Florida House Approves Use of Human Waste To Treat Crops For Human Consumption

Some Chinese may be steaming eggs in urine but Florida is about to grow its crops in such waste. After a heavy lobbying effort by industry, Florida is about to rescind a ban on the use of human waste to treat crops. Soon more than 90 companies will be pumping waste from about 100,000 septic tanks on to their fields — an estimated 40 million gallons treated with lime.

Only last year, the last year, the legislature banned the use of such waste under the strong advice of public health experts. When “land application” was used, it was destroying not only Florida’s waterways but harming eco-tourism.

Now, companies have succeeded in reviving “land application” starting in 2016 in the House. HB 1479, which lifts the ban, passed by a one-sided vote of 89-25.

Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, insisted that the ban drives up the cost of disposal and constitutes a tax on people with septic tanks. It is the ultimate victory of anti-tax rhetoric. It is better to serve you crops grown with human waste than pay extra to dispose of septic tank waste.

What is astonishing is that the pull of lobbyists is sufficiently strong that politicians are not concerned about an public backlash to having their fruits and vegetables treated with human waste products. In the ultimate twist, lobbyists are saying that runoff from other allowed chemicals and herbicides are just as bad if not worse. Of course, one would think that a legislator would mitigate toward limiting such harmful runoff. Instead, in Florida, it is used as a rationale for allowing other waste products to be poured on crops.

The matter now rests with the Senate.

Source: Tampa Bay

60 thoughts on “Florida House Approves Use of Human Waste To Treat Crops For Human Consumption

  1. Seem like a crappy ideal…but then so far we have urine eggs….animal crapped coffee….makes one wonder where we are headed….

  2. “The matter now rests with the Senate.” -from the article

    Let’s hope that wiser minds will prevail, as it’s said…

  3. AY wrote:

    “…makes one wonder where we are headed….”

    Indeed it does. Indeed it does.

  4. So, in five paragraphs they have managed to freeze my brain function. I don’t think I could have made this up if I was being paid to write satire.

  5. Having lived in Florida for a few years this is not surprise. If we cut them off from Federal money & rules Cuba really would look like paradise in comparison.

  6. In China they use human waste to fertilize crops as they have done for millennia. Admittedly it does pong a bit as I learned when I visited my wife’s family in Fuzhou in 1993. They lived in a flat in the grounds of the University of Fuzhou and nearby were some vegetable fields. You could certainly tell when the wind was blowing from the direction of those fields.

    In pre-revolutionary China farmers would preferentially employ laborers who lived at a greater distance as opposed to ones who lived nearby since the former could not go home for a call of nature and the valuable fertilizer would be captured in the latrines provided by the farmer.

    There are two problems with using human waste as fertilizer, one is the smell and the other that bacteria of dangerous diseases such as cholera may survive in the feces and create a risk of spreading the disease. However surely it is possible to treat the sewage to make sure such bacteria are killed and then reintroduce other appropriate bacteria to complete the conversion of the waste to useful compost.

    In Sydney Australia we dump our sewage into the Pacific Ocean through deep water outfalls, but sometimes the currents carry it towards our many beaches making them unsuitable for swimming, but what enrages me even more is the waste of valuable phosphorous and nitrogen. Australian farmers use superphosphate made from phosphate rock mined from millions of years old deposits of fossilized bird crap on Pacific islands. The phosphorous is turned into vegetables and grain and then dumped in the sea.

    Ecological, coming resource shortages and the need to cut greenhouse gases should be pushing us towards treating sewage to convert the valuable phosphorous and nitrogen into fertilizer and towards capturing and burning the methane to limit its contribution to global warming. If the methane were burned in the gas turbines of small power plants that would be even better.

  7. The Florida legislature has been conducting an all-out assault on Florida land use and environmental regulation this session. This bill is merely one example of the madness.

    Rep. Nelson’s support of the legislation is particularly ironic. He is from Apopka, home of Lake Apopka, once known for some of the best bass fishing in the world and now virtually lifeless from lack of oxygen following decades of fertilizer and pesticide runoff from agricultural interests. Lake Apopka is also famous most recently for a massive and still unexplained bird kill along its shores.

    Come to the Florida sunshine tree.

  8. The Amish here in PA have been doing this for a long time. Every spring various municipalities PAY them to take the solid waste leftover from water treatment plants, which they spray or dump on their fields and turn under as fertilizer. So what? Nobody has died or even gotten sick as far as i know and it’s recyling at its best.

  9. Tom:

    You are correct, and treated sewage is used in Florida as well. But that is not what this bill is about. This has to do with human waste pumped out of residential septic tanks. It is not processed through sewage treatment plants.

  10. According to the article in the link, this practice (land application) is now ongoing. There was (or is) a ban set to take effect in 2016. What the house bill does is revoke the ban. It also appears that human health may not be the prime motivator for the ban.

