the air around PS 48.  He also

wanted a court injunction to stop the pollution.  Several

articles were written by the New York Post which aptly

portrayed the situation at PS 48 in Hunts Point.  In a follow

up to his February 13th article, Jack Newfield on February

16th wrote a hardhitting article entitled "Something Stinks

in Hunts Pt." in which he told about two scandals in the

South Bronx. The first scandal was the accelerated asthma

rate (32%) among the students of PS 48 which was within a

mile of more than 40 sludge, sewage and garbage disposal

facilities. The second scandal was the inactivity of the city

and state environmental and health agencies who appeared

unwilling to test the air quality around the school to

discover what it contained that was causing the asthma

epidemic.  Newfield ends his article with the admonition to

the federal EPA, the mayor and the governor to step in, take

decisive action and end the buck-passing that had been going

on, before a child dies from asthma.

     Someone finally paid attention. In a conversation with

Ms. X, she told me that the health of the children and

faculty had improved since NYOFCO was forced to install an

air control device totaling 1.6 million dollars.  The plant

also replaced the foul-smelling air with the smell of

cinnamon, lilac or almond. Can you imagine, the solution was to cover up the 
toxic aerosols with perfume? 

The questions that need to be asked by the City and State politicians, are 
what did EPA know about the danger of sludge transportation and use, and when 
did they actually know it?

Jim Bynum
PO Box 34475
N. KC, Mo. 64116

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