From Garbage to Growth
At a hospital waste dump in South India, Peter Ash has been volunteering to mitigate years of toxic medical and human waste by Municipal Solid Waste composting (or MSW).
Municipal Solid Waste Composting of Hospital Waste in South India – Read Published Paper
Under intense management from American Peter Ash, heavy-metal contaminated, biohazard garbage dump soil is being transformed through composting and biological remediation practices. Ash has been mitigating years of toxic medical and human waste by mulching, adding compost and fresh soil, and phytoremediating with vetiver and other plants. Within three years, soil heavy metal concentrations have been reduced drastically, and changes in the upper portion of the soil are remarkable. Plants grown on site showed little heavy metal uptake, perhaps due to soil microorganism consumption. Ash is currently testing the site for DDT, PCBs, and dioxin to determine how the microbiology is affecting these toxins. Birds and wildlife have been increasingly observed on the site, adding to its rehabilitation. Also on the horizon: quadrupling the site’s vermicompost (worm castings) output. The demand for clean compost outweighs their supply at this point, as an on-site hospital garden on the site needs it to grow fruits and vegetables.
The hospital near Cochin, Kerala in South India, is now a state-of-the-art, 1000-bed facility and medical school that has been using the wetland landfill for all manner of biohazardous waste for at least 20 years. Peter Ash is an American with over 40 years of agricultural experience, and he’s applying his skills to first clean off the surface soil where waste had been dumped and burned, then mitigate the buried toxic mud by building thermal compost windrows. These are turned and spread over the dump site, and clean soil is imported to mix with the composted waste. Ash has been testing the dump soil for toxicity since 2010, as the hospital staff has planted a garden on the site including fruits and vegetables. He now is testing the soil to understand and use the soil biota to manage the waste with the New York Soil Foodweb laboratory. “We have made many improvements in the recipe and methods,” Peter says, and has built his own compost windrow turner and trammel filtering equipment. He is a volunteer, or ‘seva’ from a nearby ashram, using his time and knowledge so that the soil can eventually be put to more healthy use.