  11. A century ago the food that filtered through the human to become waste was from 99.9% plant sources. Today is much different. Compare horse manure to dog scat. Which do you feel comfortable to use in your garden? Read any book on composting and they all warn against it unless you can assure the complete break down in adequate duration of high temperature. Septic tanks harbor not only human waste but anything else that used the toilet for disposal. IE drugs, tampons, poisons…

  12. Hello Professor! Long time no talk! Thank you for your post.

    We the People in the great State of Florida are under assault by these clowns. The overwhelming Republican majority has run roughshod over the electorate and the will of the people.

    Your post is just one example of what these “lawmakers”, drunk with power, allowed to pass as law. There is not one group they didn’t attack this legislative session.

    They went after teachers, firefighters, police, unions, pensions, developmentally disabled, medically needy, the elderly, children, college students, voting rights, they let BP off the hook – the list goes on and on. It is utterly depressing

    They also managed to pass a bestiality bill and debated 18 abortion bills. Of course, this insanity created zero jobs.

    All of this with a corrupt and cruel miscreant leading the charge, Rick Scott.

    Pray for us down here. We need all the help we can get.

  13. This is probably the most amazing example of the extent these radical wealth mongers will go to make a buck and enrich their corporate friends. What about proper composting and increased organic farming meathods instead of pumping crap out of our toilets. Are they using this “fertilizer” in the orange groves? Shouldn’t the orange juice and oranges that come from this filth be labeled accordingly to warn consumers? This is about someone getting richer and the rest of us getting sicker. Disgusting. This story should be the headline on every major newspaper and the lead story on every newscast.

  14. “Florida House Approves Use of Human Waste…”

    For a minute there, I thought this might be about the House’s asking for the Florida governor’s use of his veto power…

  15. Carlyle Moulton-

    Since 1925 the City of Milwaukee and now the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District have been converting sewage sludge into a commercial fertilizer called Milorganite. It is heat treated and safe for commercial and home use. It was first sold to turf farms, parks, and golf courses in bulk, and later in bags for home use. We used it when I was a kid in the 1950’s and I can tell you that its smell is not offensive except to deer, who apparently stay away from Milorganite fertilized shrubbery. Also, the chemicals in it don’t seep into the water table.

    If the citrus growers had any regard for their customers and their fellow Floridians, they would have the septic tank sludge safely processed before applying it to their soil (and eventually to their fruit and to the water table that doesn’t belong to them).

    The new Republican Governors and Legislatures blather endlessly about creating jobs, but all I have seen so far is massive public sector job losses, destruction of the environment, and destruction of the Progressive Era and New Deal protections against the criminal activities of corrupt corporations and corrupt politicians. I suspect that future historians may well refer to our current time as “the Lawless Era”. Ask the residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan. Or the residents of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, New Jersey, Arizona, Texas, and sadly, too many others.

  16. Mike Appleton
    1, May 6, 2011 at 9:45 am

    more irony….this decision in light of current conversations of how to protect Floridas $ stake in tourism….

  17. A “p.s.” to my previous comment:

    The new Republican Governors and Legislatures are not so much “governing and legislating” as they are “getting even” with their “enemies”, who consist basically of all the groups that traditionally vote against them. Teachers, college students, public employees, unions and their members, women, old people, African-Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities, and of course, non-Christians. In particular, they want to make it as difficult as possible for any of these people to vote.

  18. A “p.p.s.”-

    In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican Legislature intend to pass laws to:
    1. Require a photo I.D. card to vote.
    2. End election day registration at the polls which has been legal in WI for several years.
    3. Make it illegal for college students to vote except in their home districts.

  19. HenMan,
    You are absolutely correct that the Teapublican governors have no intention of creating more jobs, unless Republicans can fill them. They will do anything to prevent Democrats from returning to power. I think they are in for big back lash from the voters real soon.

  20. Raff-

    I hope you’re right. Their excesses may create a new coalition, if enough people are paying attention- which is no sure thing.

  21. Rafflaw – we have been under Republican rules since 1998 (Jeb Bush). This state has been going downhill ever since.

    While they did all these crazy things to kill the middle class, families, corporate giveaways, etc., etc., they hired 65 assistants in the administration, all being paid over $100K a year, most of them with little to no experience – they were just loyal campaign people.

    It was like Animal House up there this session. It makes me miss Charlie Crist. Bob Graham even more.

  22. HenMan,
    The media has to stay on these guys like flies to Florida Fertilizer.
    The people of Florida need to kick these guys out. Is there a recall provision in Florida law?

