Sludge Watch ==> Calif: Las Virgines Sewage Plant - pricey sludge compost no one wants
maureen.reilly at sympatico.ca
maureen.reilly at sympatico.ca
Sun Nov 20 20:00:18 EST 2005
Concern brewing over Las Virgenes compost plant
By John Loesing
Acorn Staff Writer
CHUCK ROGERS/The Acorn
FREE COMPOST-Westlake Village residents Milton and Marge Court fill 5-gallon
cans with free compost offered at Las Virgenes Municipal Water District's
compost facility. They frequently use the material to fertilize their flower
beds and lawn. Kellogg Garden Products will no longer market the product.
Las Virgenes Municipal Water District (LVMWD) is looking for ways to market
the tons of sludge byproduct generated each year at the Rancho Las Virgenes
Composting Facility after receiving word that Kellogg Garden Products of
Carson will no longer be the plants chief customer.
Kellogg provides the sawdust used in Ranchos composting process and each
year receives about 15,000 cubic yards of the compost in return. Because the
Los Angeles County Sanitation District prohibits Kellogg from bagging the
finished product at its Carson plant, the company ships the Rancho compost
to Northern California where its bagged and sold to landscapers and garden
Among other uses, Rancho compost helped to landscape the Getty Museum when
But the high cost to make the sawdust and transport compost is forcing
Kellogg to end its contract with LVMWD in November.
"It has become cost prohibitive to continue the contract as it was," said
Kathryn Kellogg Johnson, a company spokesperson.
"We hope to be a customer of Las Virgenes in the future. Their compost is
extremely high quality. Were just looking for the contractual arrangement
Water district officials say two Orange County firms have toured the
Calabasas facility to study possible uses for the compost.
"Ultimately were looking at a long term agreement with somebody to take the
compost or take the raw biosolids away," said John Mundy, LVMWDs director
About 3,000 yards of the mulch are given to the public each year during
Saturday morning giveaways.
The biosolids come from the nearby Tapia sewer plant, and while some is used
as fertilizer at Ranchos 90-acre farm on Las Virgenes Road, the bulk of the
sludge is turned into compost. It takes about a month to turn dried
biosolids into compost.
"The goal is ultimately to try to use it beneficially," said Norm Buehring,
LVMWDs director of community outreach.
"This is a market thats going to grow. Its in its infancy and when youre
in a new market, theres fewer people who are out there. Most people feel
its the right kind of business to be in."
Although the $50 million composting facility is said to be one of the finest
in California, critics say it would be cheaper for the water district to
skip the process altogether and ship the Tapia sewage directly to distant
Residents complained in the past about foul smells coming from the
Kern County has been a popular destination for Los Angeles County sewage
Its desolate areas are perfect for injecting sludge into the ground, but
Kern officials want to set new limits on importing it.
As a result, sanitation districts and water districts in Los Angeles county
are looking for other ways to dispose of the waste and composting is gaining
"We have to get rid of the sludge, thats first and foremost," Mundy said.
"Were not going to make any money in this process. But if you avoid sending
it to a landfill, thats good. If you avoid shipping it all around the
state, it certainly is beneficial."
Mundy doubts Rancho could find a cost effective way to market the compost
In a 10-year period, Rancho will divert from local landfills enough solids
to fill a football stadium seven stories high. The facility opened in 1994.
In a related matter, Buehring denied reports that LVMWD might be using
Sperling Nursery in Calabasas as an outlet for unwanted compost.
The water district recently mailed $5 Sperling coupons to customers who made
timely bill payments over a five year period.
"We have no relation with Sperling at all," Buehring said.
Other local nurseries were contacted about being included in the mailing,
but only Sperling responded, Buehring said.
"Whos paying for this?" asked Agoura Hills resident George Wuenschel.
"Something smells real funny here."
The water district had a workshop scheduled this week on odor control at the
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