EKO Systems

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WARNING! Sewage sludge is toxic. Food should not be grown in "biosolids." Join the Food Rights Network.


This article is part of the Food Rights Network, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy. Find out more here.

EKO Systems is a company that processes sewage sludge, known by the industry euphemism "biosolids," at facilities in Hawaii, Idaho, and Montana. It manufactures a product containing sewage sludge that is labeled and sold as EKO Compost fertilizer. It produces 3,090 dry tons of sewage sludge product per year at its Maui facility alone, as of 2010.[1]

According to the company's website (which as of June 2013 bears cheerful pictures of sunflowers, bell peppers, strawberries, and other colorful plants), "In 1977, in a mountain valley of western Montana, a unique project was launched. If successful, it would harness an age old process to turn society's least desirable commodities -- biosolids and other organic wastes -- into a life enhancing product."[2]

Donating Sewage Sludge Products to Community Gardens 2013

In 2013, the USCC began a PR campaign it called the "Million Tomato Compost Campaign," which it said "connects community gardens, compost producers, chefs and food banks to grow healthy soil, healthy food, and healthy communities."[3]

According to the campaign website, "USCC's STA certified compost producer members will donate STA-certified compost to participating community gardens who sign on to the Million Tomato Compost Campaign. Community gardens will use their compost to grow one million tomatoes, either for their own use or for donation to local food banks. Chefs will work with the community gardeners, schools and nonprofits to teach people about using sustainably grown local food in recipes that even kids will love!"[4]

Of the dozens of producers in almost all 50 states that participate in the USCC's STA program, at least six are known to use industrial and residential sewage sludge in their products: A-1 Organics, EKO Systems, Synagro (the largest processor of sewage sludge in the United States), WeCare Organics, the Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority (the Los Angeles area sewage treatment facility, sewage sludge from which is also used in products like those from Kellogg Garden Products), and Engel & Gray, Inc.'s Harvest Blend Compost.

These products are some of the sewage sludge products known to be sold by corporations and municipalities. To dispose of sewage sludge produced by wastewater treatment plants, the industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have renamed them "biosolids" and dubbed them as "green" examples of recycling, beneficial reuse, and organic fertilizer and compost products. In many cases, the sewage sludge is then packaged as compost or fertilizer and sold to unsuspecting gardeners or farmers.

Sludge contaminants can include flame retardants (which California recently listed as a carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent), antibacterial agents like triclosan, phthalates (the solvent that gives vinyl plastic the nickname "Poison Plastic") and other industrial solvents, nanosilver and other nanomaterials, endocrine disruptors, pharmaceutical residues, resistant pathogens, and perfluorinated compounds. Some of these contaminants can "bioaccumulate" in plants grown in sludge-contaminated soil and remain as residue on vegetables in contact with the soil. These plants can then eaten by children and adults.

Toxic Sewage Sludge Given Away as "Organic Biosolids Compost" 2009

In 2009 a major controversy erupted in San Francisco when the Center for Food Safety and the Organic Consumers Association called on the SFPUC to end its give-away of toxic sewage sludge as free "organic biosolids compost" to gardeners. A March 4, 2010, demonstration at City Hall by the OCA forced a temporary halt to the program. (See articles below)[5] [6][7][8] [9] The misleading labeled "organic compost," which the PUC has given away free to gardeners since 2007, is composed of toxic sewage sludge from San Francisco and eight other counties. Very little toxicity testing has been done, but what little has been done is alarming. Just the sludge from San Francisco alone has tested positive for 1,2-Dibromo-3-Chloropropane (a.k.a. DBCP), Isopropyltoluene (a.k.a. p-cymene or p-isopropyltoluene), Dioxins and Furans.[10]


As of June 2013:[11]

  • Phil Oakenshield, Plant Manager, Missoula, Montana
  • Nicole Hartman, Office Manager & Sales, Missoula, Montana

Contact Information

EKO Compost - Missoula, Montana
P.O. Box 16810
1125 Clark Fork Lane
Missoula, MT 59808-6810
Toll-Free Phone: (800) 232-5356
Office Phone: (406) 721-1423
Fax: (406) 721-7526
Phil Oakenshield - Plant Manager - Cell Phone: (406) 370-8701
Nicole Hartman - Office Manager & Sales

EKO Compost Maui, Hawaii
Central Maui Landfill
Pulehu Road
Puunene, HI 96784
Toll-Free Phone: (808) 572-8844

EKO Compost Lewiston, Idaho
548 Down River Road
Lewiston, ID 83501
Toll-Free Phone: (800) 746-5947

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch articles

Related PRWatch Articles


  1. Sludge Compost Facilities, NEBRA Report, BioCycle Magazine, December, 2010.
  2. EKO Systems, Welcome to EKO, company website, accessed June 2013.
  3. Leanne Spaulding, U.S. Composting Council, RE: Happy ICAW 2013!, organizational email to members, May 7, 2013.
  4. U.S. Composting Council, Buy-Compost.com, Million Tomato Compost Campaign website, accessed May 2013.
  5. Heather Knight, Nonprofit calls PUC's compost toxic sludge, San Francisco Chronicle, September 27, 2009.
  6. Barry Estabrook, Free Compost--Or Toxic Sludge?, The Atlantic, December 1, 2009
  7. Anna Werner, Concern Over SF Compost Made from Sewage Sludge, CBS Channel 5, March 3, 2010
  8. Leora Broydo Vestel, http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/09/food-groups-clash-over-compost-sludge/ Food Groups Clash Over Compost Sludge, New York Times Green Inc. blog, April 9 2010.
  9. Chris Roberts, Farmers Call PUC's Shit, Will Dump it on City Hall Today, San Francisco Appeal, March 4, 2010.
  10. Jill Richardson, What San Francisco Found in Their Own Sludge, La Vida Locavore blog, April 8, 2010.
  11. EKO Systems, Contact Us, company website, accessed June 2013.