Tag Archives: Biosolids/Sludge

January 28 Molalla City Council Meeting: Bear Creek Issues on the Agenda

At 7:00pm on Wednesday, January 28th, the Molalla City Council and the Molalla Urban Renewal Agency (MURA) will conduct Regular and Executive Meetings. The public is invited to attend the Regular Meeting sessions, which will be held at the Adult Center.

(click on image to learn more at the cityofMolalla.com website)

(click on image to learn more at the cityofMolalla.com website)

In preparation, the City of Molalla posted two large PDF documents, which can be viewed/downloaded via these links:

Bear Creek Recovery reviewed the documents. Three items were found that relate to the BCR mission: a scope/budget approval for contract work related to NPDES, spending approval of seven flow meters to monitor sewer I&I, and proposed tax abatement for Pacific Fibre Products, Inc. Two of these items were already approved; the third item is proposed. Details and links are provided below:

(1) Brown & Caldwell Project Scope:

NOTE: NPDES stands for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. This is a federal system managed by the U.S. EPA, to ensure proper management and handling of pollutants so that water quality is protected. An NPDES permit is required before wastewater can be discharged into Bear Creek or the Molalla River. Application of sewage sludge (aka, biosolids) on farmland and other sites, is also subject to federal guidelines.
This issue was brought up at the 12/17/2014 Molalla City Council meeting, and approved.

(click on image to view entire 12/17/2014 draft meeting minutes)


(2) MSTP Flow Meters for I&I:

NOTE: ‘I & I’ is inflow and infiltration. Both terms refer to the invasion of extra and unwanted water into the raw sewage flow. Infiltration is water that leaks via poor pipe seals or pipe fractures. Inflow is the addition of rainwater and other liquids that is improperly piped into the sewer lines. An ‘I&I Analysis’ is done to assess the quality of a sewer system in terms of leakage.
This issue was brought up at the 1/14/2015 Molalla City Council meeting, and approved.
20150114scp.. Molalla City Council, draft minutes, scrap re I&I flow meters contract approval

(click on image to view entire 1/14/2015 draft meeting minutes)


(3) Proposed Tax Abatement for Pacific Fibre:

NOTE: The following was included in the 1/14/2015 ‘City Manager’s Report’:20150114scp.. Molalla City Council, draft minutes, scrap re Pacific Fibre tax abatement proposalThis proposal seeks to continue to waive tax payments for a company operating in Molalla. In trade, the company is to pay new employees at a high wage level, IF they hire any new employees. Molalla forgoes tax revenues in exchange for what is potentially (?likely?) zero benefit.
The proposal is listed cryptically on the agenda, as a ‘5 year enterprise zone agreement’, with no mention of the company involved, or the impacts of that company (both positive and negative). A city deficient in parks and behind on  maintaining and upgrading it’s sewers  is thus giving away needed funds.
Is this a local example of ‘Crony Capitalism‘? Will the City Council reject this bad idea? Will they ask the hard questions on Wednesday, or do citizens need to speak up?
Here’s a link to an analysis by BCR.

August 2014: A ‘Letter to Editor’ to Molalla Pioneer, regarding Biosolids

…the following is Jeff Lewis’ Letter to the Editor, sent to the Molalla Pioneer…

As a local citizen in the Molalla area, I appreciate that our local newspaper covers important government decisions that can impact health and quality of life. One example is the recent Pioneer coverage on 8/20/2014, ‘Council Accepts New Biosolids Plan’.

The article accurately notes that the Molalla Sewage Treatment Plant (the large ponds just west of Les Schwab) generates lots of waste byproducts, all of which must eventually be removed. What concerns me though is that the article implies lots of rules are being followed and that applying this sludge onto cropland is all positive, but the article fails to identify the negatives. Nor does the article mention a better and safer solution: this sludge needs to be sent to a landfill, not disposed onto cropland.

I am working with a few other concerned citizens who are trying to help Molalla officials improve Molalla, especially around the resource we know as Bear Creek. Our nonprofit group has created a website, BearCreekRecovery.org, where we are posting information and inviting community discussion. One of our key areas of concern is what the Molalla Sewage Treatment Plant (MSTP) does with their waste byproducts: the wastewater and sludge.

Fifty years ago, most U.S. cities disposed of sewage waste by piping it into rivers and barging it out for ocean dumping. The Clean Water Act put an end to that. A few years later, EPA began a positive ‘spin’ program, to convince the public that sewage treatment byproducts do not have to be fully cleaned and can be ‘beneficial’ if disposed onto farmland.

How dangerous is this stuff? Just go online and Google ‘biosolids Georgia dairy lawsuit’. There are hundreds of news articles, congressional testimonies and more about one of the worst biosolid stories: more than 200 cows killed by accumulation of biosolid toxins that eventually destroyed two dairies. Or, please see the collection of links at the BearCreekRecovery.org website.

