Opinion » Letters

Beware of sewage sludge compost




Injecting poisons into our environment has consequences. Lethal liver tumors in Morro Bay fish (gobies) most likely result from a carcinogenic and mutagenic chemical concentrated in sewage effluent and sludge. Researchers at Cal Poly’s Biological Sciences Department have concluded that this chemical (nonylphenol) is “the major pollutant threatening the marine life in Morro Bay,” and the Morro Bay National Estuary Program Director, Dan Berman, says “we just need to get this stuff out of the system” (“Tumors and sex changes: part deux,” Oct. 29).

The concentration of nonylphenol in goby livers is more than 22 times the average found in Morro Bay sediment, a clear indication of bioaccumulation and incremental contamination of the food chain. The concentration in oysters is more than 11 times the level found in that sediment.  Gobies may be the canaries of the bay.

No state, federal, or proposed county regulation limits the amount of nonylphenol allowed in sewage sludge applied to land. Although the county was advised to adopt a limit on this and other toxic chemicals in its sewage sludge land application ordinance in 2004, it has neglected to do so. European countries have banned the use of nonylphenol but it is spread on U.S. lands without any limit.

On Oct. 23, the SLO County Planning Commission voted to ban sewage sludge land application on open space lands, protecting 700,000 acres of land from ecological degradation. The county, however, proposes spreading sewage sludge on agricultural lands producing food, feed, and forage, without regulating the vast majority of its ingredients, and without any epidemiological evidence of its safety or effects.

Local consumers of food, water, and air would be wise to pay attention to government actions affecting their health.  Spreading sewage sludge on our food supply and watersheds is a case in point.

-- David Broadwater - Atascadero

-- David Broadwater - Atascadero

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