Sanitation officials say they want to buy as much as half of the sewage sludge produced daily in Los Angeles to use in a processed form for landfill cover at two west Ventura County dumps.
If approved at today's Ventura Regional Sanitation District meeting, the proposal would take a big mess off the hands of Los Angeles--which is under court order to stop dumping sewage sludge into the Pacific.
Sanitation district officials say it would also prove a boon for Ventura County. Processed sludge is only one-third as expensive as comparable landfill materials now in use and would save the fiscally strapped district up to $600,000 annually, Executive Director Wayne Bruce said.
"This holds out great possibility as an appropriate and environmentally safe material for use in our landfill," Bruce said.
Under the proposal, the district would import from Los Angeles as much as three times the amount of sewage sludge produced by Ventura County. Most of the county's sludge is buried in dumps, but the Los Angeles sludge would be converted into a powdery, light brown, clay-like substance at a plant near Los Angeles International Airport before its trip to Ventura County. The chemical process developed by Ven Virotek--a high-tech Ventura waste disposal firm--turns the sludge into a material the company calls Naturite. Its makers say the treatment--called chemical fixation--kills bacteria and suspends toxic substances in a new molecular configuration that prevents leaching into the environment. They also say the process eliminates untreated sludge's offensive odors.
Ven Virotek's parent company, Chemfix Technologies, just last week signed a contract with the City of Los Angeles to treat up to 600 tons of sewage sludge each day from the Hyperion sewage facility.
After they treat the sludge, Los Angeles and Chemfix officials hope to sell the resulting material as landfill cover, grading material and landscaping aids. And they have targeted Ventura's sanitation district as a potential big buyer.
However, use of the material has yet to be approved by state and county regulatory agencies, although Chemfix has received such approval for sludge projects ongoing in other states.
Terrence Gilday, technical services manager for Venura County's environmental health division, said the proposal "raises a long list of questions as to whether this stuff is suitable cover material at all. Will it cause any nuisances such as odor? Will it be difficult to manage? Will it retard flames?"
Gilday said Chemfix must prove that the material poses no health or environmental threat before the county would consider issuing a permit for its use.
The state Regional Water Quality Control Board must also approve the proposal and is expected to hear Chemfix's application in February.
District officials say they are staunchly behind the converted sludge product.
"We are very supportive of the concept of chemical fixation of sewage sludges for beneficial use as landfill," wrote Les Maland, the district chairman, in a letter to Ven Virotek.
Sanitation officials say they would eventually like Ven Virotek to recycle the 75,000 tons of sewage sludge that Ventura County generates annually. Most of the sludge ends up in landfills.
The district already purchases converted oil drilling wastes from Ven Virotek for use as daily landfill cover at the Coastal Landfill in Oxnard. The firm processes 1 million gallons of oil drilling wastes monthly from throughout Southern California at the former Bailard dump site in Oxnard.