Subj: Florez: Sludge deal a no-go
Date: 6/21/2005 10:10:01 AM Central Daylight Time
Florez: Sludge deal a no-go
L.A. officials dig in heels opposing bill to bar biosolids; senator considers ballot
By VIC POLLARD and GRETCHEN WENNER, Californian staff writers
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Posted: Monday June 20th, 2005, 11:00 PM
Last Updated: Monday June 20th, 2005, 11:34 PM
SACRAMENTO -- There'll be no sludge deal after all.
That was the word from state Sen. Dean Florez Monday, after negotiations with Los
Angeles officials broke down.
The Shafter Democrat had been trying to iron out details of a bill that would have
banned imports of treated human and industrial sewage into Kern.
"We went around and around," Florez said after an hourlong closed-door negotiating
session at his Sacramento office.
Los Angeles city and county officials refused to budge in their opposition to his
proposed law, Senate Bill 926, he said.
The Southland city's sanitation officials have long touted the benefits of using biosolids
as fertilizer for livestock feed. But sewage districts there ship most of their biosolids
across county lines, even though Los Angeles County has no rules limiting sludge
A lobbyist who represented the city of Los Angeles, Marc Burgat, declined to comment
after the afternoon meeting.
"Los Angeles stonewalled us," said Gene Lundquist, a Kern County Water Agency
board member and part of a large Kern delegation at the meeting.
In a move that was dramatic even for the flamboyant Florez, he said he'll shelve the bill
and start planning for a countywide ballot measure.
With Los Angeles opposed, the bill likely would face defeat in the Assembly, even
though many big sanitation agencies that ship sludge to Kern dropped their opposition.
Although the bill passed the Senate, Los Angeles has the biggest delegation in the
What's more, the Assembly's powerful speaker, Fabian Nunez, is from Los Angeles.
"The only reason I'm not announcing a (ballot initiative) launch right now is that I want
to see how much support we'll have from elected officials in Kern County," Florez said.
He's already created a campaign committee, the Committee to Clean Up Kern.
Monday, he booted up a Web site that will be used if the local ballot initiative moves
The site, www.keepkernclean.com, features a cartoony sludge character hauling a
suitcase on his way out of Kern County. There are also photos and links to a variety of
Two Kern supervisors who attended the meeting voiced deep disappointment at the
failure of the talks.
"Los Angeles city and county, their message was very clear that their interests are not
with the people of Kern County," said Supervisor Michael Rubio, a former Florez staffer.
He and fellow Supervisor Ray Watson predicted the board will move ahead with an
ordinance to stop the imports.
They said the effort could take two years or longer because the county will have to do
a full-blown environmental report.
Florez said he and other sludge-spreading opponents aren't wiling to wait that long.
They've been assured by Kern elections officials there's plenty of time to get an
initiative on the June 2006 ballot, he said, as long as they collect 15,000 signatures by
Kern County ends up with about a third of California's sludge, officials here say, even
though only about 2 percent of that total is generated here.
Supporters of land application say biosolids pose no public health risk. They say
studies show no increase in heavy metals, pathogens or other threats on land fertilized
with sludge. Crops grown with the sewage-based fertilizer are used only for livestock
feed, not human food.
Opponents say safety risks haven't been properly studied. Thousands of industrial
chemicals are distilled into municipal sewage, they say. Most chemicals aren't known or
quantified, much less tested for, they say. In addition, human sewage contains
pharmaceuticals, pathogens and other dangers not entirely removed by even the best
In 2003, a jury in Augusta, Ga., found that 300 dairy cows died after eating hay grown
with sludge. That case stands, although a similar one was overturned on appeal.