OCA, Alice Waters, Exchange on Toxic Sewage Sludge, March, 2010

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WARNING! Sewage sludge is toxic. Food should not be grown in "biosolids." Join the Food Rights Network.

OCA, Alice Waters, Exchange on Toxic Sewage Sludge, March, 2010 is a page on SW created during the Chez Sludge investigation. The Food Rights Network released a major investigative report on July 9, 2010 titled: Chez Sludge: How the Sewage Sludge Industry Bedded Alice Waters. [1] It examines the conflicts of interest and collusion between the Chez Panisse Foundation and the SFPUC based on an extensive open records investigation of the SFPUC internal files. (To view the internal documents see: SFPUC Sludge Controversy Timeline.)

On March 23, 2010, the Organic Consumers Association hand-delivered the letter below, to chef and businesswoman Alice Waters at her Chez Panisse Foundation, asking her to take a strong public stand against growing food in toxic sewage sludge.

On March 30, 2010, Alice Waters released the response statement below in which she declined to oppose growing food in toxic sludge. Waters defended the Executive Director of her Chez Panisse Foundation, Francesca Vietor, who is also the Vice President of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the agency that since 2007 had been distributing toxic sewage sludge as "organic biosolids compost."

It is now known that the response of Alice Waters was vetted and approved by the SFPUC staff before its release.

The letter and response are below, in their entirety. PDFs of the letters are also attached above each one.

March 23, 2010, Letter from OCA's Ronnie Cummins to Alice Waters

OCA Letter to Waters:PDF of 3/23/10 OCA letter to Alice Waters at CPF [2]

Dear Ms. Waters,

As you know, the Organic Consumers Association, along with a number of Bay Area food, gardening, environmental, and health organizations, has recently exposed the organic fraud perpetrated by the City of San Francisco and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) when they gave away toxic sewage sludge marketed as "organic biosolids compost" to unsuspecting California gardeners, farmers and schools. Given the work that you and the Chez Panisse Foundation have done to champion the organic, locally-grown, slow food movement in California and elsewhere, we imagine that you would want to be one of the first to unequivocally and publicly state that sewage sludge is unacceptable for farming and gardening - organic or conventional - in home gardens or in school gardens, on a small scale or in commercial agriculture. Considering that the sludge was given to several local schools for use on their educational gardens, your work with the Edible Schoolyard should especially elicit your concern.

It is shocking to us, additionally, that the SFPUC advocates "land application" - the SFPUC's euphemism for the disposal of sewage sludge on agricultural lands - and is responsible for the sullying of many Bay Area organic gardens with this false "organic compost." This is certainly in direct opposition to the standards that Chez Panisse and the Edible Schoolyard encourage and uphold.

It is because of this behavior that it seems to us a clear conflict of interest that Francesca Vietor should serve as both the Executive Director of the Chez Panisse Foundation and the Vice President of the SFPUC. In light of your dedication to non-GMO foods, would you have the Vice President of Monsanto as your Executive Director? The two do not seem much dissimilar as both work for organizations that compromise the integrity of the movement for which you are both a pioneer and a leading voice.

The Organic Consumers Association has a Bay Area and national base of over 250,000 subscribers who are waiting to hear from you on this issue. Your response will of course have weight, and we would like to take this opportunity to ask that you personally speak out - to the people of San Francisco and the people of this country - against the growing of any foods in sewage sludge. We believe that you could be a great ally in our fight against both the narrower but very significant problem of organic fraud as well as against the immense and virtually permanent and devastating environmental repercussions that will be the result of disposing of toxic sewage sludge on America's agricultural land.

In 2000, you took a stance against GMOs by telling your food suppliers they had to stop using all GMOs and stating publicly, "Flat out, no genetic engineering." We at the OCA applaud this position and ask that you now do the same for toxic sewage sludge: "Flat out, no toxic sewage sludge for our food!"

For an Organic Future, Ronnie Cummins, National Director, Organic Consumers Association

March 30, 2010, Response of Alice Waters

Responding to the OCA letter, Alice Waters provided the following statement to OCA and to some members of the news media, via email: PDF of Alice email sent to John Stauber [3].

I have been involved with the organic garden movement for 40 years. I believe in the transparency of public institutions and count on the government to offer the highest standards outlined by the Organic Consumers Association and other reliable advocates. I look forward to reviewing the science and working with the SFPUC to ensure the safety of composting methods. I support Francesca Vietor, Executive Director of the Chez Panisse Foundation and a PUC commissioner, whose environmental work I have admired for many years and whose integrity has been questioned.

Alice Waters, Owner and Founder of Chez Panisse Restaurant and Foundation (sic)

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. John Stauber, Chez Sludge: How the Sewage Sludge Industry Bedded Alice Waters, PRWatch.org, July 9, 2010
  2. Letter on OCA Website.
  3. Barry Estabrook, Politics of the Plate, Alice Finds Herself in Troubled Waters, April 26, 2010

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