Do you want everything that goes down your drain winding up on your backyard produce? Well that’s what happens to those who use organic compost made with municipal sewage.
More than half of the 15 trillion gallons of sewage flushed annually by Americans ends up in a fertilizer product and those products contain everything that goes down the drain from Prozac flushed down toilets to the motor oil rinsed off factory floors (http://motherjones.com/environment/…). The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t regulate which fertilizers can be labeled as “organic” which means anyone can use the term, including those companies that are packaging what we flush. A 2009 EPA survey of U.S. sludge samples found 12 pharmaceuticals, 10 flame retardants, and high levels of endocrine disruptors such at triclosan, an antibacterial soap ingredient that scientists believe is killing amphibians.
In communities where sludge has been used, effects on the community have been reported by ailing residents with complaints ranging from migraines to pneumonia to mysterious deaths. In an often-cited 1994 episode, an 11-year-old Pennsylvania boy died of a staph infection after biking through sludge at an abandoned mine (http://motherjones.com/environment/…).
Marketed with near zero regulation
With those kinds of risks associated with the use of sewage sludge, compost consumers should know whether sludge permeates their choice of product. But compost products, such as Kellogg’s Amend, do not list sludge or even “biosolids” on their label and instead just list the vague term “compost” (http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/…).
Although the USDA banned the use of sludge in organic agriculture, it does not regulate which fertilizers for private use can be labeled as organic. And the nonprofit U.S. Composting Council is no better, using its green image for the Orwellian rebranding of sludge while biosolids companies sit on its board of directors and sponsor the councils Composting Week, according to Mother Jones. (http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/…)
Dodge the sludge
If you want to keep the sludge and its chemical contaminants out of your organic garden, there are many alternative fertilizer choices that will keep your garden green — in both senses of the word.
Some mineral-based fertilizers that will work over the long term include Epsom salt, gypsum, limestone and greensand. These rocks add essential minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, sulfur and phosphorus to the soil (http://www.dummies.com/how-to/conte…).
For more immediate results, plant and animal-based products will increase soil fertility and soil health. These include alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal, kelp/seaweed, blood meal, bone meal, fish products, manure and compost.
Do it yourself
Compost adds organic matter and helps to make nutrients available in the soil, and, if you want to have control over what goes into your own garden, making your own compost is the way to go. There are many methods for making your own compost: you can make a traditional compost pile; make a composting bin, if you live in the city (http://www.organicgardening.com/lea…); or, if you are really adventurous, use a composting toilet (http://www.organicauthority.com/org…).
Just remember, if you go the humanure route, whatever you eat will end up in your compost, so if you are eating conventional food with chemical fertilizers or food additives, or if you are taking prescription medicines, it will all end up in the compost and on your plants. So if you want the highest quality food for your garden, make sure you are eating the highest quality food yourself.
If you don’t have the time to make your own compost but still want to avoid the sludge, there are plenty of commercial products that will work just as well. Look for products like Buffaloam (http://www.buffaloam.com/about-us/), which is made from 100 percent buffalo manure produced and composted on a ranch in the Laramie River Valley of northern Colorado. The company uses no mixed feedstocks, no blends, no added chemicals, no artificial ingredients, and no unknown fillers or waste products. The company makes it by blending buffalo manure with locally produced wood shavings that are composted for over a year. Look for similar claims on other products and make sure that the wood shavings that are used are not chemically treated or those chemicals will end up in your food too.
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