Food Groups Clash Over Compost Sludge

Source: New York Times

The city of San Francisco distributes “biosolids compost” derived from treated wastewater for use on home gardens. Some groups say it’s not safe — and they want prominent organic personalities like Alice Waters to say so.

Alice Waters, a pioneering chef and the matriarch of the sustainable food movement, has become an unlikely target in a battle being waged by food activists in San Francisco over a city program that converts sewage sludge into gardening compost.

Several nonprofit groups want the city to stop distributing its “biosolids compost,” which contains solid waste that is treated and removed during wastewater processing, because they say it can contain potentially harmful substances like heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and flame retardants and should not be used on gardens and agricultural land.

Until recently, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which manages the city’s wastewater treatment facilities, gave the compost to residents for free, describing it as “nutrient-rich organic biosolids.” The commission maintains that the compost is safe, complies with federal standards, and has metals concentrations that are “lower than you would find in a daily multivitamin.” More...

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