Subj: Bakersfield Californian: Political rivals join forces against
Date: 7/2/2005 9:51:21 AM Central Daylight Time
Eternal rivals join forces against sludge
By GRETCHEN WENNER, Californian staff writer
e-mail: [email protected]
Posted: Friday July 1st, 2005, 10:00 PM
Last Updated: Friday July 1st, 2005, 10:37 PM
It's here. The sludge language has arrived.
And a local ballot initiative on sewage sludge is having an oddly unifying effect on Kern's state
Late Friday afternoon, just in time for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, a bipartisan
contingent gathered at the county elections office to drop off paperwork and a $200 check.
The move officially launched the Keep Kern Clean campaign.
If Kern County voters pass it in June 2006, the initiative will place an immediate ban on land
application of treated sewage in the unincorporated county.
"We don't want to be the capital of sludge," said Kevin McCarthy, the state Assembly
Republican leader from Bakersfield, during a press conference.
McCarthy appeared with representatives from state senators Dean Florez, D-Shafter, and Roy
Ashburn, R-Bakersfield -- the senators were stuck in Sacramento at budget hearings -- along
with Gene Lundquist, a board member of the Kern County Water Agency.
Ann Barnett, county elections chief, stood with the group to accept the check and paperwork.
All four men's signatures graced the front page of the filing, along with Mary K. Shell's, a local
political luminary who has been both mayor and county supervisor.
"It's historical," Florez said later in a phone interview, referring to the initiative and its bipartisan
support. "It's one of those things -- I think we could actually call the Republican and Democratic
central committees to the first joint meeting they've ever had. We may well do that."
He also compared the initiative filing to the Independence Day celebration, calling the move a
"declaration" of independence from Southern California's sludge generators.
The press conference, held in the lobby of the elections-county clerk's office, attracted an
audience of onlookers taking part in weddings.
Robert Taylor asked a question while waiting for his stepdaughter, Iyana Newton, to tie the
Why is there more concern about sludge than dairy manure, he wondered.
"What makes this different?" Taylor asked.
Lundquist answered: "We think this is much more onerous and dangerous right now."
Soon after, Taylor dashed off to give away his daughter.
The ballot initiative grew out of a doomed legislative effort that pitted Kern lawmakers against
powerful Los Angeles interests.
That effort imploded June 20 after a closed-door meeting at Florez's Sacramento office. There,
representatives of the city of Los Angeles met with Florez, Kern County supervisors, Lundquist
and others to try to iron out objections to Senate Bill 926.
Other large Southland sewage districts from Orange and Los Angeles counties had already
signed on to revisions in the bill.
But no deal was reached with the city of Los Angeles. Florez vowed to yank the bill and go to
Kern voters instead.
McCarthy said the initiative will take effect more quickly than would a sludge ban from county
The supervisor-driven solution would take about two years because it would require an
expensive environmental report costing $750,000 or more.
The ballot initiative is also more likely to hold up to a court challenge, McCarthy said.
Supervisor Michael Rubio, a former Florez aide, was on hand, but did not take part in the
press conference. He said county supervisors can't take an official stance on the initiative
because that would trigger a requirement for the environmental report.
Currently, about a third of California's sewage sludge is trucked into Kern, where much of it is
spread on farmland.
Some worry the treated human and industrial sewage harbors chemicals, pathogens,
pharmaceuticals and heavy metals that could taint Kern's precious groundwater or pose a
public health risk.
Biosolids proponents tout land application as a safe way to recycle sewage as fertilizer.
The initiative would not affect composting operations, such as the existing San Joaquin
Composting facility near Wasco or the future Synagro Technologies, Inc. plant near Taft.
But it would not allow mass application of composted sludge in Kern.
To make next June's ballot, campaign proponents need to collect 15,000 signatures by