A couple of months ago I had no idea what biosolids are.  We’ve been buying mulch by the yard at a local nursery and by the bag and I’ve never seen “biosolids” listed anywhere.  But of course, I can’t say that I looked for it.

Then Rhonda posted at the Las Vegas Yahoo group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Let_It_Grow_LV/ that bio solids are sewage sludge after she discovered that “Tomato Lady” Leslie Doyle’s special “ORGANIC” soil mix contains SEWAGE SLUDGE.


From SourceWatch, an EXCELLENT resource:

Sewage sludge is the growing and continuous mountain of hazardous waste produced daily by wastewater treatment plants. The sewage sludge industry has created a PR euphemism it uses in place of the words ‘sewage sludge’: biosolids. There is now a SourceWatch Portal on Toxic Sludge


Sludge makeover

The proposal to create a “Name Change Task Force” originated with Peter Machno, manager of Seattle’s sludge program, after protesters mobilized against his plan to spread sludge on local tree farms. “If I knocked on your door and said I’ve got this beneficial product called sludge, what are you going to say?” he asked. At Machno’s suggestion, the Federation newsletter published a request for alternative names. Members sent in over 250 suggestions, including “all growth,” “purenutri,” “biolife,” “bioslurp,” “black gold,” “geoslime,” “sca-doo,” “the end product,” “humanure,” “hu-doo,” “organic residuals,” “bioresidue,” “urban biomass,” “powergro,” “organite,” “recyclite,” “nutri-cake” and “R.O.S.E.,” short for “recycling of solids environmentally.” In June of 1991, the Name Change Task Force finally settled on “biosolids,” which it defined as the “nutrient-rich, organic byproduct of the nation’s wastewater treatment process.”

The new name drew sarcastic comment from the Doublespeak Quarterly Review, edited by Rutgers University professor William Lutz. “Does it still stink?” Lutz asked. He predicted that the name “probably won’t move into general usage. It’s obviously coming from an engineering mentality. It does have one great virtue, though. You think of ‘biosolids’ and your mind goes blank.”

In Germany, “bio” means organic.  Speaking of Germany, 95% of sewage sludge has had to be INCINERATED since 2005.  Nobody in their right mind would put toxic sludge on their veggies.

As usual, US safety standards essentially don’t exist and anything that saves cities and governments a few dollars is promoted regardless of health hazards.

The government decided to promote the use of toxic sludge as fertilizer.

Sewage sludge is tested for only 9 metals.  They IGNORE all other toxins and have the nerve to SELL the sludge!

The city of San Francisco gave the sewage sludge to its residents as “compost” free of charge.  From the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

Shit show

By Brady Welch

GREEN CITY Food safety groups complain that the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has until recently been dumping its crap in the backyards and gardens of any residents who unwittingly asked for it.

The city calls this crap “biosolids compost,” and for Mayor Gavin Newsom and the SFPUC, it seemed like a green dream come true. But it turns out that putting processed human excrement into people’s vegetable gardens might not be the elegant — if somewhat gross — reuse strategy it once seemed to be.

The vexing sewage sludge left over after treatment and separation of the city’s wastewater was being treated, combined with woodchips and paper waste, and labeled compost so it could, according to the SFPUC’s Web site, “provide essential plant nutrients, improve soil structure, enhance moisture retention, and reduce soil erosion.” Not bad for the ultimate human waste product.

The problem, say groups including the Center for Food Safety and Organic Consumers Association, is that the SFPUC’s compost contains a host of other toxins and hazardous materials not necessarily originating with what the city’s granola-munching denizens flush down the toilet. In fact, a January 2009 Environmental Protection Agency study of sewage sludge from 74 treatment plants found, in nearly every sample, “28 metals, four polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, two semi-volatiles, 11 flame retardants, 72 pharmaceuticals, and 25 steroids and hormones.” Yikes. [emphasis added]

Of course, the city stopped the program.  Unfortunately that can’t be said for Leslie Doyle, the infamous Las Vegas “Tomato Lady”.

Her Tomato Lady soil is mixed by Gro-Well. In response to Rhonda’s very polite request for a change to the Tomato Lady soil, Leslie not only refused to eliminate sewage sludge from her mix, but she claimed that it was perfectly SAFE!!!

On July 6, 2010, Leslie posted at the Las Vegas group:

The Omni Mix in the Tomato Lady Soil I use is organic – the lab tests state this. I’m staying with the Tomato Lady soil I asked them to make for me – it’s good stuff. It is organic – I get lots of phone calls from people thanking me for helping Gro-Well to create this blend. …

Leslie, will they call to thank you when they get cancer like your husband?

… Sal [at Gro-Well] has been a wonderful asset to all of us and a well respected and valuable long-time member of the community. He helps all of us. Many may take offense at attempts to disparage him or Gro-Well.

I don’t know Sal at Gro-Well, but anybody who sells sewage sludge without disclosure is NOT an asset to anyone other than people like Leslie who profit from this deception.

I will send the URL to this post to Gro-Well with my request for comments.

Gro-Well should REFUND every penny they took for the Tomato Lady soil.  And for people who bought the Tomato Lady soil by the yard, they should REPLACE the soil with truly organic products.   Filling garden beds is a LOT of work and outfits like Gro-Well need to learn that they can NOT get away with deceiving organic gardeners.  After all, it’s our HEALTH and our LIVES on the line.

