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E-M:/ Kern County California Biosolids Ordinance (fwd)



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Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>
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This should be of general interest. Maybe some counties 
in Michigan can use the ordinance as a model.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 4 Dec 2002 09:42:31 -0800
From: "McNelly, Patrick" <PMCNELLY@OCSD.COM>
Reply-To: compost@compostingcouncil.org
To: compost@compostingcouncil.org
Subject: [USCC] Kern County California Biosolids Ordinance

Kern County California Biosolids Ordinance

By DAVIN McHENRY, Bakersfield Californian staff writer 
e-mail: davinmchenry@bakersfield.com 
Sunday December 01, 2002, 10:38:38 PM 

With less than a month to go before a county ban on sludge takes effect,
most spreaders and producers appear to be complying with the rules -- even
as they prepare for more court battles.  In 1999, county supervisors voted
to ban all but the cleanest sludge, called exceptional quality, from being
spread on local farmlands. The ban takes effect Jan. 1 and is aimed at the
tons of Southern California sludge that have been pouring over the
Grapevine and onto Kern County farmland for years.  The byproduct of
sewage treatment, sludge is a pastelike fertilizer used on feed crops.
Also called biosolids, sludge is often used to reclaim marginal lands that
couldn't support crops.  Some of the most vocal opponents to
sludge-spreading have come from the agricultural industry itself. Several
large farming firms have argued for the ban -- or even a complete sludge
ban -- saying the federal guidelines just aren't conservative enough.  
Sludge can contain disease-causing pathogens, heavy metals and chemicals,
they say.  "To put that on the ground, to put our water quality at risk
purely for the advantage of providing a cheap disposal site for our
neighbors to the south doesn't make sense," said Paul Giboney, an
agronomist for local grower M. Caratan Inc.  Spreaders and producers of
sludge argue there is no scientific evidence that their product harms
people or pollutes groundwater. Instead, they argue they are being run out
of the county by agriculture giants who fear the reputation of local crops
could be tainted.  "There is no rational basis for the county's biosolids
ordinance," said Daniel Hyde, an attorney for the Los Angeles County
Sanitation District.  A coalition of spreaders and producers filed a
lawsuit challenging the county's ban, but was rebuffed Nov. 25 by a Tulare
County judge who ruled the ordinance was sound.  An appeal is expected.  
Even so, almost all local sludge spreaders are preparing for the ban -- in
various ways.  * Washington-based Yakima Co., which had spread sludge on
local lands for more than a decade, packed up and left Kern County in
November. The company has relocated to La Paz County in Arizona, where
officials say they will dry out the sludge at a landfill and continue
spreading some on farmlands.  The company takes with it sludge from Los
Angeles County and the cities of Thousand Oaks, Filmore, Ventura,
Camarillo, Simi Valley and Santa Paula. Yakima president Jim Willett said
his firm has actually added customers, despite the greater distance some
sludge has to be trucked.  "It probably adds maybe $2 to the cost of the
biosolids," he said. "It's a better situation for everyone."  Yakima's
departure will divert thousands of tons of sludge away from local lands.
Since 1999, the company had spread more than 460,000 wet tons of sludge to
land west of Shafter.  What will become of those farmlands is uncertain.
At the Buttonwillow Land and Cattle Co., partner Bill Tracy refused to say
what his firm's plans are now that they no longer have access to sludge.  
"A businessman never divulges that kind of information," he said.  *
Spreader USA Transport has also remained tight-lipped about its plans
post-Jan. 1. But county officials have been more talkative.  According to
the county's sludge inspector, USA Transport began treating its sludge
more than a year ago. The company mixes the sludge with gypsum, a chalky
substance that helps kill pathogens.  The gypsum and sludge are currently
being mixed with tractors on a concrete slab, according to the county.
Eventually, USA Transport has plans to bring in a special mixer to do the
work, said Guy Shaw, the county environmental specialist who monitors
sludge spreaders.  "They recognize that (mixing with tractors) isn't the
best way to do it," Shaw said.  Even without the mixer, the company has
been able to produce exceptional quality sludge for the entire year,
roughly 33,117 wet tons so far, Shaw added.  * Responsible Biosolids
Management has also been able to reach the exceptional quality levels,
thanks to the efforts of the city of Los Angeles. The city is the sole
source of sludge for RBM.  So far the city says it has spent $20 million
to produce only exceptional quality sludge by heating it to 127 degrees to
kill off more pathogens.  The additional treatment isn't believed to
affect the level of heavy metals or chemicals, but it does cut down on the
weight.  "We were producing 800 tons per day; now we're down to about 650
tons," said Judy Wilson, director of the city's waste-water department.  
The only wrinkle? The new, cleaner sludge apparently smells worse, county
officials say.  "We're working with them on that," Shaw said. "That's an
issue. It's not something we are going to ignore."  * Farmer Shaen Magan
is the only sludge spreader who has not said how -- or even if -- he plans
to meet the county's exceptional quality requirements.  In recent years
Magan has accepted sludge from Los Angeles and Orange counties as well as
the city of Santa Barbara. But this year he hasn't spread any sludge in
Kern County, instead pasting it on to his Kings County farmlands.  Magan
asked county supervisors Tuesday for permission to keep spreading the
lower quality stuff for another four years, but was turned down. He has
hinted that legal action may follow, even having an attorney speak for him
at Tuesday's hearing.  Even if all three remaining spreaders upgrade, the
ban will not completely purge Kern County of the lower quality sludge.  
The county ordinance only affects unincorporated areas, meaning Kern's
cities are free to produce and spread lower quality sludge freely.  The
cities of Bakersfield and Wasco both plan to continue to spread the lower
quality stuff on farmlands. The city of Delano has been stockpiling its
sludge -- which does not meet the exceptional quality requirements -- and
hopes to get a permit to spread from the Regional Water Quality Control
Board.

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