By Gus Hrncir, Brown and Caldwell

August 23, 2016

This article orginally posted on WTOP

WASHINGTON — As he takes a deep breath of the product that comes from D.C.’s Blue Plains waste water treatment plant, DC Water CEO and general manager George Hawkins smiles.

“That smells like good, fresh earth,” said Hawkins, as he unveiled a new soil product called Bloom, which will be available to buy at home and garden stores within a year.

Using new equipment, Hawkins says DC Water is turning what used to be classified as waste into a desirable product for landscapers.

“There’s a lot of materials we don’t want in our rivers, because it’s filled with nutrients, and if it’s in the water it causes algae to grow and uses up the oxygen and causes a tremendous problem for the ecosystem in the (Potomac) river,” said Hawkins.

However, Hawkins said that nutrients aren’t always a bad thing: “That’s what’s in every fertilizer. That’s what’s in good soil.”

The District is not the first city to turn it’s waste water biosolids into something gardeners want.

“Milwaukee has been doing this for years with Milorganite,” said Hawkins. “It’s the same idea.”

DC Water’s thermal hydrolysis and anaerobic digestion facility uses high heat and pressure, along with favorable microbes, to create what is labeled Class A biosolids — clean enough to be used for growing crops for human consumption.

“We have partnerships with different enterprises where we’re experimenting with different blends, where we might have some specialty blends,” said Hawkins, displaying prototype bags of the product called Bloom. “We’re testing it. We believe it’s super clean so we want to be able to demonstrate that in various mixtures.,” he said.

Hawkins goes out on a limb, with the bottom line for gardeners on the product.

“I guarantee your plants will grow strong and true,” said Hawkins. “I grew tomatoes and they were delicious.”