It is good that Mayor Rogge, the City Council and Mr. Huff are looking at this issue, deliberating in public sessions, and explaining their decision to the press. This is transparency, which we need to happen. But, we are all aware of the power of ‘spin’ to distort public perception. A public manipulated to see only the good while ignoring the bad is a public poorly served by officials. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I hope that Molalla officials will soon clarify:

  • of the “750,000 gallons of sludge” declared in the article, how much of that is water, and how much of that is actual solids dredged from the MSTP ponds?
  • what percentage of total accumulated biosolids do we expect to see removed under this new contract transporting “750,000 gallons of sludge” to the Macksburg farmland?
  • what testing is MSTP doing on this “750,000 gallons of sludge” to assess the presence and concentration of such toxic elements as heavy metals, persistent synthetic pharmaceuticals, dioxins, etc. …the same biosolids toxins that have damaged and even destroyed farmlands elsewhere in the United States?

Thank you, Molalla Pioneer, for printing this letter at page 4 in the 8/27/2014 print edition. [link to jpeg]

January 2014: 60-day Notice of Violations by City of Molalla STP (final version)

When a municipal sewage treatment plant fails to comply with the Clean Water Act, citizens have a right to take legal action. The process requires that the aggrieved first submit a 60-day notice, as a warning of the intent to file a civil action. This affords the municipality an opportunity to responsibly correct identified noncompliances.

On January 24, 2014, the CRAG Law Center (Cascade Resources Advocacy Group) filed a 60-day notice with the City of Molalla, on behalf of Bear Creek Recovery and Susan Hansen. Within the notice, a long series of failures were identified.

Here is a portion of the first page; click on the image to open a PDF of the full 10-page document.

(click on image to view/download pdf copy)

(click on image to view/download 10-pg PDF copy)

January 24, 2014: Letter to the Editor

The following is Bear Creek Recovery’s Letter to the Editor, as published in the Molalla Pioneer…


Molalla and the Clean Water Act: Why We Care

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. “ – Loran Eisely, The Immense Journey

As you travel around the Molalla countryside, have you noticed all the “magic waters” that gather and flow? Our hills and dales are filled with springs, vernal pools, wetlands, creeks and one amazing wild and scenic river. Some of our watersheds feed the Molalla River; many others flow west to join the Pudding River. Some water emerges and then seeps below ground to recharge our wells. All our gathering waters finally join the Willamette and the Columbia. Along the way – from the tiniest springs and seasonal pools to the mighty Columbia – wildlife, domestic animals and humans depend on clean water to survive.

Last spring, a group of local people gathered to discuss concerns about Molalla area watersheds. A non-profit called Bear Creek Recovery (BCR) was formed. Bear Creek was chosen as a symbol of a local watershed in need of mitigation and protection. BCR’s goals include working to educate the public about Bear Creek and its adjoining watersheds and wetlands.

BCR has learned a great deal about the functions of local watersheds and identified threats to our fragile wetland environments. We have focused on Molalla’s wastewater treatment plant, because the City discharges treated effluent into the Molalla River while it also, during the dry months, applies tens of millions of gallons of wastewater to areas of the Bear Creek Watershed. What we learned is that the City is falling behind on the most basic upkeep and maintenance causing major problems for our watersheds. For years, the City has been using illegal disposal sites. For its part, DEQ has looked the other way and has never once enforced the permit against the City.

Molalla’s violations revolve around inflow and infiltration of groundwater into the old sewers (I&I), lack of adequate recycled water application sites, sewage sludge accumulation and ponding, run-off and creek re-charge from over-irrigating with recycled water

A recent report from DEQ indicates that an estimated 500,000 gallons per day of groundwater and stormwater are entering its sewage system, which overwhelms the treatment plant. The City’s I&I problems has been known for years, yet DEQ continues to allow the City to delay taking significant steps to fix the failing sewer pipes. DEQ now proposes to amend the City’s permit without requiring the most basic maintenance of the City’s system.

Here is what Molalla’s former Director of Public Works, Dean Madison, stated in a memo to DEQ in 1997: “Molalla has major I&I problems…flows up to 100 times normally acceptable levels…the entire older system has high I&I throughout.” Seventeen years later, no aggressive action has been taken to solve the I&I problems. DEQ should ensure that the City actually begins resolving the I&I issue under its new permit, but, based on the draft permit, this is not likely to happen.

What is DEQ’s answer? It proposes to rubber stamp the illegal disposal sites that Molalla has been using for years. That’s like punishing your child by patting him on the back and saying, “nice job, son.” Even with multiple unpermitted sites in use in the past, Molalla caused overspray, ponding, run-off and re-charge of Bear Creek; at times the city disposed of recycled water in the Molalla River during summer and fall. With DEQ unwilling to police the City, violations will likely continue.

