A lot of hay is being made these days about a Georgia case  involving land application of sludge apparently not meeting EPA standards.  As described here in an AP article from March 2008, a consultant hired by a farmer whose land had been apparently rendered unusable by unsafe sludge ran tests that

found polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the Augusta sludge at levels 2,500 times higher than the EPA standard; thallium levels 25 times the legal limit; and arsenic levels twice the government’s health standard

The case is further complicated by a University of Georgia study of this particular land application program.  The city producing the sludge compensated at least two farmers, one of whom was paid $1.5, as noted in the article.

Environment Memo needs to spend more time digging into the record on this case, which appears to have some on-going legal action associated with it.

Nevertheless, this event underscores an important question the anti-land application forces have been putting forward:  do we have the wherewithal to undertake the land application program, even if it is safe?  How likely is it that sludge not meeting requirements can be land applied, even if those involved are not acting with bad intent, and how likely is it that it will be found out?  The anti-land application forces use cases such as this one in Georgia to argue that we do not have the wherewithal to pull it off.