Delaware County is taking from the bad guys to give to the good guys.
State-of-the-art equipment once used to grow marijuana will soon be used to grow vegetables and herbs in Philadelphia, G. Michael Green, Delaware County's district attorney, said Tuesday.
The equipment, seized in a Chester drug bust, will be donated to Cheyney University and the Partnership CDC, of West Philadelphia. It will expand the Urban Food Lab at the Partnership CDC's facility at 4020 Market St., Philadelphia.
The venture will market vegetables, promote science education in schools, and, he hopes, create jobs, Green said.
In May, Chester police found a sophisticated marijuana-growing operation in the basement of a former drugstore at 128 E. 24th St.
They confiscated pot plants, small industrial generators, 69 grow lights, large plastic tubs, 55-gallon drums, hoses, Miracle Grow containers, and other items.
The 86 plants, seedlings to four-foot-high adults, were found in six rooms and grown hydroponically, without soil. They have since been destroyed.
Green said that there had been no arrests and that authorities continued to investigate. Police "have some information but not a lot" and urge residents to call in tips, he said.
In the past, items seized in raids have been donated to local schools for use in science classrooms.
"In this case, marrying that equipment with Urban Food Lab . . . has the potential to create real and sustainable jobs," Green said.
The value of the donated items is "tens of thousands of dollars," said Steven G. Hughes, a professor at Cheyney.
Cheyney University and the Partnership CDC have been working together for the last 18 months. Students from the university have been working at the facility for three months.
The Chester County school already works with Herban Farms, a business on campus, that uses aquaponics to grow and ship basil to local supermarkets including Genuardi's Acme, Giant, and Wegmans, Hughes said.
Hydroponics cultivates plants in water using fertilizer. Aquaponic combines raising fish with growing plants, using waste from fish to fertilize the plants.
This recent donation is a windfall for the Partnership CDC, which has been funded by a small grant. Much of its equipment has been cobbled together with recycled items such as pumps, PVC pipe, and wood from construction sites and a former nail salon, said Steven Williams, executive director of the Partnership CDC.
The group has been able to grow small crops of collard greens, kale, lettuce, bell peppers, and broccoli.
"This is the first time we will be able to do what we do with real equipment," Williams said.