andrew schneider investigates

May 15, 2008

Govt coverup in fertilizer research?

Sewage sludge is never a pretty picture and the on-again, off-again debate between big business and food safety scientists over what happens when this waste is used as fertilizers for vegetables and animal feed is even uglier.

According to some toxicologists for the government and public interest groups, sludge has been repeatedly linked to health problems in humans and livestock.

Some scientists are concerned over the safety of food crops and livestock in contact with the sewage sludge..

To get a snapshot of the latest sparring between agribusiness, academia and federal regulators check out this link to a detailed story by Jeff Tollefson of

Tollefson tells the tale of David Lewis, a former Environmental Protection Agency scientist, who is suing agency officials and researchers at the University of Georgia in Athens. Lewis, a microbiologist, alleges researchers at the university manufactured and published false data to support the use of potentially harmful sewage sludge as fertilizers.

The False Claims Act lawsuit brought by microbiologist Lewis, who says he was forced out of the agency, alleges that EPA officials and university researchers “fraudulently orchestrated a grant and then fabricated data to ensure that the EPA’s ‘biosolids’ program would come out smelling pretty,” the reporter wrote.

If the charges stick, the scientists and EPA officials could be held personally liable and may be forced to pay back the original grant as well as some $4.6 million in subsequent grants, plus penalties, wrote Tollefson.

EPA says it had investigated these cases and found “no substantiation” to the allegations.


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