Washington, DC wastewater treatment plant turns human poo into fertilizer gold

Marc Schaefer

In Washington DC, a sophisticated wastewater treatment plant turns the capital’s waste into a form of capital: living capital that fertilizes the gardens of Mid-Atlantic farms and saves vast amounts of resources.

Described by workers there as a “resource recovery plant,” DC Water operates a biogas plant and high-quality fertilizer production as part of their dirty duty to ensure the city’s waste. find a safe end point.

The nation’s capital is exceptional at producing waste from the toilet bowls of the 2.2 million people who live, work and commute in the city and its suburbs.

Report by Lina Zeldovich reveals that rather than truck everything to a landfill, DC Water extracts tremendously valuable capital crap, seeing it as a resource to be sent across the the largest state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant in the world, which uses a “thermal hydrolysis process” in which it is sterilized, broken down and shipped to be made into “Bloom”, a slow release nitrogen rich fertilizer.

The other “Black Gold”

At their facilities in southwest Washington, huge aeration tanks seep poo from everyone from tourists to the president. After all is fed into huge pressure cookers where, under the gravity of six terrestrial atmospheres and at 300 ° F, the vast black mud is rendered harmless.

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Then this “black gold,” as Zeldovich described it, is pumped into huge bacteria-rich reservoirs where microbes break down large molecules like fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into smaller components, reducing overall tonnage. of wastewater at 450 tonnes per day compared to 1,100 at the start of the process.

This mass micro-chewing also produces methane, which when fed to an on-site turbine generates 10 megawatts of green energy that can power 8,000 nearby homes. The remaining 450 tonnes of dc fecal waste is sent to another room where conveyor belts ring out the excess liquid before routing it through large rollers which crush it into small, gathered pieces.

DC Water sends it to another company called Homestead Gardens for drying, aging and packaging before it is sold as Bloom.

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“I grow everything with it, squash, tomatoes, eggplants,” Bill Brower, one of the plant’s engineers, told Zeldovich. “Everything grows well and tastes good,” he adds.

“And I’m not the only one to think so. Lots of people have told us they have the best response they’ve ever seen from factories. Especially with leafy greens, as this nitrogen boost works well with leafy plants. And the plants seem to have fewer diseases and fewer pests, probably because Bloom helps build healthy soils.

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As farms across the country face depletion of nutrients in soils from overexploitation, turning to synthetic fertilizers to make up the difference, the introduction of more such thermal hydrolysis plants could to truly revolutionize the way humans view their feces – as a way to restore the health of the country. soils rather than polluting them. As Mike Rowe would say, all it takes is one person willing to get their hands dirty.

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