The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

John Mayer 415-632-8299

Alexis Baden-Mayer 202-202-744-0853

Organic Activists Will Dump Sewage Sludge and Hold a Press Conference on the Steps of San Francisco City Hall March 4 at Noon

Bay Area Gardeners Will Give Back Toxic Sewage Sludge that City Distributed Using the Ruse of “Organic Compost”


Community gardeners who were misled into accepting toxic sewage sludge from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) are giving the sludge back to the Mayor's office at 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place on March 4th at 12 Noon.

Twice a year since 2007, the SFPUC has hosted "Compost Giveaway Events" in locations throughout the city. Although the city has marketed the material as "organic compost" or "organic fertilizer," it turns out that it is really toxic sludge generated by San Francisco and seven other counties' industrial, hospital, commercial and residential sewage. Residents who had lined up at the giveaways were outraged to learn of SFPUC's bait-and-switch.

"I had no idea that the free sludge was toxic. I am just shocked that this has happened for so long," says one such gardener, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by the city. "I have some stuff left in the shed but I won't use it. I am very unhappy about the entire situation; I have used biosolids [a made-up euphemism for sewage sludge] for two straight years only to find out that it doesn1t adhere to the community garden1s strict rules on organic practices."

In fact, the USDA explicitly prohibits food grown in sewage sludge, or in any "product" derived from sewage sludge, to be labeled organic. Sewage sludge is a noxious stew derived from all the industrial, hospital, commercial, residential and radioactive wastes and stormwater runoff that end up in municipal sewer systems.

San Francisco wants you to believe that their sewage sludge is greener and safer than most cities because SF is less industrialized. Their website falsely claims that the "free compost" being given away comes from SF's sludge alone.

In fact SF's "free organic fertilizer" comes from seven counties besides SF, some of them--like Fresno and Solano--heavily industrialized with giant oil refineries, metals industries and chemical plants that generate enormous quantities of hazardous and toxic materials.

This sludge containing hazardous materials from all eight counties are blended at Synagro's waste management facility in Dos Palos and then shipped back to SF to be "given away" to the unsuspecting public as "organic biosolids compost."

Spearheaded by the Organic Consumers Association and joined by representatives of dozens of local environmental groups, citizens will dump the sludge on the steps of City Hall and hand deliver a letter calling for Mayor Newsom to1) end the give-aways and 2) clean up the school yards and backyard gardens that have been contaminated with sewage sludge.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots 501(c)3 nonprofit public interest organization, and the only organization in the U.S. focused exclusively on promoting the views and interests of the nation's estimated 50 million consumers of organically and socially responsibly produced food and other products. OCA educates and advocates on behalf of organic consumers, engages consumers in marketplace pressure campaigns, and works to advance sound food and farming policy through grassroots lobbying. We address crucial issues around food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children's health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability, including pesticide use, and other food- and agriculture-related topics.