A food safety activist’s warning that sewage-based compost given away by San Francisco contains toxic material received an indifferent response Tuesday from utilities officials, who plan to hold a hearing on the matter.
Wisconsin-based Food Rights Network organizer John Stauber attended a San Francisco Public Utilities Commission meeting on Tuesday and announced results of a scientific analysis.
The analysis was performed on The City’s biosolids compost, which is derived from sewage and widely used on farms.
The analysis detected levels of the antibacterial agent tricoslan and of PBDE, which is a chemical widely used in household and industrial materials to prevent them from catching fire.
The agency has treated and given the material to residents for free since 2007 for use on their gardens but the program was suspended earlier this year following protests organized by Stauber and others.
Pure treated sewage is a rich fertilizer and compost, but a variety of contaminants end up in the material because they wash into drains or are flushed down toilets and sinks.
“We are opposed to growing any food in toxic sewage sludge,” Stauber said during the public comment period of the commission meeting.
There was no commission discussion following Stauber’s address on Tuesday.
The compost giveaway program is on hold pending a commission hearing where the agency’s own test results are planned to be discussed.
Stauber called for the hearing to be held as soon as possible, but SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington said he could not guarantee that it will occur this month or next month.
SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue said Stauber’s test results revealed nothing new.
“Their test results confirm what we’ve said all along,” Jue said. “These compounds are present everywhere in the environment and that’s why we saw low levels of them in all of the soil amendments that we tested.”