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Action Alert: Pass a Law to Label Food Grown on Sewage Sludge!

Chrys Ostrander

Was your food grown on sewage sludge? How would you even know?

A law being proposed in Olympia would label foods grown on sewage sludge.

Action Alert! Contact State Representative Brian Blake (D - 19th legislative district), Chair of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.

Message: Please grant a public hearing for House Bill 1653, "Protecting the public health of food consumers."

The easiest way is to go to the WA Legislature website and send Rep. Blake an email using the form on his page. That will send an email to him and send a copy to your own WA legislator. Here is that address:

Representative Brian Blake
437A Legislative Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504
(360) 786 - 7870

This bill was reintroduced on January 8, 2018. What does the bill say? Here's an excerpt:

"...Be It Enacted By The Legislature Of The State Of Washington: New Section. Sec. 1. (1) The legislature finds, for the purpose of protecting the health of those residing in Washington and to support transparency, that the people of Washington have the right to know if they are being exposed to dangerous contaminants when they consume or purchase products exposed to or containing sewage sludge. Municipal sewage sludge, also known as biosolids, contains many unregulated dangerous pollutants and pathogens that are not removed or rendered safe by any level of sewage treatment...

"... in order to protect the health of Washington state residents from exposure to pathogens, metals, persistent bioaccumulative hazardous substances, drug compounds, contaminants of emerging concern, and other hazardous substances, it is unlawful to knowingly sell or offer for sale at wholesale or retail any food or food products intended for human consumption that are grown in sewage, sewage sludge, biosolids, compost derived from or containing human waste, or any form or amount of human waste, unless the food, food products, or processed food are clearly and conspicuously labeled...'grown in sewage wastes.'"

Believe it or not, the Washington State Department of Ecology routinely disposes of municipal sewage sludge by having it applied to vast acreages of farmland. Some of your food might have been grown on that land. If you eat food from out of state, there is a very good chance some of it was grown on land where sewage sludge has been applied. Unfortunately, the dubious practice is utilized in many parts of the world.

Food shoppers need to be able to make their own choices. The state of Washington does not allow sewage sludge (or biosolids as the industry prefers to call it) to be labeled "fertilzer." If it's not fertilzer, what is it? The answer is, it is municipal waste and sewage. It's everything that taxpayers have spent millions of dollars removing from their municipal waste water before allowing that water to re-enter the environment ... and then they dump all those pollutants right back into the environment, right where your food grows.

Powerful interests have pushed the practice of spreading sewage sludge on farmland for decades. Today, however, we know much more about the hundreds of pollutants that are found in sludge, and it isn't good, yet the industry and its regulators stubbornly cling to measuring the levels of only 9 heavy metals and nitrogen.

Washington State has a word for what sewage sludge on farmland is: "Filth." In accordance with RCW 69.04.210, "a food shall be deemed to be adulterated ... if it has been produced, prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have become contaminated with filth." Here is the definition of "Contaminated with filth" from the Washington State Food Code: "The term "contaminated with filth" applies to any food, drug, device, or cosmetic not securely protected from dust, dirt, and as far as may be necessary by all reasonable means, from all foreign or injurious contaminations" (RCW 69.04.020).

Don't forget that crops grown or animals grazed on sludge-treated farmland can take up into their tissues some of the many sludge contaminants the regulators are failing to regulate. Sludge contaminants can get in the food. Sludge can get on the food. We need to label this kind of food. Contact Rep. Blake today!

This Action Alert was brought to you by Protect Mill Canyon Watershed and Inland FoodWise Online. Detailed information about the hazards of sewage sludge is available on the PMCW website,

Action Alert January, 2018