EPA leaders perpetuate silent spring

The Oconee Enterprise, June 9, 2016:
Dr. David Lewis

Former EPA Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe alternated back and forth between directing EPA and the National Audubon Society. As chief birdwatcher, he promoted sewage treatment plants as bird sanctuaries. But, at EPA, he covered up adverse effects land application of sewage sludges, aka biosolids, are having on the environment. He even reneged on an agreement that would have funded EPA researchers in Athens to investigate the impact DDT metabolites and other pollutants in sewage sludges are likely having on birds.

EPA’s Office of Research & Development refused to approve EPA’s sludge regulation without a proper foundation in science. Perciasepe circumvented ORD by funding the University of Georgia and other universities to support it in violation of the Federal Grants and Cooperative Agreement Act, which prohibits federal grants from directly benefitting the government. He also created a biosolids response team, which used fabricated data to discredit evidence of adverse health effects.
2016_6_9 EPA leaders
Perciasepe paved the way for other top EPA officials to protect the sewage sludge business. Inspector General John Martin dismantled ORD’s network of independent field labs that refused to approve EPA’s sludge regulation. Thomas Burke, who currently heads ORD, removed evidence showing EPA-approved biosolids are having adverse health effects from a National Academy of Sciences report. And Deputy Asst. Administrator Henry Longest stopped EPA scientists from documenting adverse effects.

Sewage treatment plants selectively concentrate the kinds of highly persistent chemical pollutants that are biomagnified up the food chain. Rachel Carson wrote about them in her book, “Silent Spring.” Thanks to Perciasepe and other top EPA leaders, every municipality in the United States now spreads tons of treated sewage sludges on every conveniently available acre of land it can find. Pollutant-laden soil particles are picked up by wind and rain, and redeposited far and wide.

The toll biosolids will eventually take on the environment could rival the effects of climate change. Plant and animal populations have rebounded after warming periods and Ice Ages. But few, if any, living organisms are equipped to deal with us combining the whole universe of pollutants that damage plants and animals at trace levels in water, and spreading them on land at millions of times higher concentrations.


David Lewis, Ph.D.

Former U.S. EPA Research Microbiologist

David Lewis is an internationally recognized research microbiologist whose work on public health and environmental issues, as a senior-level Research Microbiologist in EPA’s Office of Research & Development and member of the Graduate Faculty of the University of Georgia, has been reported in numerous news articles and documentaries from TIME magazine and Reader’s Digest to National Geographic.

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