Human waste turned into fertilizer in KCMO - KCTV5 News

Human waste turned into fertilizer in KCMO

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Okay, we’re going to be up-front about this. You’re either going to find this story interesting or gross, maybe even both.

Here goes. Kansas City is recycling human waste. That’s right, what you flush down the toilet is helping fertilize farmland.

“We can’t grow any root crops or anything that can be directly consumed,” said Tim Walters, Kansas City’s chief agronomist.

The farmland benefiting from the recycled waste is owned by Water Services. The department isn’t applying raw sewage directly to the crops.

The sewage is being processed by the Birmingham Land Application Facility near the Ameristar Casino and sprayed on 1,350 acres of city-owned land. That land is planted to corn and soybeans used to create alternative fuel sources and high-fructose corn syrup.

You could call it a real-life example of the old adage, “waste not, want not.”

“Corn and soybeans were the crops of choice because corn takes up a lot of nitrogen, which is abundant in human-waste fertilizer. And because those are two of the simplest crops to grow,” Walters said.

He added that the farm can’t grow other food crops because of health concerns.

Before the waste is applied to the land, it undergoes an intense treatment process during which it becomes fertilizer. When the process is completed, the fertilizer is spayed every spring prior to planting.

Walters has been working the farm for 15 years. He said his first project was cleaning out lagoons and revamping the sub-surface injecting system. Eventually he switched over to above-the-surface applications. In other words, the aforementioned spraying with a hose before planting.

More than 5,000 tons of waste is sent to Birmingham Farm annually. Walters said nearly all of it is used. What isn’t, is either sent to the Blue River incinerator or to a landfill.

That’s a lot of recycled, or repurposed, waste, but the program is about a lot more than that. Using human waste as fertilizer is a cost-cutting measure. The city is burning less waste because of the program, and that has saved the city $240,000 - money that otherwise would have been flushed down the toilet.

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