Solid Waste & Recycling Magazine


‘Sludge’ activist Maureen Reilly dead at 58

It’s with great sadness that we report the untimely passing of Maureen Reilly who died suddenly in Toronto on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at age 58 years.

It’s with great sadness that we report the untimely passing of Maureen Reilly who died suddenly in Toronto on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at age 58 years.

Reilly was known to readers as a “sludge activist” who tirelessly campaigned for higher treatment standards and better oversight of the disposal of municipal biosolids on farm lands, sometimes called “beneficial use.” Some of Reilly’s investigations into lax practices found their way into the pages of this magazine, either directly from her own commentary or via ideas suggested to editorial staff.

Her LinkedIn page states:

“For the past decade Maureen Reilly has been working together with a variety of environmental, public health, and advocacy organizations on food, soil, water, and air contamination issues.

“She is the administrator of SludgeWatch [a position she held for 13 years — ed.], a list serv and advocacy service for people and communities struggling with issues related to contamination from wastewater, sludge, and other industrial residuals.

“Maureen had standing on the Walkerton Inquiry on sludge related matters. She taught a course called “Sewers through the Centuries” at University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.

“Maureen is actively committed to protecting food lands, food production, and food and water safety. She is investigating effective pollution prevention strategies, and clean technologies for water and soil protection.

Reilly’s LinkedIn page also references two documentaries:

Crapshoot: The Gamble with our Wastes

National Film Board of Canada

Sludge Diet (52 Minutes)

According to an obituary put out by the family on Facebook, Maureen Anne Reilly was the daughter of Herta Reilly (deceased) and Terence Reilly (Mary). She will also be dearly missed by her brothers David (Kathy) and Peter (Sharyn), her nephews and nieces and many relatives and friends.

Reilly was born on Manitoulin Island on April 26. She grew up in Don Mills and received her Bachelor Degree at University of Toronto. Among her many accomplishments, she was a champion of women’s rights, the poor and the protection of the environment. She was recognized for her contributions by the Ontario government. Her research and work was international in scope and valued by many. In her local community, she was known for her friendly manner, compassion, wisdom and humor.

A celebration of Maureen’s life will take place from 1-4 pm on Saturday December 22, 2012 at the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), 60 Lowther Avenue, Toronto, Ontario. (Parking lot w/s of Bedford Rd., north of Lowther.) Light refreshments to follow.

See Editor Guy Crittenden’s blog for further commentary, and to read a recent profile of Maureen Reilly by Ellen Moorehouse that appeared in the Toronto Star, March 2, 2012.


Print this page

Related Posts

5 Comments » for ‘Sludge’ activist Maureen Reilly dead at 58
  1. Jim Howlett says:

    The world has lost a great champion,who was filled with passion, wit, and love. Maureen’s soul was geared with a will for the good of others. Who would carry her torch half as far or high?

  2. David McRobert says:

    I knew Maureen for nearly 16 years. I am devastated to hear of her loss. She was a brave and determined woman who made Ontario a better and safer place to live.

    I think it was in 1996 when I first heard from Maureen. In late 1994 I had been appointed as In-house Counsel at the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO). I don’t know who gave her my name (possibly someone at the MOE, CELA or Ecojustice) but she started calling and e-mailing me and other ECO staff about sludge issues. She wanted our support and money, if possible. I advised her that we didn’t provide grants and explained how the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) worked. I think I also advised that she really needed to hire an environmental lawyer to protect her interests in land and property and try to use the wide array of tools provided by the common law property rights and administrative law.

    This didn’t persuade her. She pushed and pestered ECO staff to become more fully engaged with sludge and water pollution issues. To her credit, she succeeded. Sludge and sewage did become important issues for the ECO and have been featured in many ECO annual reports since the late 1990s. This combined effort by activists such as Maureen and the ECO helped to push the MOE to take strong regulatory action on these issues, although there is much more that needs to be done.

    Over the years I must have exchanged hundreds of e-mails with Maureen and spoken to her on the phone at least 120 times. Invariably she was trying to solve a complex legal or policy puzzle and seeking to pick my brain. I always learned from our sometimes heated discussions and tried to provide her as much information as I could, since at the ECO I was not able to provide her with legal advice. (I only could advise the ECO and his staff on the law.)

    Her legacy can be found everywhere on the internet. She used the deep knowledge she gained about law and policy to produce regular newsletters, blogs, and articles. She appeared in films and videos, taught at universities and worked with groups. She passionately advocated for law and policy changes. She assisted other people all over the world.

    Thousands of her friends and colleagues will never forget her.

  3. says:

    Once we were three; now we are two. We called ourselves The Sludge Sisters. Deb and I always referred to Maureen as the Queen of Sludge. We were content to be mere princesses.

    How did I meet Maureen? Ten years ago I got the classic plain envelope in the mail. It had many photo copied e-mail messages and a few other documents. No return address or cover letter. I put it on the shelf and ignored it for a couple of months. One day I decided I

  4. Liz Rice says:

    Growing up on organic food I always appreciated the taste and that it was safe/chemical-free. Learning about conventional and factory farming inspired me to become an environmental speaker on topics such as food. I met Maureen at a Canadian Organic Growers Conference. Heard her and environmental lawyers speak about water and soil contamination; all the things that are legal, or not monitored/legally enforced. I learned a lot that day about sewage sludge being used as crop fertilizer; incorporated it into my ‘Benefits of Eating Organic’ presentation.

    Maureen was an awesome resource; a wealth of knowledge and what dedication! Please support your activist friends. The work is emotionally and physically draining. I realize that not everyone is cut out for this kind of work, but you can always financially support their work or be there as emotional support.

  5. Wendy Smith says:

    Not only has the world lost a beautiful and spirited Eco warrior but her home was in an area that needs strong advocates and leaders like Maureen. This woman took on some very old-school people and these are the same ones that are afraid of wind, EFW, bury their waste and still haven’t figured out the green bin program. When a municipality is ‘stuck’ in feasibility studies and not collecting organic, household waste to produce beautiful Compost, you know that they need help. Ms. Reilly was a quiet hero who just wanted to Do The Right Thing and live a true life and I think of the fight she had to put energy into rather than totally enjoy her nest. She will remain in our hearts and minds and we should honour her by speaking up, opening our eyes and hearts to our environment and Doing Our Best. We are the caretakers and citizens of nature. It’s up to each of us.

Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *