The New York Times continues to report on the non-story of the non-lead in the White House vegetable garden. As you'll recall, the original soil tests showed lead levels at 93 ppm, quite a bit below what it would take to get the EPA worked up (400 ppm) but still higher than what the more highly evolved Dutch would want to see in their soil (40 ppm).
Still. Things have continued to improve, thanks to the addition of lime, greensand, crab meal, and organic stuff. Now the levels are only 14 ppm, and this, I think, is the only really newsy bit in here: Look! In just a few months, you can totally reduce lead levels in your soil using nothing but some simple organic stuff! And this: "The pH was adjusted to between 6.5 and 7. When the pH is in that range, lead is unavailable to the plants." Well, that is really handy to know. The lead levels are now comparable to soil that has never been trod upon by a modern human. Nicely done.
But there's more fun to be had. The NYT just couldn't help themselves; they had to wade into the sludgestorm started over at Mother Jones back in June when that publication made the point that sewage sludge may well be to blame for the lead levels in the first place. Apparently this is not the first time the White House lawn has been used to send a message to gardeners and farmers: there was also that time back in the 80s and 90s when the EPA, wanting to increase public acceptance of sewage sludge, spread biosolids on the White House lawn.
Spreading sludge at the White House was a way for the EPA to reassure
the public that using it as a fertilizer for crops and yards (instead
of dumping it in the ocean, as had been common practice) would be safe.
"The Clintons are walking around on poo," the EPA's sludge chief quipped in 1998, "but it's very clean poo."
And that, of course, got everybody worked up. Read all about it if you've got nothing better to do with your Friday.
But wait! The NYT went back and interviewed the retired groundskeeper, Mr. Irvin Williams, "who retired as head groundskeeper at the White House last year, after 59
years on the job, said sludge was used only once there, in 1985."
Just once. And nobody inhaled.
Except! Now MoJo wonders if Mr. Williams is really remembering things right. They cite several media accounts over time of the use of sludge on the lawn, including this from Mr. Williams himself:
"Meanwhile, along Pennsylvania Avenue, the grounds crew at the White House is preparing for life after ComPRO," the Post reported.
"Irv Williams, who has taken care of the White House grounds for 38
years, said they will make due, even though ComPRO has helped the
ComPRO being the sewage sludge stuff. Catchy name, that.
Well. What shit was spread around, and when was it spread? And what did the President know about it? Such questions have been asked before at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, regarding matters far smellier than this one. I'm just glad the Obamas have had better luck with their tomatoes than I have. Enjoy the weekend, folks.
Posted by Amy Stewart on August 14, 2009 at 5:25 am, in the category Uncategorized.