The Ultimate Nightmare: The Wyatts' Story

Think of Alan Rubin and John Wheeler when you read this story about Sandra and Willis Wyatt's lives being destroyed by Synagro.

Like so many of us boomers, Willis and Sandra Wyatt wanted to retire to a quiet rural lifestyle.  They sunk their savings into a new house in Surry County, Virginia.  Life was good.  

But soon Synagro showed up and began sludging the b'Jesus out of the woodlot next door.  Even after the Wyatt's, their son, and their pets became sick and begged them to stop, Synagro kept spraying the sludge.  Sandra tells the horrible story, below.  I just want to add some background first.

EPA sludge-honcho John Wheeler and his side-kick Alan Rubin, self-described "Sheik of Sludge," were more responsible than anyone else in the country for opening the flood gates of sewage sludge that found its way to the land next to the Wyatt's new house, which is to say, Wheeler and Rubin are as culpable as anyone for the story I'm about to unfold to you.  

Sludge fanatic Rubin is particularly culpable.  He was responsible for the federal regulations, so-called "Part 503," that were supposed to protect the health of people who might be exposed to BS.  The regulations were based on an assessment of risks to healthy people exposed to small amounts of sludge.  In other words, the "assessment" ignored the most salient fact of all, something every kid who graduates from high school knows: each of us is genetically different.  Such differences mean that some people have are more susceptible to the toxins and irritants of sludge and its aerosols than the "normal" healthy people the EPA's analysis was based on.  And yet, again and again in the growing volume of complaints of sludge making people sick, the EPA sludge morons and industry shills would say:

 "Hey, what's the problem?  After all, people who work at sewage treatment plants and people who drive sludge trucks never get sick.  That means the stuff is safe."  

It is unbelievable that any idiot could think this way much less say such a thing in public.  Sure, the people who work at sewage plants and drive BS trucks are OK with it; the others, the ones who got sick, quit working with it . . . or died.  

Anyone with a nematode's brain could see the flaws in Rubin's Part 503 regulations: the regulations completely ignored millions of Americans with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, allergies, sensitive eyes and skin, and about 50 other medical conditions that would be exacerbated by BS.

But Rubin could not, before a jury of his peers, plead innocent on the grounds of having a smaller brain than an nematode's.  Besides, he didn't need to do any thinking himself.  He knew very well that the regulations were not sufficiently protective of human health because his own scientists told him.  

In 1992, EPA's Office of Research & Development (ORD), which evaluates the scientific basis for the Agency's regulations, conducted an internal peer-review of the proposed 503 sludge rule. ORD scientists concluded that the rule had significant gaps in its scientific basis and was not protective of public health and the environment. OW [EPA’s Office of Water], in response, agreed to fund ORD at a level of $2 million per year for at least five years to assess these gaps; and it promised to work with ORD to modify the rule. Instead of funding ORD as promised, however, OW established a Cooperative Agreement with an industry trade association, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), to support the rule and silence critics, both inside and outside of EPA. Moreover, OW not only failed to work with ORD to strengthen the 503 rule; it actually weakened the rule in 1994 by deregulating chromium and dropping cumulative loading limits for molybdenum. Then [Henry L.] Longest became ORD Assistant Administrator over EPA's scientists who had rejected the rule and began to reign in dissent there.  (Ed Hallman, Gatekeepers, pg ii)      

Eventually -- and it took a decade -- the EPA's cheer-leaders started to distance themselves from Rubin, Walker, and their Part 503 regulations.  In 2002 the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences had a look at the 503 regulations and virtually choked.  In a 285 page report, the NRC repeated over and over that the regulations and the BS practices could not be considered to protect human health.  For instance at page 180 you can find this damning observation:

The risk [to humans] would depend on the actual concentrations of the pollutant in biosolids to which people were exposed. Nonetheless, the current limits cannot with confidence be stated to be adequately protective for all of the regulated pollutants.

In 2011, Mathney conducted a careful review of the manner in which Rubin concocted the Part 503 regulations.  She found that the regulations were based on inadequate data, outdated assessment methods, and flawed assumptions.  Mathney concluded:

When doing a standard risk assessment, one accounts for the assumptions made and the uncertainties still present by incorporating safety or uncertainty factors. This was not done by EPA for the Part 503 standards [7]. Taken together, the incomplete exposure assessments and flawed assumptions probably lead to an underestimation of exposure to sewage sludge, indicating that the standards are not adequately protective. (Mathney, pg. 81)

Sometime in 2008 it appears that Rubin had an epiphany.  By that time the was long out of the EPA and shilling for the sludge-peddlers.  They got him appointed to an expert panel that the Virginia House of Delegates set up to investigate the use of BS in Virginia.  That panel was so lop-sided for the BS industry that its biased report was a total waste of taxpayer money and as useful as pigeon poop on the pump handle, as I reported in my blog, LogoPhere.  A number of the experts who sat on the panel and who were, essentially shouted down by the pro-sludge cabal, later stated their objections to the report to the media.  Surprisingly, one of the malcontents was Rubin.

