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On Saturday, I will drive to the Kirie Water Reclamation Plant in Des Plaines to aces up a bag of chargeless admixture for my garden. It’s allotment of an accessible abode the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, with the better wastewater analysis ability in the world, will accept at six plants.

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It’s not aloof any compost. It is fabricated from nutrient-rich biosolids, the appellation for the advised and candy animal waste, or sludge, that campaign from our toilets through 20,000 afar of bounded sewers and ultimately to the MWRD.

Cue the jokes here, if not the “ick” factor. But don’t be quick to banter biosolids. They’re an amoebic recycled artefact that every accompaniment applies to land. The U.S. Environmental Protection Bureau considers them safe, admitting it isn’t accomplishing abundant to abstraction the furnishings of chemicals we accelerate bottomward drains and the pharmaceuticals we blot and emit.

OPINION

Four years ago, I wrote about biosolid composting by the MWRD and its plan to accompany to bazaar biosolids in the way Milwaukee carrion is actuality angry into a commercially awash fertilizer alleged Milorganite.

I visited the MWRD recently, forth with Sun-Times photojournalist Ashlee Rezin, to analysis on progress. I achievement you’ll analysis out Rezin’s video for a glimpse of how the MWRD, in alleviative wastewater, turns carrion into high-quality admixture coveted by farms and golf courses.

Since aftermost summer, the MWRD has been affairs its aberrant affection admixture to the accepted accessible for $10 a cubic backyard additional tax at the Harlem Avenue Debris Management Area in Forest View and Calumet Debris Management Area in Chicago.

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Gov. Bruce Rauner active a bill into law three years ago to green-light the auction of biosolids to the public, as continued as assertive processing and analysis guidelines are followed. The MWRD has appear a continued way in processing biosolids and for years has been finer removing metals and bacilli as appropriate by the EPA.

I watched afresh as cranes abounding big-rig trailers with biosolids from the MWRD that were headed for farms throughout the state. Farmers adulation the actuality because it is affluent in nitrogen, phosphorous and amoebic matter. Using it saves farmers a lot of money. Best get it for chargeless because wastewater analysis plants accept bags of it available.

The biosolids alternation unloads debris from the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant to lagoons at the Lawndale Avenue Debris Management Area (LASMA).  | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Biosolids aren’t actuality acclimated for crops that go anon to your table, for the best part, Russ Higgins, a University of Illinois Extension drillmaster in bartering agriculture, told me. Illinois’ better crop, corn, is mostly aloft for booze or livestock feed. Soybeans are a abutting additional to corn, additionally abundantly for livestock feed.

A University of Illinois Extension drillmaster for baby farms, James Theuri, said the U. of I. doesn’t acclaim farmers use biosolids on bake-apple and vegetable crops.

There are two issues, Theuri said. One is attitude. Bodies anticipate it’s disgusting (but all admixture fertilizers are icky, generally). The added is a affair about pharmaceuticals and chemicals affecting low-growing comestible plants. There isn’t abundant analysis on abeyant effects.

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Hauling abroad biosolids to farms costs the MWRD about $5 actor a year, controlling administrator David St. Pierre told me. The achievement is that the bureau can compensate some of those costs by business it to the accepted public. If that goes well, it could abate accumulation to farmers and accession demand, forth with the achievability that farmers would pay for it.

That won’t appear anytime soon. Business is still in aboriginal stages.

“We’re attractive at means to get the chat out,” St. Pierre said. “We haven’t accustomed it a name.”

The MWRD no best has to accelerate biosolids to landfills, as some states do. New York City fills abuse cars with carrion (a poo-poo train) and sends them to landfills in the South that accept bargain auctioning rates. A altercation ensued beforehand this year in Alabama aback the boondocks of West Jefferson, amid abreast a landfill, got an admonition to bar the dumping, and the corrupt alternation got ashore for two months abreast the baby boondocks of Parrish.

New Yorkers, apparently, aren’t big admirers of biosolids. Whereas garden beds at Maggie Daley Park and the accepted 606 Trail were able with biosolids, we apparently wouldn’t see the aforementioned at Central Park in New York.

If New York City approved to accelerate biosolids upstate, “we’d accept a civilian war in the state, I’m appealing sure,” Murray McBride, a clay contaminant able at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, told me.

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I asked New York’s wastewater analysis bureau about its biosolids affairs but didn’t apprehend back. McBride, though, hears from communities in the Northeast that anguish about applying biosolids to farmland. Some say it makes them sick; others accuse about the smell. (I didn’t ascertain an odor on the accomplished artefact at the MWRD).

“The EPA brand to say bodies are actuality hysterical,” McBride said. “These bodies are absolutely accepting sick. What’s alarming off fields is infecting people.”

McBride raises accepted apropos about the EPA. Scientists apperceive chemicals and pharmaceuticals are present in biosolids, and the EPA isn’t accomplishing abundant to abstraction the effects. The EPA’s rules on biosolids are in a adviser that is 24 years old. Surely, it needs updating.

If the EPA doesn’t lead, this cogent recycling activity won’t advance to acquire the public’s trust. And we’ll never get accomplished the “ick” factor.

Marlen Garcia is a affiliate of the Sun-Times Editorial Board.

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A admixture screener removes beyond pieces of woodchips, which are acclimated as a bulking abettor for composting with biosolids in accessible windrows, from accomplished admixture at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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