Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

MOFGA Position Statement On Sewage Sludge
Updated October 19, 2003

After several months of investigation and discussion, MOFGA's Public Policy has developed a revised policy on sludge, which was approved by the Board of Directors on October 19, 2003. MOFGA's previous policy, incorporated in its certification standards, banned use of sludge on certified cropland, but did not address the issue of land application of sludge generally.

The revised policy, printed below, is intended to carefully balance this organization's deep commitment to recycling of organic materials, with an understanding of the risks of persistent toxics that may contaminate sludge, as a result of industrial discharges as well as careless homeowners. Under the National Organic Standards Rules (section 205.105(g)), certified crops may not be grown with sludge, and land must be free of sludge applications for a minimum of three years before it can be used in organic production.

MOFGA's revised policy is focused on the potential problem of persistent and bioaccumulative toxics in some sludge spread on noncertified land in Maine, because we want to be sure that future Maine cropland converted to organic production will be suitable and safe for organic cultivation. – Sharon Tisher, Chair, MOFGA Public Policy Committee

Conserving and recycling nutrients is at the heart of organic agriculture. Sewage and other sludge materials contain many nutrients that have been captured from a waste stream, as well as organic matter that would increase soil tilth. In principle, MOFGA strong supports the recycling of these materials. However, sludges potentially contain hundreds of items of concern from an environmental and food safety vantage. A 2002 Report of the Board of Environmental Studies and Toxicology of the National Academy of Sciences underscored the uncertainties about the potential for adverse human health effects from exposure to biosolids, and identified several data gaps and issues in management practices that should be addressed regarding land application of sludges. Under the National Organic Standards, certified crops may not be grown with sludge, and land must be free of sludge applications for a minimum of three years for use in organic production.

MOFGA supports the goal of elimination of chemical contaminants that persist and bioaccumulate in the environment from sludges, through both public education and more effective regulation. To that end, it supports (a) prohibition of sludges that contain industrial discharges from being land applied; (b) stricter, more frequent testing of sludges destined for land application; (c) application of the precautionary principle in setting standards for sludge contaminents; (d) allowing municipalities to enact ordinances that are more stringent than state regulations; and (e) development of a system to enable land purchasers to easily determine any history of sludge application to their land.

MOFGA will be a supporter of selective initiatives of the Maine Sludge Alliance as are consistent with MOFGA's sludge policy and goals, and as approved by the Public Policy Committee and Board. MOFGA will post its policy on its website and provide a link to the website of the Maine Sludge Alliance.