A dirty dozen of tarpaulin suit-wearing food supply activists delivered jars of fertilizer to Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Office today, asking him to “take back the toxic sludge.” While perhaps more dirt-like than slimy, the fertilizer — known as “biosolids” and part of 100 tons given away free by the Public Utilities Commission since 2007 — isn’t quite organic, it turned out, and therefore very very bad.

The biosolids, you see, come from human waste collected from several different California counties, including some with heavy industry. And even though the biosolids’ heavy metal count is similar to that of dirt and compost one can find at Orchard Supply Hardware, the heavy metals — not so much the human “poop and piss,” as protesters referred to it during their City Hall press conference — render it not quite as good as, say, a compost toilet, compost tea or other beautiful things hippie gardeners employ.

“If it were just shit, it’d be great,” said Vermont farmer Will Allen, on hand with other members of the Organic Consumers Association. “The problem is, it’s more than just shit.”
This more than just shit is now providing nutrients as well as heavy metals to at least eight community and school gardens across San Francisco, according to the OCA. The PUC has halted the free giveaways, the last of which was in September, according to PUC spokesman Tyrone Jue. Biosolid giveaways could resume sometime in the future but no solid plans yet exist, Jue said.

If the OCA’s mission was to deny the sludge any and all fertilizing opportunities, they were thwarted: PUC crews duly collected the dumped-out biosolids and delivered them to an eager Mission Bay gardener this afternoon, Jue said.

Last we checked, the activists were handing a jar of the fertilizer to a receptionist in Mayor Gavin Newsom’s City Hall office, accompanied by a reporter and photographer from the Associated Press, celebrated local activist and journalist Chris Cook, and some television media.

The Appeal couldn’t maintain a straight face and elected to step out, but have asked the mayor’s press secretary if the biosolids now occupy a place of honor on the mayoral desk. We’ll update if we hear back.

Update 6:19 PM:
“I really don’t see what all the stink is about,” said mayoral spokesman Tony Winnicker, who said the Mayor’s Office returned the jar of biosolids to the PUC for reuse in a garden. “It’s safe, tested and people line up to get it and use it in their gardens.”

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