City uses human waste, farm to turn profit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - If you think what you flush down the toilet is disgusting, you're only looking at the negative side. Kansas City Water Services sees money going down the drain -- in a good way.

The pipes of 500,000 people in the metro have a common destination: Birmingham Farms, secluded off of 210 Highway east of Interstate 435. The 1,350-acre farm is where the city of Kansas City grows corn, soybeans and even trees.

Human waste keeps the crops growing.

"It's digested sewage sludge, is what it is," said agronomist Tim Walters, one of four people keeping the farm running.

The waste goes through a two-week cleaning process so it's safe to apply to the land. As a result, it comes out looking like oil. Waters said it's practically as valuable.

"The amount of fertilizer that we put on last year, if I was going to have to pay for that, would have cost me around $175,000," he said.

The fertilizer not only saves the city money, it also helps generate revenue. Walters said corn and beans netted Kansas City $450,000 in 2012 after being sold to elevators.

Kansas City has been practicing this fertilization method since 2001. Without it, Walters said the city would simply have to incinerate the waste, costing taxpayers more money.

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