(July 15, 2012) — Sewage sludge from dozens of Southern California cities will be heading to the San Joaquin Valley as part of the region's latest mega-composting project, the Fresno Bee reports.
The Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, which serves nearly 5.7 million people in 78 cities, has purchased about 4,500 acres of farmland, or a little more than seven square miles, in Kings County, the newspaper said.
Plans call for trucking up to 500,000 tons a year of the waste, or biosolids, to the site called Westlake Farms, where it will be mixed with wood debris and turned into compost.
The compost will be used to fertilize fields of cotton, wheat, pomegranates, pistachios and other crops, officials at the sanitation agency said.
Though the $120 million project has survived the appeal process over its county-issued permit, and environmental groups settled a lawsuit over air-quality concerns years ago, environmentalists and some residents of nearby Kettleman City remain concerned over the project.
"We're watching this sewage sludge very closely," said Delano-based lawyer Caroline Farrell of the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, which filed the air-quality lawsuit against the composting project years ago.
A biosolids-mixing building will filter the sludge for odors and air pollutants, and a special fabric will trap ozone-making gases on composting piles, sanitation officials said.
"This is a top-notch, Cadillac system," said Ajay Malik, supervising engineer with the agency. "We have addressed the concerns about this project."
The facility will be developed in phases, with about 100,000 tons of waste being shipped a year to Kings County during the first phase, officials said.
Eventually up to 500,000 tons of biosolids and about 400,000 tons of green waste, or prunings could be shipped to the facility on an annual basis. Combined, they could produce more than 300,000 tons of compost each year.
The first sludge will probably be shipped to the facility late next summer.