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WARNING! Sewage sludge is toxic. Food should not be grown in "biosolids." Join the Food Rights Network.

TOPGRO is a Los Angeles, CA product sold as fertilizer but made from sewage sludge.[1] Hundreds of communities across the U.S. sell toxic sludge products that are typically renamed biosolids and sold or given away as "fertilizer" or "compost" (and often even labeled or marketed as "natural" or "organic").

TOPGRO Production

According to a May 2002 memo, TOPGRO is made at the Griffith Park Composting Facility (GPCF), which at the time produced 220 tons of sludge compost each month.[2] Each month, the ingredients of the compost are the approximately 145 tons of sewage sludge from the Los Angeles wastewater treatment plant, 40 tons of manure from the Los Angeles Zoo, and 210 tons of green trimmings from the city's public parks. These ingredients are then treated using a method known as "Aerated Static Pile." It is composted for 28 days and then screened and cured for another 28 days. According to the memo:

"After all regulatory requirements have been met; the nutrient rich compost is ready for distribution. The final product, TOPGRO®, is a quality soil amendment containing primary, secondary, and trace nutrients, which benefit the soil. Other benefits include increased crop yields, plant disease suppression, increased water retention, and similar benefits when appropriately applied. TOPGRO® is also certified by the California Composting Quality Council as a quality product."

Sales and Distribution

As of May 2002, TOPGRO was distributed as follows:[3]

"The TOPGRO® produced at GPCF is currently being distributed to several City departments, donated to non-profit organizations requesting materials, and sold to a private vendor (Weed Free Organics) through a long-term (3-years) contract. The Department of Recreation & Parks gets the most TOPGRO® distribution among other City departments. The Department of Recreation & Parks utilizes the compost at their facilities throughout the City, including public parks in the West Valley region, Los Angeles Zoo, Elysian Park, the Police Academy and Griffith Park. The Bureau of Street Services also utilizes some of the compost at their facilities.
"The City departments alone cannot utilize all of the compost produced. The inventory must be reduced as quickly as possible to make space for curing of piles that are in the composting process. Therefore, the Bureau of Sanitation (Bureau) needs to distribute the remainder of the material to private buyers."

The memo continues:

"The City has always had long-term contracts with compost buyers. The City originally awarded contracts to PLC Organics and Slick Gardner to purchase TOPGRO®. PLC Organics has ceased business, and the contract with Slick Gardner expired on January 31, 2001. A ‘Request for Bid’ to sell compost and mulch was released by Department of General Services in June 2000. Only one vendor, Weed Free Organics, submitted a bid and was awarded the contract from February 01,2002 through January 31, 2003."

Some of the sludge compost was also sold to Sun Valley Farms.

Marketing to the Public

The 2002 memo continues, making a recommendation to sell TOPGRO to the public. As of 2010, TOPGRO is available to the public for purchase.[4] They market the product as follows, referring to it as both "natural" and "organic:"

"TOPGRO® is a registered trademarked product owned and produced by the City of Los Angeles. The product is a natural organic product derived from pesticide-free yard clippings, animal manure from the Los Angeles Zoo and anaerobically digested Class A biosolids from the City’s Hyperion Waste Water Treatment Plant. The product is non-hazardous, non-toxic and not subject to hazardous waste regulations."

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