Another major problem is that once water is separated and processed to be recycled, the City is left with sewer sludge (biosolids), which fills up its lagoons. This build-up of sludge has contributed to the City’s need to violate its permit in the past to avoid lagoon overflow and failure. The City needs to clean out its system, dispose of the sludge properly, and get back on track.

Water may seem “magic” but there is no alchemy that can solve the many water quality problems we observe in Molalla. It will take education, cooperation and, ultimately, major changes to Molalla’s practices to meet compliance with the Clean Water Act. BCR’s 60 day notice is an invitation for all local stakeholders – urban and rural – to work together immediately to find solutions for Molalla’s recycled water, I&I and biosolids violations. This is the least that we should expect from the City as a good neighbor in our small community.

Ignoring water quality problems for decades causes them to be more difficult and expensive to solve. Molalla’s ability to thrive and grow will depend on its willingness to finally meet these challenges head on. Bear Creek Recovery encourages everyone to help with our mission to honor, protect and enhance the fantastic water resources we share in this amazing place we all call home.

July 2013: Draft Recycled Water Use Plan for MSTP (41-pages)

As part of the process for renewing their permits, Molalla STP prepared a draft Recycled Water Use Plan (RWUP), dated July 18, 2013.

“The City irrigates the Coleman Ranch, Jorgensen property, and the wastewater plant, in the summer to make it until the next discharge cycle. We treat the irrigation water with the same process as the water discharged to the Molalla River.”

– text from pg.8 of this draft RWUP

The text within this draft RWUP specifically notes that the reason for irrigating is to “…make it until the next discharge cycle.” In other words, this is seen as a simple engineering problem: manage the accumulating wastewater until the date arrives, sometime in the fall, when it is again legal to discharge directly into the Molalla River. It is that simple.

To appease citizen concerns, they promote this irrigation as a ‘beneficial use’. Officials pretend there are no health issues associated with this treated wastewater, but given the history, can we really trust that this ‘treated wastewater’ has been adequately ‘cleaned’? Can we be confident that the wastewater being used to irrigate pastures for grazing cattle and other properties does not have hazardous (and persistent) elements such as synthetic pharmaceutical compounds? Is it possible that using this water to irrigate at Coleman Ranch and other locations is triggering other problems, such as blooms of E.coli contamination?

The key question is this: would it be safer and healthier, and would we thus be better off, if we stored the MSTP wastewater through the summer then discharged into the river during the rainy season? And, if so, do we have sufficient storage capacity at the MSTP lagoons to pursue this as a real option? Or, are the MSTP ponds too small, or too plugged with accumulated sludge that has not been regularly removed?

September 2008: McElmurray’s Senate Testimony About Biosolid Contamination at Two Dairies in Georgia

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
McElmurray@aol.com

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.

(Click on page two to read further testimony, including ‘How it Happened’, ‘The Gatekeepers’, ‘The Mehan Letter’, ‘How Widespread are the Problems’, and ‘Conclusion’.)

January 1999: Sludge Magic at the EPA

…David Lewis is a prominent EPA Whistleblower. The following is a copy of one of his many articles about the long history of failure in EPA’s biosolids programs….

Sludge Magic at the EPA
The Journal of Commerce; January 27, 1999
by David L. Lewis, Ph.D.

According to scientists working for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research & Development, the Sludge Rule on land application of municipal wastes (40 CFR Part 503) promulgated in 1993 may be the most scientifically unsound action ever taken by the agency. Rather than being protective, the rule actually threatens public health and the environment.

In short, EPA’s sludge rule permits land application of dried urban sewage — called “sludge” — in lieu of dumping it in the ocean, which is now prohibited. About half of the sludge from municipal waste treatment facilities across the U.S., containing human sewage, agricultural runoff and industrial wastes, is now being used to fertilize farmland, national forests, and other areas. This amount is rapidly increasing as states and waste
disposal companies pressure local communities to use sewage sludge and assure the public that the EPA has determined it to be virtually risk-free.

In 1972 Congress amended the Clean Water Act directing EPA to develop regulations for disposing of sewage sludge. A U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon followed suit in 1990, issuing a consent decree requiring the agency to promulgate the regulations within two years.

Remarkably, the agency’s position on this issue reveals a sort of environmental doublespeak– traces of pesticides, heavy metals, and industrial wastes that environmental officials have long argued cause cancer and other major public health problems — are now said to be completely safe for disposal on farmlands, forests, even home lawns and gardens.

