UNITED STATES SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
Briefing on “Oversight on the State of Science and Potential Issues Associated
with EPA’s Sewage Sludge Program”
September 11, 2008
TESTIMONY OF ROBERT A. (ANDY) MCELMURRAY, III
R. A. McElmurray & Sons, Inc.
2010 Brown Road
Hephzibah, Georgia 30815
Chairman Boxer, Ranking Member Inhofe and Honorable Members of the Committee, thank you for the privilege of testifying today about the destruction of our dairy farm business by hazardous wastes in sewage sludge, which was land-applied by the City of Augusta, Georgia.
Cattle Deaths, Milk Contamination
My name is Andy McElmurray, and with me today is my attorney, Ed Hallman of Decker, Hallman, Barber & Briggs in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Hallman has led a team of attorneys and experts for the last 10 years in an effort to recover compensation for the destruction of my family’s dairy farm business, which resulted from hazardous wastes in Augusta, Georgia’s sewage sludge. My testimony addresses the history of sewage sludge applications to my family’s farmlands. The City of Augusta invited us to participate in its land application program and assured us that the sewage sludge was safe for growing forage crops to feed to our dairy cattle.
We began receiving sewage sludge applications in 1979 and continued until 1990. On our farm, we grew forage crops to feed to our dairy cattle, and we grew row crops as well. In 1998, after hundreds of head of cattle sickened and died, we learned that Augusta’s sewage sludge contained extremely high levels of hazardous wastes that were toxic to diary cattle.
Another prize-winning dairy farm in the area owned by the family of Bill Boyce was hit even harder, and the owners had to abandon the dairy farm business altogether. Our families, who have farmed our land for three generations, have lost tens of millions of dollars in property value, lost property and agricultural products.
For over two decades, the City of Augusta, Georgia failed to enforce federal and state regulations requiring local industries to treat hazardous wastes before discharging them into the City’s sewers. The City also fudged, fabricated and invented data required under the Clean Water Act to make its sewage sludge appear to qualify as “Class B biosolids.” The bogus fertilizer ended up sickening and killing hundreds of dairy cows on the two dairy farms.
Milk samples collected from one of our farms still using forage grown on lands which received sewage sludge contained high levels of heavy metals and other sludge contaminants. Additional samples of milk pulled from shelves in grocery stores in Georgia and surrounding states also contained some of the same heavy metals at levels exceeding EPA’s safe drinking water standards. Unsafe levels of heavy metals in various samples included thallium, a rat poison toxic to humans in very small doses. Earlier this year, U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Alaimo rejected Augusta’s fabricated data and ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture must compensate me and my family for crops that could not be planted, because thousands of acres of land were too contaminated with hazardous chemical wastes from Augusta’s sewage sludge. Our dairy, which was once one of Georgia’s most productive dairy farms, was destroyed by the heavy metals, PCBs, chlordane, and other hazardous wastes that local industries dumped into Augusta’s sewer system.