The 4/10 Letter to the Editor by Barry Dunkley, President of Virginia’s industry-funded Council promoting biosolids, contains false and misleading information about my credentials as well as false and misleading information about the safety of using biosolids as fertilizer.
I have never represented myself as a scientist, as Mr. Dunkley claims. I continue to consult many scientists as I focus on issues dealing with science and public policy. While working on my Harvard Ph.D. I researched the interrelationship between science and the humanities. That led me to design and teach interdisciplinary environmental science courses at RIT’s College of Liberal Arts. The College’s mission is “to produce graduates that can balance an understanding of science and technology with social considerations and to make future engineers and scientists aware of the ethical, environmental and social impacts of their respective fields.” Much of my long university teaching career was directed toward that end. The courses and programs we introduced in the late 1970s evolved into RITs current interdisciplinary degree programs in Science, Technology, and Public Policy.
At RIT I achieved the rank of tenured Full Professor and chaired the Department of Science, Technology and Society. Since then I have focused my research on biosolids, especially on how industry works with environmental agencies to deceive the public about the safety of biosolids by funding an elaborate Public Acceptance Campaign. One part of this campaign is to deliberately ignore, malign, and discredit scientists and citizens who criticize the current policy. Contrary to Mr. Dunkley’s claim, my research has resulted in several peer reviewed articles published in mainstream scientific journals, e.g. IJOEH_1104_Snyder.pdf. It also resulted in written testimony submitted to the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: http://www.sludgefacts.org/EPWtestimony.pdf.
In his official National Academy of Sciences Press Release, panel chair, Thomas Burke, stated that the sludge regulations are based on outdated science: http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=10426. Burke also stated that there is an urgent need for health studies and tracking reported sludge-related illnesses. Former EPA Senior Level research microbiologist David Lewis and his team of scientists had already started to document and explain why sludge-exposed neighbors were experiencing serious health problems, especially respiratory illnesses. http://www.biomedcentral.com. After the report of a second sludge-related death in Pennsylvania, EPA finally conceded on CBS Evening News that it could no longer guarantee that the practice was safe and that the agency needed to “revisit” its land application policy. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/10/29/eveningnews/main580816.shtml
That the current regulations do not protect agriculture has been confirmed in countless published scientific documents, many of them generated by internationally renowned soil scientists at the Cornell Waste Management Institute. http://cwmi.css.cornell.edu/sewagesludge.htm
Two prize-winning dairy herds near Augusta GA were destroyed after hundreds of animals sickened and died from ingesting forage grown on sludge- treated land. http://www.sludgenews.org/resources/documents/Nature.pdf . Milk samples from some of the affected animals contained thallium levels 120 times the concentration that is considered safe in drinking water: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_10789.cfm. Major food processing companies—Heinz, DelMonte, Western Growers—do not accept produce grown on land that has been treated with biosolids. A 2008 Nature editorial called the entire US biosolids program “an institutional failure spanning more than three decades.”
I have provided readers with a number of important links. I challenge Mr. Dunkley to do the same. For a start, Mr. Dunkley might want to provide the links to peer reviewed published articles that substantiate his claim that “thousands of scientists have concluded that the land application of biosolids is safe”.
Caroline Snyder Ph.D.
Rochester Institute of Technology
458 Whiteface Rd.
N.Sandwich NH 03259