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Latest Insanity; Farm Fertilizer From Human Waste


Why should the sudden outbreak of deadly hepatitis-A from eating farm produce surprise health officials in the United States this fall? After all, farmers have been fertilizing crops with their own feces and the feces of their neighbors for longer than I want to know.


That the Environmental Protection Agency and farm specialists apparently encourage farmers to fertilize their crops with sludge from human septic and waste disposal systems was a shock to me, although I guess I should have expected it.


I remember about 30 years ago, while working as a bureau news reporter in a rural area about 60 miles from Detroit, when there was a brouhaha over a plan to pump Detroit sewage up a pipeline to a massive sludge field so it could be used as farm fertilizer. The farmers in our neck-of-the-woods wouldnt consider such an idea. There were heated public meetings where the dangers of contacting hepatitis and a variety of other health problems from doing such a foolish thing were raised.


In those days everybody knew that you never planted a garden over a rural septic field. You never fertilized your home-grown vegetables with your own crap. It wasnt healthy and it didnt take a bright college boy to know why.


They stopped the Detroit project in its tracks and I thought (or hoped) that was going to be the end of that kind of thinking. Yet later when I was working in the White Mountains, Arizona, I wrote some stories about a plant in Pinetop-Lakeside that was successfully grinding up and cooking old newspapers, garbage and other organic waste, then drying it and selling it as compost. I wondered then if human excrement was getting into the mix but I guess I didnt want to ask.


Holy shades of Solient Green! Suddenly it is in the news. Not only are farmers dumping their turds in the corn, beans and lettuce fields, people are eating this food. It is being sold to us as safe produce in our supermarkets!


A story in the Earthlinks web site by Anita Sands, dated Aug. 7, said she just learned that "sewer companies all over USA have started to drop their crap on local fields."  She said they have "convinced farmers theyre doing them a favor. Expect a tidal wave of hepatitis to result!" she warned.


Apparently the Chinese found a way to safely turn human waste into a safe rich compost but it took a special process that included cooking the material at high heat for at least a month to kill all of the viruses and other nasty critters found in human waste. The Americans wont spend the time and money needed to do it the Chinese way. Consequently they are serving our farmers a thick, "viral soup" that promises to kill some and make others very sick.


In spite of lawsuits filed by environmental groups, attempting to stop this insanity, the Environmental Protection Agency, under the Bush Administration, recently announced that it has no plans to regulate land applied sludge because it believes it poses minimal danger.


That story used the EPA's own statistics showing that about 5.6 tons of sewage sludge is now being disposed of each year in the United States. More than 3 million tons are being used as fertilizer on farms, forests, parks, golf courses, lawns and home gardens.


That lawsuit was centered on dioxins. But the sludge contains a lot of other very deadly little critters that all humans should be concerned about when they buy fresh, uncooked vegetables nowadays for their salads.


Among the bacteria found in human sludge: Cholera, Salmonella, Typhoid, Campylobacter, Coliform, E coli and Tuberclebacilli. The viruses include not only hepatitis but Meningitis, polio and gastro-enteritis.


Then there are the worms that include pinworms, tapeworms, liver flukes and a variety of other crawly little things that can make folks very sick.


Dog feces is cleaner than the stuff we humans emit.


It seems obvious to me that some people in high places, and people involved in the production and distribution of our food, are not thinking right. They are so interested in making money they forgot some of the basic health rules that every kid used to learn in about the fifth grade.