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ORGRO High Organic Compost

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WARNING! Sewage sludge is toxic. Food should not be grown in "biosolids." Join the Food Rights Network.

ORGRO High Organic Compost is a sewage sludge "compost" manufactured at the Baltimore City Composting Facility and marketed through Veolia Water North America.[1] Hundreds of communities across the U.S. sell toxic sludge products that are typically renamed biosolids and sold or given away as "fertilizer" or "compost" (and often even labeled or marketed as "natural" or "organic"). ORGRO is marketed as "high organic compost," a term that likely implies high organic matter content but may be interpreted by some as USDA-certified organic.[2] USDA organic standards prohibit the use of sewage sludge in organic agriculture. ORGRO is sold as ORGRO Premium Compost, ORGRO Whole Compost, and ORGRO Mulch.[3] It is also marketed as Eckology and BioCom.[4]

ORGRO meets the EPA requirements for Class A Biosolids, which regulate 10 heavy metals, salmonella, and fecal coliform, but do not regulate thousands of other contaminants that may be found in sewage sludge. The sewage sludge in ORGRO come from the Back River Waste Water Treatment Plant in Baltimore, Maryland. It is sold in bulk to "topsoil manufacturers, nurserymen, contractors, landscapers, golf courses, and commercial growers throughout Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York."[5] In 2008, Orgro was involved in a controversy when it was discovered that federal scientists spread it on the yards of poor, black families in Baltimore without informing the families of the potential risks of sewage sludge.[6] For more on this, see the article on Poor Black Baltimore Families Used as Human Guinea Pigs in Sludge Study.


Production Process

ORGRO is made from sewage sludge from Back River Waste Water Treatment Plant in Baltimore, MD.[7] The compost product itself is produced at the Baltimore City Composting Facility (BCCF). The facility produces 75,000 cubic yards of compost per year. According to its website:[8]

"The technology utilized at the BCCF consists of a modified Paygro in-vessel, agitated bed composting system. The in-feed mix is composted in the reactors and actively oxygenated through negative and positive aeration. During the retention time in the reactors, the in-feed mixture temperatures are continuously monitored and controlled using a dynamic programmable logic computer program. The compost is turned (‘fluffed’) within the reactor cell to further agitate and aerate the mix and ensure homogeneity. The compost is removed from the reactor cells and moved outside the reactor building where the material is placed in aerated static piles (windrows) and blanketed with stabilized whole compost or screened over-sized material. The compost meets compliance with the EPA’s 40 CFR Part 503 regulations in the extended aerated curing area.
"Following the completion of the three-day PFRP process, the material is moved to un-aerated static piles where VAR compliance is met. The material continues to cure for the remainder of 30 days following discharge from the reactor cells. After completing the composting cycle, the compost is screened to separate ‘fines’ (our primary product, sold to customers) from ‘overs’ (the large sized wood particles which are then reused in the process as ‘recycle’).

History

The Baltimore City Composting Facility began operating in March 1988. It was designed, built, and initially operated by Research-Cottrell Inc. (which later became a subsidiary of Aqua Alliance Inc.).[9] In 1996, Professional Services Group, a subsidiary of Aqua Alliance Inc. that manages more than 150 water, wastewater, and sewage sludge management facilities, took over the operation and maintenance of the facility.

Baltimore's two wastewater treatment plants produced approximately 170,000 wet tons of sludge as of 1999. The Baltimore City Composting Facility was initially designed to handle "up to 210 tons (at 25 percent total solids) of cake biosolids per day, and receive sludge five days per week." The sludge is brought from the wastewater treatment plants to the Baltimore City Composting Facility "where they are mixed with various wood amendments."[10] There, the sludge/wood mixture is composted for at least 44 days.

In the mid-1990's, the compost inputs were changed: Professional Services Group "eliminated fresh wood chips and added double-ground pallet wood, sawdust and high carbon wood ash as amendments. This helped PSG maximize the facility's biosolids capacity and increase the percentage of biosolids within the compost mix from 45 percent to 55 percent by weight." This change amounted to a $200,000 savings in costs in fiscal year 1998.

In 1999, a waste industry publication wrote:

"Approximately 85,000 cubic yards of compost are sold annually with the brand names Eckology in Maryland and BioCom in Virginia. It also is sold as Orgro to several outlets in New York to manufacture topsoil, sod and turfgrass; propagate nursery shrubs and trees; and blend with commercial potting soils.
"The cost of the compost varies, depending on the quantity purchased, from approximately $5 to $9 per cubic yard during peak season, and $3 to $7 per cubic yard during off season."[11]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Baltimore City Composting Facility, Accessed May 13, 2011.
  2. Baltimore City Composting Facility, Accessed November 13, 2010.
  3. How to Use ORGRO, Accessed November 13, 2010.
  4. Robin Davidov, COMPOSTING: Baltimore City Turns Biosolids into Composting Success, Waste Age, July 1, 1999, Accessed May 13, 2011.
  5. Baltimore City Composting Facility, Accessed May 13, 2011.
  6. Joel Bleifuss, "The sewage sludge industry meets the light of day," In These Times, June 2008.
  7. Product Information, Accessed November 13, 2010.
  8. Baltimore City Composting Facility, Accessed November 13, 2010.
  9. Robin Davidov, COMPOSTING: Baltimore City Turns Biosolids into Composting Success, Waste Age, July 1, 1999, Accessed May 13, 2011.
  10. Robin Davidov, COMPOSTING: Baltimore City Turns Biosolids into Composting Success, Waste Age, July 1, 1999, Accessed May 13, 2011.
  11. Robin Davidov, COMPOSTING: Baltimore City Turns Biosolids into Composting Success, Waste Age, July 1, 1999, Accessed May 13, 2011.

External resources

External articles