EPA Proposed Rule for Recovered Materials Is Inconsistent with USDA Organic Rule:
Comments of the Organic Trade Association to
EPA Docket Number RCRA-2003-0005; SWH-FRL-7594-9
Federal Register, Vol. 68, No. 237, pp. 68813-23
Associate Policy Director
February 9, 2004
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) thanks EPA for the opportunity to comment on this proposed rule. OTA applauds EPA for refining the ecological management system reflected in 40 CFR 247 and expanding the components of compost to include manure. Please note, though, that this proposed change is significant in its effect regarding USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), and in fact is inconsistent with the rule establishing the NOP, 7 CFR 205. In particular, “biosolids”, or sewage sludge, is prohibited from use in organic production (7 CFR 205.2; 205.105(g); 205.203(e)(2); and 205.301(f)(2)). In addition, OTA does not support the use of biosolids in public projects at this time due to concerns about the possible toxic contamination of biosolids, which could contaminate organic production operations.
Prof. Thomas Burke of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) supports the further regulation of biosolids and includes the following in a September 6, 2002 open letter published at:
- one of [NAS’s] major recommendations is that EPA conduct a new national sewage sludge survey to examine both chemicals and pathogens;
- EPA has not reassessed the chemical and pathogen standards since it established them in 1993;
- EPA…needs to periodically reassess whether the existing regulatory standards are supported by the latest scientific data, improved technology, and methods for estimating risk;
- science does not remain static, nor should our efforts to protect public health and the environment.
In addition, Mark Gibson of NAS’s Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB) notes in the newsletter of that group, WSTB, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Jan./Feb. 2003), that major concerns of NAS’s 2002 report on biosolids include:
- a lack of health information on exposed populations;
- reliance on outdated risk-assessment methods;
- reliance on outdated characterization of sewage sludges;
- inadequate programs to ensure compliance with biosolids regulation; and, a
- lack of resources devoted to EPA’s biosolids program.
OTA urges EPA to devote the necessary resources to bringing its knowledge and policies up to date before proposing new uses for biosolids. This includes studying the likelihood of contamination of organic production with prohibited materials applied to agricultural land.
Comments on the proposed 40 CFR 247.3 and 40 CFR 247.15: Compost
The current 40 CFR 247.3 definition of “compost” reads:
“Compost made from yard trimmings, leaves, grass clippings, and/or food wastes is a thermophilic converted product with high humus content. Compost can be used as a soil amendment and can also be used to prevent or remediate pollutants in soil, air, and storm water run-off.”
The proposed definition removes “made from yard trimmings, leaves, grass clippings, and/or food wastes”. OTA would support including manure in this definition if EPA proposed such a definition.
OTA requests that EPA clarify in its final rule its reasons for not including more specific practice standards for the production of compost, specifically, those standards used in 1) 40 CFR 503 (for the treatment of sewage sludge); 2) USDA-NRCS Conservation Practice Standard 317; and 3) 7 CFR 205.203(c)(2).
The current 40 CFR 247.15(b) reads:
“(b) Compost made from yard trimmings, leaves, grass clippings, and/or food wastes for use in landscaping, seeding, of grass or other plants on roadsides and embankments, as a nutritious mulch under trees and shrubs, and in erosion control and soil reclamation.”
The proposed definition is:
“(b) Compost made from recovered organic materials.”
OTA requests that EPA delete the word “organic” and replace it with the word “natural” or “biobased” to avoid confusion with materials produced under 7 CFR 205.
Comments on the proposed 40 CFR 247.3 and 40 CFR 247.15: Organic fertilizer
The proposed 40 CFR 247.15(f), a new subsection, reads:
“(f) Fertilizers made from recovered organic materials.”
OTA requests that EPA delete the word “organic” and replace it with the word “natural” or “biobased” to avoid confusion with materials produced under 7 CFR 205. OTA further requests that any designation of fertilizer sold, labeled, or represented as “organic” require compliance with 7 CFR 205, as stated in this proposed rule on pp. 68818-9:
“It should also be noted that organic fertilizers being made or sold should comply with all applicable Federal, State, and local regulations.”
OTA would support including manure in this subsection if EPA proposed such an inclusion.
The rule states (p. 68819):
“EPA is requesting comment on whether it should place any limitations on the recovered organic materials contained in the fertilizers that the Agency is proposing to designate, and on what those limitations should be.”
OTA requests that no materials containing biosolids or any other material prohibited under 7 CFR 205 to be labeled, marketed, or represented as “organic” due to the possibility of misleading consumers into thinking such products were suitable for use in organic production.
Instead, OTA proposes EPA use the terms “recovered natural materials” and “recovered natural materials fertilizer”, or similar terms using the word “biobased”, and completely avoid the term “organic”, to distinguish the products resulting from this rule from those produced according to 7 CFR 205. Any use of the term “organic” for a fertilizer product not meeting 7 CFR 205 would be misleading to consumers looking for products suitable for use in operations certified under 7 CFR 205.