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An Environmental Sciences, Public Health Moment:

Importing Municipal Sewage into the Croton Watershed

by Alex DeLuca; June, 2003; Lake Carmel, Putnam County, NY

Greetings from Lake Carmel in Putnam County, the heart of the NYC watershed, about 15 minutes by car from Croton Falls.

Several days ago, I was at a local nursery purchasing some catmint and goat's breath and other beautiful plants in this most lush and wet of planting seasons. And there, right in front of me, was the sign in the photograph below; and suddenly I knew I was having a Public Health Moment.

This caught my eye because I had come across the following image and caption in a paper entitled "Let Them Eat Sludge" by John C. Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, written in 1995:

This advertisement from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District boasts that Milorganite, an "organic fertilizer" made from sewage sludge, is now
EPA-approved for use on vegetables.

Well, all I can say is that the packaging has improved significantly in the intervening eight years. Here is a picture I took in June 2003 of Milorganite, made from the finest municipal sewage Milwaukee can produce, for sale and land application right here in the heart of the Croton watershed!

Hmmm. "Contains iron for deep, even greening." I don't recollect seeing the heavy metal content of fertilizer pushed as a selling point before. What's next?

  • "Now with a higher lead content to give your lettuce that healthy, glazed look!!"
  • "Cobalt ADDED! for dramatic, blue-tinged shrubbery!!!"

Anyway, here is part of the fine print from the back of the bag:

Ahh, Milwaukee. Makes you want to spread it all over those those budding tomato plants, no?

Thank you for letting me share this Public Health Moment with you. For more about the Croton watershed and sewage sludge you might find the following two papers interesting (they both have inline citations and references linked to full text articles where possible):



Alexander DeLuca, M.D.



Dr. DeLuca's Addiction, Pain, and Public Health website

Alexander DeLuca, M.D., FASAM

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Originally posted:  6/18/2003

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