Summaries of this article should be posted at Las Vegas websites until ALL suppliers stop selling sewage sludge or at the very least, DISCLOSE in LARGE print that their products contain sewage sludge.  Quite likely, they would soon STOP selling sewage sludge because few people would buy it.

Leslie Doyle is a test gardener for Organic Gardening (apparently a magazine).

From their website Over the Fence:

Leslie Doyle

Zone 8 (Southwest)
Las Vegas, NV
Leslie’s garden is in what most people consider a very inhospitable climate – Las Vegas, Nevada in the Mojave Desert. But, in spite of the heat and dry climate, she grows every vegetable she and her friends want to eat – even huge and delicious tomatoes – pounds and pounds of them. Her organic garden is in the yard of her half-acre residential lot. The garden and test beds are filled with garden soil made for her locally, to her specs, by Gro-Well, and named Tomato Lady Soil, and she blends her own fertilizer in an old compost tumbler. … [emphasis added]

Growing in sewage sludge is NOT organic gardening.

Leslie falsely claims to be gardening organically while she is in fact using sewage sludge.  I couldn’t find a way to contact the Over the Fence website management.  So if you subscribe to Organic Gardening, it’s time to cancel your subscription and let them know that you don’t appreciate their misrepresentations.

Of course, many farmers love sewage sludge because it IS very fertile.  But they aren’t so happy when their cows die after eating hay grown in these toxins:

Sludge Spread on Fields Is Fodder for Lawsuits

Web Note: The use of toxic sewage sludge as fertilizer on farmlands is strictly prohibited under organic standards.

The farmers outside Augusta, Ga., say the hay had a musty chemical odor and was dark and mottled. But they fed it to the cows. Then the cows started to waste away, growing so thin that their ribs could be counted through their skin, the dairy farmers say. The cows died by the hundreds. “We just couldn’t save them,” said Andy McElmurray, whose family has been farming here since 1946. “They wouldn’t respond to antibodies. They wouldn’t respond to IV fluids. They wouldn’t respond to anything. They just ended up dying.” …

…. Chris Bryan, 31, a road construction worker from Dublin, Ga., said that tainted hay used in building roads made him and other workers ill.Mr. Bryan said nausea, chills, shaking and liver damage forced him to go on disability leave for four months. And Atwater, Calif., was cited in 1996 by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board for excessive sludge applications after 13 cows on two farms died of nitrate poisoning. Some environmental and citizens groups are culling what they call anecdotal evidence of problems linked to sludge. The Cornell Waste Management Institute has compiled more than 250 sludge-exposure complaints in more than 25 communities, ranging from dust inhalation to water runoff contamination. The list includes four lawsuits; two cases involve deaths. … [emphases added]

Lots of news about sewage sludge is at SourceWatch:

2010 Tests of San Francisco Sewage Sludge Find PBDEs, Triclosan

… In an August 6, 2010, letter reporting on his findings to the Food Rights Network Robert Hale wrote: “A sewage sludge-derived compost from the Synagro CVC plant, distributed by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in their “compost give away” program, was analyzed for synthetic pollutants. Several classes of emerging contaminants with endocrine disruptive properties were detected in appreciable concentrations, including polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants, nonylphenols (NPs) detergent breakdown products and the antibacterial agent triclosan.”

Here’s the 8/10/10  CBS News VIDEO about the San Francisco sludge.

In contrast, the 2006  University of Arizona campaign for use of toxins on Arizona soil.

Industry and government-paid scientists routinely disregard safety concerns to please the organizations who fund their research.

This reminds me of Radiation in everyday life: toothpaste, cosmetics, … PLEASE read this article about the “scientifically proven” benefits of radioactive material in consumer goods.

I still can’t believe that we had planned on a special trip to Las Vegas to purchase Leslie’s sewage sludge Tomato Soil.  We’re not worried about getting diseases from bacteria.  Properly processed, “humanure” is perfectly fine to use as fertilizer and if I had known in 2006 what I know now,  I might not have spent $5,000 on a septic system.

We are, however, worried about industrial and agricultural waste and the many metals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, hormones and industrial toxins in sewage sludge.

I have been looking for an affordable source of guaranteed sludge-free and chemical-free compost for months and recently contacted A1 Organics about selling to our local AZ nursery.

It seems like it’s more work to BUY good compost than to MAKE it.

We haven’t had much luck with conventional composting and today I’ll get started on our first Hugelkultur.

It took me a long time to write this post because I really hate to have to expose Leslie Doyle as a fraudster.

I was very much looking forward to meeting her, and buying her Tomato Lady soil and tomato plants and seeds.  I was hoping she’d come to her senses and that mentioning her in this post would not be necessary.

We all love to rant about Monsanto, but we ignore that “Monsanto” does NOTHING. It’s just a corporation’s name.  People like Leslie make the decisions to kill millions of people and to possibly destroy our entire ecosystem.  Over 200,000 Indian farmers committed suicide after growing BT Cotton and subsequently suffered devastating financial problems.  Never forget that PEOPLE make corporate decisions.

I don’t know whether Leslie is incredibly stupid or greedy, or maybe both?

Her husband has cancer and presumably, he eats her fruit and veggies, grown in sewage sludge.

Leslie, what the hell is wrong with you?

7/1/22 update:  I never heard from Leslie again and I got kicked out of the Vegas Yahoo group, which apparently no longer exists.

But it didn’t take long to get legal threats from Grow-Well’s attorney Allison L. Kierman with DLA Piper LLC:

Gro-Well legal threats over toxic sewage sludge