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No more BS for Pennsylvania

Published September 11. 2010 09:00AM

Nothing stands for BS better than biosolids, a made-up, friendly-sounding name for toxic mud.

Biosolids are the byproduct of sewage treatment. The legal term for this residue is sludge.

But sludge isn't a pleasant sounding name and so a government agency came up with the very pretty name biosolids.

It's lethal lipstick being put on a poison pig.

Sludge contains bacteria, viruses and heavy metals. And like any toxic waste, industry doesn't know where to dump it.

When they tried putting it into the ocean, it created dead zones. That practice now has been outlawed.

For years it was used as fertilizer, now a subject of much criticism. They're stopping the practice in Europe.

Here in America, land application of sludge is blamed on the deaths of at least two Pennsylvania boys in separate incidents.

One child in Osceola Mills rode his dirt bike through sludge. He became ill and died within six days. Another, Danny Pennock, a teen from Mohrsville, died after sludge was put on fields next to his home. Ever since Danny's painful death, his parents have crusaded for public awarenenss so that no other family will lose a child so cruelly and unnecessarily. I know about the case because I interviewed the family. I spent time with them and felt their pain.

Now, industry wants to use Harrisburg sludge as backfill in Pennsylvania strip mines located near coal towns the equivalent of sweeping it under the rug and threatening the health of local populations.

Trying to sell the public on the idea, the government wants to show that vegetation can grow on sludge.

They've even done a test project to try and illustrate how wonderful sludge can be. They want everyone to see the lush greenery growing on otherwise toxic sludge so that John Q. Public will decide that sludge is good.

In other words, if something green can grow on sludge, then sludge must be fine. Of course, mold can grow on an orange. But that doesn't mean the orange is good. Same for the mold.

Last week, I listened carefully to the proposal to use sludge to fill a minepit. The consultants who explained the process handed out slick literature which tried to sell the idea of "beneficial use." They tried to make biosolids sound better than ice cream.

Never once was the term sludge used. Never once was it revealed that deaths are attributed to exposure to sludge.

The presenters also said no money would be involved in the project. In other words, a coal company wants to haul sludge to the local area and they won't receive a penny. They're supposedly doing it out of the goodness of their corporate hearts.

"The fee they receive will only cover their expenses," said the consultant. Yes, of course.

The entire presentation was convincing for anyone born yesterday.

Biosolids can be summed up in one term BS. It's a deadly waste product containing arsenic, heavy metals, cancer-causing PCBs and gosh-knows-what.

It's simply another form of toxic dumping, regardless of how many pineapple trees might grow in the stuff. If sludge is trucked into Schuylkill Township, it'll cause problems wherever it's dumped and wherever it's stored. The time has come to know shed from Shinola. Sludge kills.

If DEP bureaucrats want to prove sludge is healthful, maybe they should keep it in Harrisburg and spread it around the capital, where new growth is desperately needed.

The residents of Pennsylvania have seen sludge become a tragedy, not once but twice. We can't bring back two innocent boys but we can learn from past mistakes. We can make sure those children did not die in vain.

Sludge has no place around people, and Pennsylvania doesn't need any more BS.

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