This past November in the U.S., the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) published a notice that it could no longer assure the public that land-applied biosolids were safe. The agency made this statement based on the acknowledgement that it does not know the risks involved with spreading hundreds of pollutants onto farm soils. It identifies 352 toxins found in biosolids as being of most concern.
BC (and indeed Canada) needs to make a similar statement – and for the same reason. Our government agencies equally lack data on these toxins, which, as the EPA states, “include pharmaceuticals, steroids and flame retardants.” Currently, only a dozen pollutants are tested for in these patches of toxic goulash that are trucked out of our cities and spread on our farms and forests.
How can our Ministry of the Environment make a claim of safety? They can’t.
B.C.is currently updating its guidelines around its Organic Matter Recycling Regulations. The new guidelines will still only insist on testing for a dozen pollutants – primarily metals. This is simply not sufficient to assure public health, or that of the environment. There are too many unknowns, and the risks are too high. Switzerland has completely banned the use of biosolids on agricultural soils because of the risk of irreversible damage to the soil, the danger to public health and possible negative effects on the quality of the food farmers produce.
We should be taking a similar stand, and using our toxic sewage waste as a source of energy, and a resource that can be mined for its nitrogen and phosphorus . It is time to take decisive steps to end land-applied sludge, and more immediately, the B.C. government and the Canadian government have a duty to follow the EPA lead here and make a similar public statement – They cannot assure the public that biosolids are safe.