The Stream, October 9, 2019: Use of Biosolid Sludge in U.S. Fields Linked to Water Contamination, Health Risks

The Global Rundown

Questions arise over the use of human waste sludge on U.S. farmland due to evidence that the practice is polluting drinking water and sickening livestock and humans. Two communities in Michigan are under drinking water advisories after high levels of lead are found. Ethiopia accuses Egypt of maintaining a “colonial era” hold on the Nile River as a spat over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam continues. California faces the aftermath of PFAS contamination caused by toxic firefighting foam from several state military bases. Volunteers encourage residents of New Delhi, India, to prioritize water conservation. 

“The team of volunteers and a plumber fix the leaks but also make people aware of the need to save water if the city is to be spared the dire predictions of experts.” –Somnath Bharti, leader of a water-saving campaign launched in New Delhi, India, after predictions that the city could run out of groundwater by 2020. The group fixes leaks, promotes peaceful water sharing, and educates residents on the importance of water conservation. The Guardian 

In context:
Delhi Waits For Water
Groundwater Plummets in Delhi, City of 29 Million

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By The Numbers

2 Communities in southern Michigan where lead levels in some households surpassed new state standards, according to recent test results. The city of Birmingham, along with White Lake Township, are now under water advisories, and some homes will be receiving filters. Detroit Free Press

21 Military bases in California that have been contaminated by toxic firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals. At six of the bases, the pollution threatens local drinking water supplies. Lawmakers say they are doing all that they can to provide “alternative drinking water” to affected households. Los Angeles Times

In context: From Michigan to the Nation — A Groundwater Emergency.

Science, Studies, and Reports

“Biosolid” sludge, the remnants of human sewage after the wastewater has been removed and treated, has become a common fertilizer on fields across the U.S. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients in the sludge help grow crops and lawns, but the sewage can also be mixed with thousands of different man-made chemicals throughout the treatment process. Evidence is mounting that the sludge may be contaminating water and causing illness, and the U.S. EPA says that it has no way to properly regulate biosolids due to the myriad pollutants that may be present. The Guardian

On the Radar

Tensions continue to flare between Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister called Egypt’s proposal for filling the dam an attempt to maintain “colonial era” control over the Nile River. Reuters

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