Video Cautions Us About Soil Conditioners
Early in my career I learned about a product produced by the City of Akron called Techni-gro. It consisted of bio-solids, shredded branches and sawdust mixed together. The bio-solids were human feces (and other stuff) from the sewage treatment plant. The marketing material for Techni-gro assured the public that the product was safe. The toxins were removed during the digestion process. The process consisted of mixing the wood byproducts with the bio-solids and bringing the mixture up to a certain temperature to kill the pathogens. The digested material was then placed in windrows for a few weeks to "cool off". After that they sold the product in bulk for commercial uses and bags for individual homeowners, as an organic soil conditioner.
I learned about Techni-gro from a landscape contractor whose work I was reviewing for a contract bid. His plantings were impeccable. The trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals looked great. The lawns were thriving so well that they actually had a bluish tinge to them. I asked him what was his secret and he told me about Techni-gro. He mentioned to me that it shouldn't use it on vegetable gardens. He also cautioned me about getting a "hot load". That's when the facility sells the mix straight out of the digester. He said the nitrogen levels on a fresh load are so high it can burn lawns and damage landscape.
I immediately went to buy some from the City facility that day. From a few miles away, I noticed this awful smell that kept getting stronger and stronger the closer I got to the facility. When I got out of my truck at the site there was a smell so bad you could taste it. It literally felt like eating shit, but I was willing to suffer to have my landscape look fantastic.
On the way home I pulled my truck up to a stop light. There were people sitting at a bus stop that got a whiff of the soil conditioner and turned their heads in disgust. I just smiled at them.
The next Saturday morning I top dressed my lawn with a 1/2" of the stuff and watered it in well as the instructions on the bag recommended. You could smell the Techni-gro from half a block away. Needless to say my neighbors were not happy with me, but I was willing to take the bruises to have my lawn pumped to the max. It took two days before the smell dissipated.
Two weeks later my lawn looked like it was on steroids. It was a deep, bluish green and I had to mow it every four days. I had the best looking lawn in Cleveland. I continued using the soil conditioner for years until I moved to New York.
Now seventeen years later the experts can't agree on if bio-solids can be used safely in our gardens. Some say the heavy metals and chemicals that end up in our sewer systems contaminate the bio-solids. Others say with proper treatment and caution they can be safely used. I don't specify or use compost or soil conditioners that use bio-solids just to be cautious. It's a shame that we can't use treated sewage sludge without worrying. It would be great to be able to recycle the material and not have to dump it into the ocean or in landfills. I haven't seen a chemical or natural fertilizer that makes plants look as good as treated human feces. What a shame.