In 1988, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s started a composting facility for biosolids produced. 505Outside recently visited the Soil Amendment Facility to check out the “Compost Del Rio Grande.”

Water Authority compost is unlike any other in town because it’s not just made with the typical green waste, manure, wood chip, and horse bedding. It also has one special ingredient: biosolids. Biosolids, also known as humanure, are organic matter recycled from sewage operations.  

Compost del Rio Grande is responsible for reprocessing the biosolids that are a daily byproduct of the Southside Wastewater Reclamation Plant – about 360,000 pounds a day, or three truckloads three times a day are produced. While we were touring the facility, we got a chance to see three of these truckloads.

Biosolids are rich in organic matter, nitrogen, and trace minerals. The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) encourages safe biosolids re-use. Properly managed, composting qualifies as a Process to further reduce pathogens under US EPA regulations, meaning that composted biosolids may be used in the production of crops for human consumption.

The facility accepts green waste from the community. They also will soon begin receiving food scraps from Intel and horse manure and bedding from New Mexico Expo.

Certified biosolids compost of good quality is typically comprised of 25% animal stable bedding, 40% biosolids, 30% green waste (pulverized yard trimmings), and 5% wood chips. The facility can produce over 4,000 cubic yards of compost per month.

Compost del Rio Grande uses a recipe created specifically for the facility. The recipe consists not only of the materials that go into the product, but the process used to create the compost. This includes the temperature and length of time at which the materials cook and the number of times the compost is turned. After cooking for 8-10 weeks, the compost is ready.

The facility works closely with the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT). NMDOT uses large quantities of the Rio Grande Compost on highway reclamation projects around the state for erosion control, dust control, and vegetation growth.

Water Authority compost (“Compost Del Rio Grande”) is available to the general public for purchase. Click on the link for more information, or to find out how you can obtain compost for your outdoor projects.

Author: Jill Brown, ASLA Landscape Architect and owner of My Landscape Coach in Interviewed: W. Shane Fitzgerald, SAF Superintendent, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.