A federal court judge in Los Angeles has overturned a California county's ban of the use of biosolids on farmlands. Kern County voters passed the ordinance banning biosolids in June 2006. Since then, the city of Los Angeles, the L.A. County and Orange County sanitation districts, the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, and the two farms in Kern County that use biosolids have fought to have it overturned.
“We have worked hard to operate our biosolids program to the highest environmental standards and will continue to ensure that the Green Acres farm is the best neighbor it can be,” said Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles, in a press release. The Green Acres farm is one of the two farms in Kern County using biosolids and is owned by the city of Los Angeles.
“An adverse ruling would have caused significant harm to the city and the region that would have dramatically increased the cost of managing biosolids and increased pollution in our environment,” said Cynthia Ruiz, president of the L.A. Board of Public Works, in a press release.
U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess ruled that the Kern County ordinance violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against biosolids from metropolitan Los Angeles and preempted the California Integrated Waste Management Act by conflicting with a statewide policy of recycling solid waste, including biosolids. The state defines biosolids as nutrient-rich organic material resulting from the treatment of domestic sewage at water treatment facilities.
Feess' decision, however, is expected to be challenged in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Holly Vogel, public information officer for Kern County, says the county opposes biosolids and voted in favor of the ban because of the number of table crops grown in the county and the underground water supply that might be at risk by accepting sewage sludge in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The county has used biosolids as fertilizer and soil enrichment for 12 years. According to the Kern County Agricultural Commission, 3 percent of the 812, 314 acres zoned for agriculture use biosolids. Kern County is located 115 miles north of Los Angeles.