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The Treasure of Sewage

January 02, 1994

The City of Los Angeles may not have enough cash to fill the growing number of potholes in city streets or to add many new police officers to our understaffed force, but the city is nonetheless rich in . . . sewage.

And perhaps recalling the old adage about making lemonade when life deals lemons, the Public Works Department is about to go commercial with its own form of lemonade: garden fertilizer made entirely from sewage processed at the Hyperion water treatment plant in Playa del Rey and garden clippings collected by city trash trucks. This "100% city product" has been used successfully for the last several years to augment the heavy clay soil in city-owned gardens. The compost meets strict federal standards and can be used on almost any type of vegetation.

The fertilizer, to be sold under the name Topgro, is unlikely to generate big money for city coffers. Indeed, Topgro sales are expected to only slightly reduce the city's costs in disposing of sludge from processed sewage. But commercial sale of the product in gardening shops and home improvement stores, to begin in the next couple of months, bespeaks a welcome new environmental consciousness and entrepreneurial spirit among city officials.

As landfill space grows tighter and disposal costs rise, public interest in composting and recycling has increased. The challenge for cities like Los Angeles is to make use of the materials generated by collection and recycling programs. Topgro could be a win-win for the city.

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