The science behind EPA’s sludge rule, according to some of the agency’s own scientists who reviewed it, was so bad it was popularly deemed “sludge magic”. Because sludge contains human pathogens and trace quantities of mercury, lead, and other toxic metals, applying it to areas used for growing food crops and selling bags of it to home gardeners is a source of concern. Ecologists also have reservations about the effects of nutrients, toxic metals, and other pollutants leaching from sludge into surface and groundwater. Indeed, government researchers in Canada collaborating with scientists at the University of Quebec last year published a study showing that forests treated with sewage sludge released toxic metals in amounts that exceeded water-quality criteria for protecting aquatic organisms.

Disease-causing microorganisms that can lie dormant or proliferate in soil treated with sludge are even more disconcerting to microbiologists. Samples taken this year from land [Alice Minter Trust farm] in north Kansas City contained 650,000 salmonella and E. coli bacteria per 100 grams of soil -many thousands of times higher that what is considered safe by public health officials. The source, apparently, was sludge applied in the area
before 1992.

The appearance of new strains of staphylococcus, tuberculosis, E. coli and other bacteria –some of which are completely resistant to modern antibiotics — has led to a resurgence of life-threatening infections that were once easily treated. Spreading sludge, which contains such superbugs flushed down hospital sewer lines, on farms and home gardens throughout the U.S. has scientists both inside and outside of EPA understandably concerned.

With increasing numbers of children dying from E. coli strain O157 traced to an assortment of products, including strawberries and hamburger meat, citizens are becoming increasingly concerned over agricultural products imported from less developed areas of the world where human waste serves as cheap fertilizer. Content that syringes and rubber gloves no longer litter our beaches, few policymakers and reporters seem even slightly curious about how our government solved the problem of ocean dumping of municipal wastes.

Still, it is what EPA’s sludge rule says about many of the agency’s other regulations that seems most enigmatic. When asked why pesticides, organic solvents, toxic metals and other pollutants in sludge pose virtually no risk to public health or the environment, agency officials point to a lack of documented cases of anyone becoming sick from exposure to sludge. Critics argue that the same can be said of traces of pesticides and other industrial chemicals in drinking water. EPA’s position on sludge, they say, shows that agency regulations are based on political expediency, not sound science.

Dr. Lewis has a Ph.D. degree in microbial ecology, works as a research microbiologist for the U.S. EPA Ecosystems Research Division, and is an adjunct scientist at the University of Georgia.
DISCLAIMER: These comments represent Dr. Lewis’ personal views, not official policies of the U.S. EPA. This article is part of a joint study by the Lexington Institute and the Institute for Policy Innovation, “Out of Control: Ten Case Studies in Regulatory Abuse.”
Copied 8/14/2014 from: http://www.deadlydeceit.com/SludgeMagic.html
Minor edits may have been made by BCR.org.

June 1994: An EPA Brochure Promoting Application of Biosolids

…this brochure was issued in summer 1994, to promote application of biosolids on farmlands, in forests, and to accelerate the reclamation of strip mines and other damaged lands. It is presented here in JPEG format, including the front cover, inside cover, and all 32 numbered pages….

19940600.. Biosolids Recycling, Beneficial Technology, EPA brochure p.0 (front cover)

(…Click on page two to view the remaining 31-pages of this EPA brochure…)

July 1981: An EPA Study on How to Gain Public Acceptance of Biosolid Recycling (108-pages)

19810700.. Institutional Constraints and Public Acceptance Barriers (EPA study, cover pic)In July 1981, EPA published a 108-page study called ‘Institutional Constraints and Public Acceptance Barriers to Utilization of Municipal Wastewater and Sludge for Land Reclamation and Biomass Production’. [PDF Copy]

Project oversight was provided by two Federal officials: David Burmaster of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and Bob Bastian at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The study was prepared by a team of three in the Boston area, including a professional engineer, a lawyer, and a PhD science consultant.

Some would view this study as a plan assessing: ‘what can be done by public employees and waste system operators to nullify citizen opposition to sludge applications?’ Here is the Executive Summary page (with red markups added by BCR.org):19810700.. Executive Summary (p.7 of 108p EPA study PDF)

The second half of this 108-page report includes synopses of Case Studies for eighteen different biosolids applications programs. Here is a Table that summarizes these case studies:19810700.. Table summarizing Sludge Case Studies (p.27 of 108p EPA study PDF)

Here is a list of the Case Studies, from page 47 of the PDF report:19810700.. Table of Contents for 18 Sludge Case Studies (p.47 of 108p EPA study)

Two of these Case Studies will be especially relevant to readers concerned about the use of biosolids from the Molalla Sewage Treatment Plant (MSTP) sewage ponds. These are the Vestel, NY case, and the Lewis & King Counties, WA case. Here are two jpeg clips from these two case studies, with minor text (in color) added by BCR.org:19810700.. Lewis & King Counties Case Study (clip from p.78 of 108p EPA study PDF) 19810700.. Vestel, NY Case Study (clip from p.48 of 108p EPA study PDF)