Sludge Hammers

Big business rules: I was not surprised by the way the EPA responded to the findings regarding the hazards of sludge for humans and animals ["Wretched Excess," by Josh Harkinson, March 31]. Our government cares for only the "have mores," and big businesses like Synagro rule our government with their big money. I'm ashamed of where our country's priorities are.

However, I printed out the article and mailed it to the EPA in Washington, D.C., and wrote on it "EPA, you should be ashamed!" Not that it will help, but it made me feel better.

Name withheld by request

A heroic effort: Well, that did it. Josh Harkinson has officially become my new hero. What an incredible (and nauseatingly disgusting and frightening) story. I am forwarding the link to this article to everyone I know across the United States, encouraging them to read it and then take it to their local media, politicians, community leaders, church leaders, farmers, health care providers, community activists, friends, relatives and loved ones.

This Human Poop For Money scheme is an abomination. What has this country come to? What is wrong with our fellow Americans?

I've long treasured the Houston Press for continuing to have the cojones to be the Lone Voice in the Wilderness down here in Houston Chronicle, GWB and Tom DeLay Land.

May you always prevail. And if you ever have to go to paid subscription, I will be the first in line.

Kevin Riddle

Canadian contamination: Excellent article! A few points of difference: You stated that the cost of land-filling sludge was more than the cost of spreading it on farmland. This ain't necessarily so! Here in Ottawa, Canada, the city would save $1.1 million annually by mixing it with garbage and burying it in the city-owned dump. The landfill has a 200-year plastic liner with a soon-to-be-built on-site leachate control system, so the toxins and pathogens can be safely contained at a point source for centuries, rather than spread all over the countryside.

Cities produce about one-fourth as much treated sewage as garbage, and this mix is ideal for compacting and aiding the ferment of the garbage to produce methane gas. The gas is collected under a cover and used to generate electricity.

Unfortunately, Ottawa councilors and staff have been lobbied so effectively by the sewage spreaders that they are refusing to put any sewage sludge in the city dump, and instead will shell out the extra million dollars per year to compost it and spread it on farm fields.

The number of farmers actually benefiting from this "fertilizer" subsidy own only 5 percent or less of the farmland. Yet their fodder and food crops are mixed into the food chain without any way of identifying them, so that all food products are potentially contaminated. Clearly the true beneficiaries are the sludge-spreading corporations, who are making their fortunes producing fodder and food grown in pathogenic and toxic sewage and industrial wastes, while the government refuses to look for harmful effects on human health or the environment.

Thank you for the excellent summary of sludge issues. I have forwarded the article to Ottawa City Council.

Jim Poushinsky, chair
Ottawa Citizens Against Pollution by Sewage
Ottawa, Canada

All this and flooding, too: I read your article about Synagro, and I think you did a great job. The Synagro permit in Lissie, Texas, that you refer to in the article is located on property owned by the same family that owns the land immediately north of my family's land in Colorado County.

My situation is a little different from that of the Gertsons, in that our land is on the east bank of the Colorado River in an area with severe documented flooding activity. My other concern is a 100-acre lake on our property that is fewer than 50 feet from the permit site. Because of the serious flooding, the road between the lake and the permit site has been raised and drainage pipes were inserted through the road to alleviate floodwater pressure on the road. This field drains into our property from rain alone, let alone a Colorado River flood.

I have no doubt that these pipes will carry sludge into the lake and onto our property. You would think that this info would have been a fatal flaw in the permit and TCEQ would have denied the permit when presented with this information, but no, we will have to waste serious taxpayer dollars and go through the Texas administrative law system for at least another year to receive a decision.

Lesley Carey
Eagle Lake

La Baring the Soul

Lay off the dancers: I am a loyal and avid Houston Press reader. Your typical negatively slanted journalism does not usually incite me enough to respond, and this will be only my second letter in the last seven years.

In the March 31 issue, your biased articles (journalistic ethics, anyone?) and pictures of La Bare dancers in Hair Balls ["Glory Days," March 24, and "What's Three Feet Between Friends?" March 31] are even lower than your usual curb-high standards.

I submit that La Bare's customer treatment is second to none. I have watched the management, waitstaff and entertainers interact with customers in such a way that makes each person, whether 18 or 80, feel special. They give the same amount of attention and encouragement/compliments to all their guests, no matter if they are cheerleaders or obese, young hotties or elderly grandparents. I know of at least ten instances over the last two years where ladies have begun workout programs and dropped significant amounts of weight thanks to the encouragement of La Bare employees.

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