Sewage sludge giveaways, producers, and brands

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

Sewage sludge giveaways, producers, and brands is the title of this SourceWatch page on sewage sludge. It is a stub page that is being used by John Stauber and the Food Rights Network to create documented articles inside a portal page that will go public in Summer, 2010. If you would like to help provide documentation for this page, and flesh out new articles, please contact user John Stauber.

Toxic Sewage Sludge Given Away as "Organic Biosolids Compost"

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)[1] [2][3][4] [5] 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. [6]

Known Sludge Compost Giveaways

Means of composting sewage sludge

Municipal sewage sludge is either sent to a composting facility owned and operated by a private company, such as Synagro or N-Viro; sent to a corporate operated plant that is owned by the municipality; or it is composted directly by the municipal wastewater treatment authority.

Sludge compost is distributed in different ways, it is: 1) branded, bagged and sold, e.g., All-Gro, Orgro, Bay State Ferlizer, WeCare, Milorganite, 2) given away free to the public (San Francisco, New Market, VA, and Fortuna, CA), sold in bulk to the public (Spotsylvania, PA), sold in bulk to wholesalers and resellers but not to the public (Baltimore).

Approximately 200 POTWs compost 471,000 dry tons of sludge, out of 7 million dry tons of sludge (2004, NEBRA)

New York State

24% of sludge is composted, total of 41,208 dry tons per year (2004). 584 POTWs produce 1,000 dry tons per day. 48% “beneficially used” (was 51% in 1998). Could not find information about giveaway programs. NYC pelletizes sludge at the Synagro plant in the South Bronx, sold by WeCare Organics LLC (Jordon, NY) under brand name EarthBlends.

Orange County, CA

39% of sludge is composted by Synagro at its South Kern facility

250 tons/day, 70 trucks/week (Feb 2009)

New York City

Composts 13% of 1200 tons daily (composted in PA); pelletizes up to 300 dry tons per day with Synagro at Hunts Point in the Bronx.


The Philadelphia Water Department operates one of the largest and oldest sludge composting facilities. The facility produces 60,000 cubic yards of EarthMate Compost annually, a product that “has a loyal customer base in SE Pennsylvania.”

Carlyle Group's Synagro

Synagro, wholly owned by the Carlyle Group, produces the most sludge compost (and also pelletized sludge). The company contracts with municipalities to design, build, and operate compost and pelletizing plants. It also has four regional compost facilities in California that are owned and operated by the company:

Other companies that compost sludge

Short list of municipalities with their own sewage sludge compost facilities

  • The Delaware County, New York, composting facility (bagged and sold under the WeCare brand name)
  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • Harrisonburg, VA
  • Charlottesville, VA
  • Wheeling (New Martinsville), WV
  • State College, PA
  • Los Angeles (Griffith Park Composting Facility)
  • Redway Community Sewer District, CA
  • Spotsylvania, PA (4200 tons/year)
  • Chambers Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, WA
  • Austin, TX
  • Missoula, MT
  • Several small WWTPs in New York State

California sewage sludge compost facilities

  • City Of Arcata Compost Facility
  • City of Turlock Water Qual. Control Facility
  • East Bay Municipal Utility District
  • El Nido Composting Facility- Synagro West
  • Griffith Park Composting Facility
  • Inland Empire Regional Composting Facility
  • Laguna Subregional Compost Facility
  • Morro Bay - Cayucos POTW Composting
  • Monterey Regional Wst Mgmt DSt/Marina LF
  • Ojai Valley Waste Water Treatment Plant
  • One Stop Landscape Supply Center (Redlands)
  • Rancho Las Virgenes Composting Facility
  • Central Valley Compost (serving Fresno/Central CA areas)
  • South Kern Compost Manufacturing Facility (Southern CA)
  • Corona Regional Composting Facility (Southern CA)
  • Arizona Soils (Arizona, NM, NV, Southern CA)
  • San Joaquin Compost (LA sludge)

Branded Products Containing Sewage Sludge[7]

  • ORGRO (Baltimore, MD, Veolia Water North America)
  • EKO Compost (Missoula, Maui, Lewiston plant on Idaho-Wahington border)
  • EarthBlends (New York City, a product of Synagro, sold by WeCare)
  • Earthlife (New England, a product of New England Organics)


  1. Heather Knight, Nonprofit calls PUC's compost toxic sludge, San Francisco Chronicle, September 27, 2009.
  2. Barry Estabrook, Free Compost--Or Toxic Sludge?, The Atlantic, December 1, 2009
  3. Anna Werner, Concern Over SF Compost Made from Sewage Sludge, CBS Channel 5, March 3, 2010
  4. Leora Broydo Vestel, Food Groups Clash Over Compost Sludge, New York Times Green Inc. blog, April 9 2010.
  5. Chris Roberts, Farmers Call PUC's Shit, Will Dump it on City Hall Today, San Francisco Appeal, March 4, 2010.
  6. Jill Richardson, What San Francisco Found in Their Own Sludge, La Vida Locavore blog, April 8, 2010.
  7. Branded products containing sewage sludge, SludgeNews Website
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