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N. Collinwood Farm Gets OK to Make Worm Poop E-mail
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Sunday, 04 December 2005

N. Collinwood Farm Gets OK to Make Worm Poop

November 22, 2005

Cleveland Plain Dealer

 By Susan Vinella

Worm poop is coming to a Cleveland neighborhood after all.  Sansai Environmental, a startup company that aims to turn worm waste into a special potting soil, reached an agreement with the city Monday to operate its worm farm at the old TRW Valve plant on East 185th Street in North Collinwood.

The Board of Zoning Appeals is expected to make the agreement official December 5, 2005 when it grants a variance - an exception to the city's zoning code - to Sansai.


Sansai needs the variance because the site is not zoned to produce fertilizer, which is what the city deems Sansai's product. The company initially argued that worm excrement is soil, not fertilizer.

An agreement was brokered once several conditions were attached to the variance. They are intended to control how Sansai handles the organic waste it will truck into the plant for the earthworms to eat.

A local councilman started the battle of the worm farm four months ago.

He opposed the idea in a dramatic speech before the board, gave his blessing Monday once the conditions were added.

"It was always about protecting the neighborhood, and we have those protections," said the councilman.

He was particularly concerned about smells and rats at the plant. Usually, businesses similar to Sansai's operate outdoors in rural areas. Indoor, urban facilities are rare.

To make its soil, Sansai must truck in organic waste such as rotted fruits and vegetables from public markets and restaurants. The waste is fed to the worms, whose excrement becomes a highly fertile potting soil, according to Sansai.

In gardening circles, this is known as vermiculture.

To control the smell, Sansai has agreed to remove water from organic waste and seal it in plastic containers before it gets to the plant. The company also has agreed to store only clean, empty containers behind the building. No dead animals or garbage are permitted at the plant.

In addition, Sansai has agreed to limit noise and odor levels. The city's health and housing and building departments will monitor this.


Also, if the company goes out of business, it must pay to clean up the site, according to the agreement.

"It looks like everybody's working together on this," Sansai founder and owner Jamie Melvin said. "What we're trying to do here is set up a model company."

Andrew Watterson, who deals with sustainability and environmental issues for the city, said if Sansai proves successful, it could pave the way for the development of more local businesses that turn waste into marketable products.

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