Most north Utah County nurseries don't like the BioSolids Compost Department of the Timpanogos Special Service District, maintains Kyle Cluff of Pleasant Grove, who works for the district.
"Because we are competition," he said. "If you go to any nursery they are selling for $20 to $25 a yard. We're not making any money out of this. It's not even paying for the whole program."
Cluff is the district's solid handling operator IV, pretreatment inspector and compost manager, and sells compost for $15 a yard.
Not only is their compost dirt cheap, it's good. Used to give clay or sandy soil a lighter composition and to fertilize gardens and lawns, the compost garnered an award last year for 2003 best in state.
Garland Mayne, the district manager and an American Fork native, claims the Water Environment Association of Utah award for the best-operated program is justified.
"It's excellent to throw on your lawns to broadcast it," he said. "It has nutrients and fertilizers that will last all year."
But it is the operation itself that also makes it unique to the region. Situated in south American Fork at the TSSD sewage treatment and water reclamation plant, the BioSolids Compost Department deals with 100 percent recycled material taken from its participating communities and sells it back to area residents.
In 2004, they sold or gave away more than 15,000 yards of compost.
"We give all of the cities however much compost they want for the flower beds and lawns. In return they give the BioSolids Compost Department truck time when they need it," Cluff said. BioSolids are a major ingredient and is taken from the sewage treatment plant. The human waste is mixed with green waste -- grass clippings, prunings, fall foliage.
Green waste is dropped off by residents or by municipalities in north Utah County. The mix is then treated or composted to meet federal and state regulations and EPA standards so it is safe for consumer handling.
As the department's lead operator over the program, Cluff gets his hands dirty.
"I'm afraid I work along with everyone else," he said. "You mix it first with the green waste and then we pile it up in wind row. It's just a long row -- the wood chips create a pocket of air and allow the air to flow through."
Cluff knows his compost. He has taught composting and its science at the Water Environment Association midyear conference in Salt Lake City in January. He didn't like it a bit.
He'd rather be working than speaking in front of large groups of people, but it is a science that Cluff knows well. Four things are needed to make compost -- a carbon source, nitrogen, moisture and oxygen. Microorganisms grow in a proper mix and cause heat which in turn kills the pathogens making the compost safe and usable.
"Good compost should have no smell, it should look like soil. There is a good, green composty smell to it, no manure smell," said Julie Clifford, Utah County extension service master gardener.
The BioSolids Compost Department goes beyond state regulations and holds strict standards, said Cluff.
"We have the best compost in the state because we care about it, we have a good crew and our management is behind us 100 percent," said Scott Wilbur of Lehi, industrial pretreatment coordinator and solids handling foreman.
This story appeared in North County on page A13.