Albany encampment disputes claims of poor sanitation

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ALBANY, Calif. — Since protesters first took over UC-owned land in Albany Sunday afternoon, they have made the space their own, setting up a composting toilet, a kitchen that serves food donated by local community members, chickens in portable coops and a beehive.

While campus administration has expressed concern about sanitation at the encampment — which is located near the intersection of Marin and San Pablo avenues and acts as a site for UC Berkeley researchers — organizers say they are taking measures to maintain a healthy and safe environment for the community.

“Hand washing and safe food handling and preparation are important and treatment of human waste is critical,” a Wednesday press release from the UC Berkeley Office of Public Affairs reads. “UC Berkeley does not support composting human waste, due to the possibility of the transmission of disease, especially on agricultural land.”

But according to UC Berkeley sophomore Lesley Haddock, who has been occupying the tract since Sunday, the university issued the press release on false premises.

“We are not using the composting toilet for our crops,” Haddock said. “None will ever be used for the farm. It’s just a way to deal with waste in a clean and sustainable way.”

According to Haddock, several local farms in the Bay Area have expressed interest in the “human-ure,” but if protesters cannot get it to a farm for composting by Thursday afternoon, they have arranged for a certified professional to pick it up.

In addition to the composting toilet, organizers have used the $1,800 in donations they have received thus far to rent two portable toilets, located in an area separate from the kitchen, farm area and the tents, according to Haddock.

The occupation began Sunday when protesters marched from Berkeley to Albany, began to farm and eventually set up an encampment. Several of the protesters did this in response to a potential Whole Foods Market, senior living facility and parking lot that could be developed on a portion of the land south of the encampment.

“This land is prime for urban agriculture and could really be serving our community,” Haddock said.

About 30 people have slept on the tract each night since Sunday, and community members have opened up their bathrooms and showers to occupiers, she said.

In the kitchen area, bottles of hand sanitizer and signs encourage people to clean their hands before touching food. Protesters have also set up dishwashing, recycling and composting stations.

Berkeley resident Patrick Daugherty was at the tract on Thursday afternoon with his grandson. He said he was there because the vibe was positive and he was impressed with the protesters’ idealism and passion.

“I know their kitchen is okay because I brought them food,” Daugherty said. “There are no open latrines — they are very conscious of the sanitation here.”

Betsy Vincent covers academics and administration.