- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Environmental Protection Agency said this week that it might start regulating 15 more pollutants contained in the nearly 6 million tons of sewage sludge used or disposed of in the United States each year.

New assessments of the risks that the chemicals pose will be made before any final regulations are proposed, the agency said.

Based on the results of the studies, the EPA says, it “will propose as soon as practicable new regulations … for any pollutants” in sewage sludge that might be concentrated enough to cause harm.

The 15 chemicals — acetone, anthracene, barium, beryllium, carbon disulfide, 4-chloroaniline, diazinon, fluoranthene, manganese, methyl ethyl ketone, nitrate, nitrite, phenol, pyrene and silver — already are considered hazardous enough to be potential threats to the health of people and wildlife species, the agency said.

The EPA already regulates nine inorganic chemicals in biosolids.

Also Wednesday, the EPA denied a petition from 73 labor, environmental and farm groups for an immediate moratorium on land-based uses for sewage sludge. That would have affected more than 3 million tons of sludge used every year as fertilizer.

Laura Orlando, speaking for the coalition, said the EPA was “dodging the ball when no one is looking” by issuing the decision on New Year’s Eve.

The actions come a year and a half after a National Research Council panel criticized the EPA for using outdated science in assessing health risks of treated sludge used as fertilizer. The EPA had asked the council for the review. The agency’s inspector general also had cited “gaps in the science” used to approve sludge recycling.

The council said the EPA’s standards in 1993 for using sludge-derived fertilizer were based on an unreliable 1988 survey identifying the hazardous chemicals it contains.

Since then, the council said, technology for detecting pathogens and methods for assessing health risks have developed significantly.

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