  23. Diana D.-

    Scott Walker did the same. He appointed Brian Deschane to a state job paying $81,500 a year in spite of no college degree, very little management experience, and 2 drunk driving convictions. Brian Deschane,27, is the son of Jerry Deschane, a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Builders Association which gave Walker $121,652 in campaign contributions in the last 2 years. Walker withdrew the appointment 2 days later after much embarrassing publicity.

  24. Diana Demarest:

    I have to confess that I too long for the days of good old, wishy washy Charlie Crist. It’s a bit sad to see that he’s been reduced to shilling for Morgan & Morgan.

  25. HenMan
    1, May 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm
    A “p.s.” to my previous comment:

    The new Republican Governors and Legislatures are not so much “governing and legislating” as they are “getting even” with their “enemies”,
    yup…..and worse, people here know this and it is apparently acceptable. And I haven’t seen such blatant weirdness since Beavis and Butthead were twinkly stars…

  26. Wouldn’t the FDA or EPA have something to say about this? States do not have the authority to poison the food sold to people in other states, and this would also seem to violate the Clean Water Act. There are reasons that human sewage is not allowed for use on crops, and it seems unlikely that Florida could get away with this action (I hope).

  27. Brought to mind this post and petes comment:

    Getting to the Bottom of the Matter: Florida Man Denies Possession of Cocaine Between Buttocks

    1, October 4, 2010 at 12:20 am
    yo Ray, this blount tastes like shit.”

    Soon may be saying the same thing about the Orange Juice.

    “What is astonishing is that the pull of lobbyists is sufficiently strong that politicians are not concerned about an public backlash to having their fruits and vegetables treated with human waste products.”

  28. anyone who has used a product called milorganite in their garden has used human waste but it’s been treated.

    plantcity strawberries
    zellwood corn

    eat up teabaggers

    courtesy of rick scott governor

  29. @Rafflaw – There is no provision in the FL constitution for a recall. Dem Rep Rick Kriseman tried to intro a bill this session to make that happen, but of course, it was resoundingly defeated. Reality: We have no buyer’s remorse.

    @Henman – what you are seeing is an orchestrated effort by Repub/Tea Party Republican states. What is going on in MI, WI, OH, FL and others was cooked up at the Republican Governors Association meeting in November, 2010. People need to pay more attention to these gatherings.

    @Mike Appleton while Crist was “wishy washy”, his cooler head prevailed. He is a politician to the core and knew which way the wind blew. He was careful not to run roughshod over the electorate. These clowns have widely ignored their constituents.

    I apologize in advance to Professor Turley for hijacking his thread to politics and pretty much off topic.

  30. Diana Demarest-

    You are hardly off topic talking about lawlessness of state governments when the story is about the current government of Florida sanctioning the use of human waste as fertilizer at the risk of the public’s health and the safety of the water supply. This is just one of many examples of corrupt politicians serving the corporations instead of the people they pretend to represent. And collecting bribes, a.k.a. “campaign contributions”, from those they really serve.

  31. With all due respect, are people even aware of what has happened? The article shows that this (using the septage) is an ongoing practice. The plan was to ban it in 2016. Banning it may be the best thing since sliced bread, but the based on the comments, one might think the state had authorized a new practice.

  32. Thanks DD. for the update on Florida’s attempt at recall legislation.
    The proposed legislation is trying to rescind the ban.

  33. rafflaw,

    Yes, but the ban will not be effective until 2015. Look at the “headline” of this post – would you say that it is accurate? I think not (because approval already exists.) And a reasonable inference from many of the comments is that the legislature has proposed a new practice, rather than attempting to allow a current practice to continue.

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  36. Date of manufacture and use of human excrement should always be placed on products in the marketplace. Buyer beware. Let’s put this kind of thinking out of business, what do you say?

  37. i live near a septage spread site and it is awful, we are prisoners in our home when the trucks come rolling in one after another, the wind blows the dust laced with pathogens right on to our property, i finally felt that our senate had put a stop to this practice, but only to be undone by the next round of idiots, i hope this new rule to allow it to be used for fertilizer is re-examined and defeated before its to late…at least the land they spread on around us is pasture, not orange groves, the poor orange pickers will be rolling all around in shit, have you ever seen how they pick orange groves…they pick all the fruit and it falls to the ground where it is then gathered up and put in tubs, the shit will be all over the fruit !

  38. Floridians already enjoy or export beef fed off grassland that has been land applied with lime stabilized septic tank contents. P.H. is the only test performed before it is sprayed on cow pastures. Cows are kept in an adjoining pastures that have not been treated for a couple of weeks. The farmer moves his cows from pasture to pasture in rotation with the time interval.

  39. I am aware of a person who died from complications that resulted from eating cabbage grown in human fertilizer. As I recall, the effect of the disease was to rot his intestines away via a sort of flesh eating bateria that was part of the fertilizer.

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