BioCycle February 2005, Vol. 46, No. 2, p. 6
ALBERT SCHATZ, EDUCATOR, MICROBIOLOGIST, STREPTOMYCIN DISCOVERER 1920 – 2005
Albert Schatz, a microbiologist who in the 1940s helped develop the antibiotic streptomycin and was Professor Emeritus of Temple University, died on January 17 with family members at his bedside. Dr. Schatz was a member of this publication’s Editorial Board when it was founded.
Albert Schatz was a 23-year-old graduate student working on his Ph.D. at Rutgers University when he discovered streptomycin, the first effective treatment for tuberculosis. His work was done in the Soil Microbiology laboratory of Dr. Selman Waksman at th Rutgers College of Agriculture. In 1994, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of streptomycin, Dr. Schatz was awarded the Rutgers University Medal. Wrote Rutgers president Francis Lawrence: “This great discovery was made possible, in part, by your courageous use of virulent pathogenic cultures of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in your bioassay procedures. The worldwide impact of this discovery is now part of medical history. Many institutions and countries have recognized the importance of your discovery. You have brought distinction and honor to Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.”
Everywhere, he was admired for his warmth, kindness and wonderful sense of humor. In a communication published in the July, 1997 issue of BioCycle, Dr. Schatz recalled a 1973 article he wrote titled: “Using Garbage to Teach Science from Kindergarten to Graduate School.” At that time, he explained, “our primary objective in preparing instructional aids for environmental education was to provide teachers with something useful to them in the real world of the large city school. Garbage is an ideal thing to begin with in environmental education. Students may not taste pollutants in the water they drink and food they eat. but they all produce garbage at home and in school, everywhere they are, and every day.” Throughout his career, his understanding of microbiology also led him to an intensive interest in the role and dynamics of composting.
Memorial donations may be sent to the Center for Constitutional Rights, 666 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.
RECYCLING GROUP FILES LEGAL BRIEF AGAINST EPA ‘RELAXATION’ OF LANDFILL PERMITS
The Grassroots Recycling Network (GRRN) filed a legal brief last month asking the courts to reverse a U.S. EPA rule which authorizes states to approve an unlimited number of landfill permits for bioreactor landfills without substantive standards to encourage research. Filed by the law firm of Cullen Weston Pines and Bach, the brief maintains that the rule is “a subterfuge intended to deregulate the next generation landfill from minimum federal standards in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.”
The applicable statutes for the disposal of nonhazardous solid waste, the brief argues, undisputedly require EPA to adopt minimum national standards for landfills, and then delegate the enforcement of those standards to qualified states. At issue in the case is whether the requirements in those standards can be evaded by recourse to putative research that bears no resemblance to the most fundamental requirements for a valid scientific investigation.
In 1991, EPA complied with the statute by adopting rules requiring “dry tomb” landfills, which were intended to keep the waste dry. “Without the presence of liquids that cause garbage to rot and generate harmful leachate and gases, the waste can be stabilized and be less of a threat to public health and the environment. Subsequently, concerns arose over the ability to maintain waste in such a dry state for the very long periods of time that trash remains a threat.”
Between 1999 and 2003, EPA approved more than 24 tests in California, Virginia and Kentucky and other states of an alternative design called bioreactors. In a bioreactor, instead of keeping liquids out, liquids are deliberately added to the waste in an effort to stabilize it in a shorter period of time.
The brief emphasizes that this case is not about whether research is desirable or permissible. Rather, GRRN demonstrated in its brief that the overwhelming evidence shows the research involved in the challenged rule is not bona fide, but rather is a subterfuge to evade RCRA’s requirement for minimum national standards. Most telling among that evidence is the fact that there is no limit to the number of so-called research permits that may be issued, and the results of the “research” are not even required to be submitted to EPA.
FOUNDING OF THE NATIONAL RECYCLING COALITION: ARTICLE CORRECTION
Last month, in his “Recycling View” column (“Removing The Blinders To Analyze Solid Waste History”), Neil Seldman of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance included a reference to the launch of the National Recycling Coalition. Actually, the date of the first National Recycling Congress – held in Fresno, California by 400 grassroots organizations – was 1980, not 1978. Explains Seldman: “1978 was the founding of a National Recycling Coalition in New York City. But the National Recycling Coalition that emerged from the 1980 Congress was a different organization.”
BIOBASED PROCUREMENT PROGRAM RULE TO BE MANDATED IN EARLY 2005, SAYS USDA
A final rule establishing a congressionally mandated federal procurement program for biobased products – which includes compost – will be published in early 2005, according to a senior economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This final rule will detail how the Federal Biobased Products Preferred Procurement Program will work. The 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act originally set up this kind of program to stimulate purchases, defining biobased products as “a commercial or industrial product (other than food or feed) that is composed of biological products or renewable domestic agricultural materials (including plant, animal and marine materials) or forestry materials.” Once an item is designated, manufacturers that make a biobased version of that item may claim preferred procurement status as they sell their goods to federal agencies. The website that USDA sets up for the Preferred Procurement Program will include links to specific manufacturers, notes Marvin Duncan, project leader for the forthcoming rule.
Hundreds of biobased products currently exist that will be able to qualify for this program, notes Carol LeBlanc, director of the Surface Solutions Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, which provides technical assistance to companies. The Defense Logistics Agency, which supplies the Department of Defense, is reported to be evaluating biobased products such as starch-based plastic cutlery and biobased hydraulic fluids for helicopters. More information about the Program is available at: http://www.biobased.oce. usda.gov/public/index.cfm.
SAFETY AND EFFICACY OF COMPOST TEAS ANALYZED IN RECENT STUDIES
The Winter 2004-2005 issue of OMRI Update, published by the Organic Materials Review Institute of Eugene, Oregon, features two recent studies on compost teas which point out the different impacts of brewing methods and additives. In one study by Will Brinton and colleagues at Woods End Laboratory, published in the Journal of BioDynamics, the researchers look at the capacity of types of compost tea to sustain a population of E. coli. They recommend that compost tea practitioners pay attention to avoiding fecal contamination during the production of the teas. Their results highlight no obvious advantage of aerated systems over traditional methods. Two differing types of aerated commercial brewers were used, along with a traditional European method of brewing compost tea in a loosely covered vat and stirred once a day.
In the second study by Steven Scheurell and Walter Mahaffee, published in Phytopathology, the abilities of aerated and nonaerated composted teas to control the fungal disease, Pythium ultimum, were tested. They conclude that only aerated compost teas with specific nutrient additives deliver consistent results. Their work also suggests that residual nutrients in the teas, from molasses for instance, do not contribute to the teas’ disease suppression effects.
Their methods included use of two commercial composts and one vermicompost product. The aerated compost tea was produced using a commercial brewer. Finished teas were tested for levels of bacterial and fungal communities using three common methods of counting these organisms.
The commercial aerated system produced consistent results when brewed with kelp, humic acids, and glacial rock dust. These results were similar for all three compost types. The research team found the nonaerated tea to have a limited suppressive effect on the disease, but found some practical drawbacks, such as bad smell and long production time, as reasons against using this method.