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McElmurray Federal Ruling

On February 25, 2008, the McElmurrays, dairy farmers from Georgia, received an order and judgment issued by Judge Anthony Alaimo of the 11th Circuit Court. The order addresses and confirms that there have been decades of deceit by the EPA and finds against the USDA and the EPA. It acknowledges that the sludge applications on the McElmurrays' farm were responsible for killing hundreds of diary cattle and contaminating the milk supplies in several states. In the ruling, Judge Alaimo said, "senior EPA officials took extraordinary steps to quash scientific dissent and any questioning of EPA's biosolids program." (United States District Court Southern District of Georgia, McElmurray v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Case 1:05-cv-00159-AAA-WLB Document 67, Filed 02/25/2008.)

From 1979 until 1990, the City of Augusta spread its sewage sludge on Andy McElmurray’s diary farm. Judge Alaimo ordered the government to compensate McElmurray because 1,730 acres of his Hephzibah, Georgia, farm was ruined by the sludge. The order acknowledges that the sludge applications on the McElmurrays’ farm were responsible for killing hundreds of diary cattle and contaminating the milk supplies in several states with high levels of thallium (the primary toxin in rat poison), which had been present in the sewage sludge spread on crops fed to the dairy cows.

In 2003, McElmurray requested disaster assistance from the USDA for 1466 acres of cotton and 264 acres of corn, listing environmental contamination of the land on his application as the reason for the "prevented planting." He was denied the assistance, available to some farmers as part of the 2002 Farm Bill.  The U.S. District Court concluded that the evidence in the administrative record shows “McElmurrays' land is contaminated and unfit for growing food-chain crops” and that “the evidence of contamination on the McElmurrays' land was substantial.” The judge said determinations by EPA and the USDA as to whether or not the land was too polluted to grow crops was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The subsidies awarded to McElmurray are available to farmers if they can’t plant their crops, usually because of bad weather or natural disasters. Judge Alaimo’s decision adds land applied sewage sludge, a decidedly unnatural disaster, to the list.

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