Starting with the flush of a toilet, Kansas City turns waste into cash

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's kind of like when you have lemons and you make lemonade. In this case, Kansas City is taking human waste and turning it into money.

All of the sludge that comes from someone flushing a toilet ends up at one of six wastewater treatment facilities in the area. It might stink, but that human waste made nearly $600,000 for the city last year.

"We take something that everyone takes as a waste product and we make it into something good," said crop scientist Timothy Walters.

Walters started working at Birmingham Farm just north of the river in Kansas City 14 years ago and still isn`t used to the pungent smell of rotten egg.

"When I went to college I did not study this," he said.

The city owns Birmingham Farm, where they process raw sewage into bio-solids that are later pumped into lagoons on the farm.  All that bubbling water you see in the video are the bio-solids or fertilizer.

Almost 5,500 tons of fertilizer gets sprayed onto soybean and corn crops. That process turns what could have been waste into savings, even income. The farm then sells the soybeans to local grain elevators that create bio-fuel.

"Corn is made into ethanol, cow feed, high fructose corn syrup," he said of the other crop.

There are more than 1,300 acres of land, and more than enough human waste produced to make the rounds.  The city produces as much as 70-million gallons of raw sewage every day.

The Birmingham Waste Water Treatment Plant also processes waste from smaller cities like Kearney and Lexington.

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