Sewage sludge in your salad?

Just to make something clear from the outset – I think humanure is a wonderful thing. We need to be doing more with our poop and urine.

After all, we use horse and cow manure on our gardens without any sort of revulsion right?

Not all poop is created equal though and given our diets along with medications we use and other substances we ingest; the idea of human poop from folks I don’t know being used to fertilise crops I eat is a little off-putting. Maybe I’m just too fussy.

The thought of processed sewage sludge being spread on gardens I’m totally fine with, but when it comes to my lettuce, no thanks. I want to know what’s in that poop and if I’m going to eat crops fertilized in such a way, I would rather use home brewed humanure from “trusted sources”.

Another issue of concern is all the toilet chemicals we use – they are a part of sewage as well and not all of them can be removed or neutralized in normal sewage wastewater treatment.

A group called the “Citizens for Sludge-Free Land” aren’t happy about it either.

They claim information provided to Virginia landowners about using sewage sludges as fertilizer is deceptive. They say farmers are not being told that typical sewage sludges from industrialized urban areas contain not only pathogens, but also PCBs, dioxins, carcinogens, pharmaceuticals, flame retardants and hormone disrupting chemicals.

Citizens for Sludge-Free Land state farmers are also not being told that sludge-exposure has been linked to illness and death in humans and livestock, groundwater pollution and other negative effects on the environment.

Humanure has been used in Asia for centuries to fertilize food crops; but centuries ago our diets were nothing like they are now, nor did we flush toilets ladened with cleaning chemicals.

What are your thoughts? Would you happily eat food crops fertilized in such a manner?

It’s something to think about the next time you flush your no.2’s – you may not have seen the last of it!

Update April 11: Carol Snyder from SludgeFacts contacted me after I had published this post and offered some further information:

“It is not just VA farmers who  are being deceived about the risks of using biosolids, but farmers everywhere. One of the ways that deception manifests itself is that those who promote the practice refer to  sewage sludge or biosolids as “humanure”.

Humanure is what comes out of composting toilets. Sludge, however, is what comes out of sewage treatment plants which are used by every industry, business, and institution in the country to dispose of their waste, much of it toxic and persistent.

There are tens of thousands of chemical compounds in use today–most of them end up in sewers and concentrate in sludge. Only a tiny fraction are regulated.

Every business, institution, and industry is legally permitted, every month, to dispose of 33 pounds of hazardous waste in sewage treatment plants., where they, together with other contaminants are removed from the waste water and end up in sludge.

Human waste (humanure) is just a very small component of this unpredictable and complex waste that should not be spread on our fields, farms, and forests.”

For more on the topic, visit SludgeFacts


Composting human waste