As I understand it, Rubin's retreat from his position that Part 503 protects the public came when one of his grandchildren was exposed to BS and became quite ill.  Two things happened to Rubin at that point: 1. the dime dropped, and 2. the chickens came home to roost.  Because of one or both of these events, Rubin joined forces with sludge-victim and warrior Henry Staudinger and co-authored a 5-page compilation of objections to the lop-sided report of the expert panel.  Staudinger and Rubin objected on the grounds that the regulations were not designed to protect, and did not protect, those who need protection the most -- people like Rubin's grand-kid who have underlying genetic or medical conditions that predispose them to nasty reactions to BS.      

In the mean time, back at the ranch, so to speak, in July of 2005 Synagro began sludging the trees adjacent the Wyatt's new dream house.  

 That was the beginning of the end for the Wyatts.  Literally.  I will let Sandra Wyatt tell you the rest of the story.  But let me just say this: the Wyatts were fighters.  They sued Synagro  (complaint) and won a decisive technical victory against uber-sludge lawyer, James Slaughter, Synagro's primary primary pair of wing-tips in Virginia courts. Here's the federal court's decision and the state court's decision.   These were not final decisions, they were decisions that permitted the Wyatts to stay in court.  Chris Nidel was the lead lawyer for them.  I have blogged this case over at LogoPhere.  All of the court documents can be found at Loudounauts

Enough background and legalities.  Here is the human side of the Part 503 debacle.   I don't know where Sandra's story originally appeared.  I found it at Sludge News and Sludge Victims.   If this story was not poignant enough just in terms of the sludgers destroying the Wyatt's home and way of life, please keep in mind as you read her words that Sandra succumbed to the BS in May, 2009. Willis died 5 months later, October, 2009.  As for the suit against Synagro, I am told that after Slaughter lost his motion to dismiss, the case settled -- the Wyatts received the check on the day Sandra died. 

My Nightmare

August 28, 2008

I am a victim of a sludge application that resulted from spraying sludge in the trees around my house. This has affected not only me, but my husband, son and animals. It has completely destroyed our lives and the quality of life that we had before the spraying of this putrid smelling, toxic mess!

Before the sludge company dumped on the land around us we lived in a peaceful place with an abundance of wildlife and in a home that we spent our life savings to build. Now we have a home we cannot occupy and are forced to live elsewhere. Why? Both my husband and I have developed lung diseases and other medical problems that have caused us to have extreme coughing, nose bleeds, itchy eyes, throat irritation and other problems that resemble allergic reactions whenever we go near our home or other sludge sites.

I have a terminal lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, that my doctors believe has come from being exposed to sludge. My husband now has C.O.P.D and asthma -- he had never smoked or been around smoke. He and I are progressively getting worse. My son is now showing more symptoms and my older dog has been having seizures.

I have had to get up in the middle of the night and go sleep in our truck behind our church because I could not breathe. At times my husband has had to go with me. We stay wherever we can and live out of a suitcase. We have a 25 by 8 foot camper that we are trying to find a permanent place for. We need to stay in a place away from any sludge sites for a while so we are able to breathe. We are both senior citizens that are not only sick, but have to worry now about where we will lay our heads for the night.

Does the sludge company care? NO!!!!! Even though they knew that 6 or 7 people were sick they came in with the second application. They KNEW that I had a lung disease and that I could not breathe when this stuff was applied. Did it matter? No. They came back anyway. They do not care at all about human life. The ONLY thing that matters to them is MONEY.

We want to move, we have put the farm up for sale, but can't sell it. Since all our savings is in this place we can't buy another one. The bank would not loan us money against the farm to buy another house because of the sludge that is around our property. It is a risk to the bank. So no matter what we do we are stuck with a home we can't stay in and can't sell. We asked the sludge company and the landowners to relocate us - what a joke! That might cost them some money. Just my medical bills are over half a million dollars and climbing by the day. This is just the beginning, as this disease progresses the medical costs will also. Now my husband is sick. We moved out here to retire and enjoy country life. It has been a nightmare that I can't even begin to put into words! We are grieving for the loss of everything good that was in our life. We have become pass the point of depression; we have nothing to look forward to but more sickness and no one to hear us.

When we tried to fight the sludge company they went into our small community and did everything they could to discredit us with our friends, neighbors and others. They have no defense for what they have done, so they are trying to create one by making us look like the bad guys. My sympathy and heart go out to anyone that is dealing with sludge applications near their homes. I hope that someone in our government system will see what sludge does to human lives and will have the guts to stand up to these powerful companies and stop this insanity before anyone else suffers or dies.

Sandra Wyatt. Claremont, VA.


Copyright, 2005 - 2012, Denis O'Brien (aka The Gutter Grunt).  All rights reserved.