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New: Organic Consumers Association Pickets Chez Panisse

By Raymond Barglow,
Thursday April 01, 2010 - 02:40:00 PM
Picketers protest outside Chez Panisse in Berkeley Thursday afternoon.
By Raymond Barglow
Picketers protest outside Chez Panisse in Berkeley Thursday afternoon.

Picketers claiming that Alice Waters, known worldwide as an advocate of organic foods and gardens, supports “growing food on toxic sewage sludge” appeared today at noon in front of her Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley. The protestors, from the Organic Consumers Association, say as well that the Executive Director of Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Foundation, Francesca Vietor, is a Vice President of the PUC, which has been giving away the sludge “compost” to gardeners in the Bay Area.  

Unsuspecting users, according to OCA, include the school gardens that Waters herself has done so much to promote. John Mayer, campaign coordinator for the Organic Consumers Association, told the Planet that “Although the sludge is an-aerobicly heated, toxins remain…. The fact is that the sludge contains toxins, they cannot be gotten rid of, and this is improper for growing food.” 

Water’s foundation responded to this accusation on Thursday morning, a few hours before the picketing was scheduled to begin. The Foundation said that Waters issued a statement three days earlier “calling for safe composting methods” and welcoming “a full airing of the facts of the situation.” The Foundation added that Vietor has asked the PUC to suspend the sludge giveaways “until scientific data can be gathered and evaluated.” 

John Mayer told the Planet that the information issued by Waters’ foundation was new to him, and that he would have to evaluate it. He claimed that the foundation’s press release is erroneous in at least one respect: it states that the PUC has “stopped” giving away the sludge, while he contends that the practice, according to a PUC news release issued today, has only been “suspended.” The OCA is asking that Waters support halting the practice altogether. 

The PUC statement claims that its biosolids product – which is the PUC’s name for “nutrient-rich solid waste removed from wastewater at every wastewater treatment plan” -- “meets or exceeds all current federal and state regulations and guidelines for safe use in San Francisco.”