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Where to Put Mountain of Manure?

Not in a Chino park, which S.B. County allowed a company to do. The pile is being moved this week.

September 29, 2006|Jonathan Abrams | Times Staff Writer

There isn't a pooper scooper big enough to handle this mess.

San Bernardino County officials are in trouble for allowing 31,000 tons of cow manure to be stored at Chino's Prado Regional Park. The problem is that the county leases the land from the Army Corps of Engineers, which didn't care for the 62 million pounds of dung plopped on its flood control basin.

After being tipped off to the dumping by a park ranger, the corps issued a cease-and-desist order to the county and ordered the manure removed.

Chino is well-known for its vast dairy lands, which generate millions of pounds of manure annually, most of it stored in open-air piles.

This particular manure pile, at the "finished compost" stage, belongs to a Houston-based waste management company, Synagro Technologies Inc., which has a processing plant in Corona.

Synagro's plan to send the manure to the Central Valley fell through, and its previous storage site had already been sold to Lewis Homes.

Mark Kirk, chief of staff for county Supervisor Gary Ovitt, told Synagro it could temporarily store the gigantic mound at the park in June, according to Josh Candelaria, deputy chief of staff.

No one from the county contacted the Army corps about storing the manure on the land, said Jay Field, a corps spokesman.

"Although the pile is located at a relatively high elevation and would not have a substantial impact on the basin's capacity to provide flood control, it has the potential to affect downstream air quality," Field said.

In other words, the manure stinks. That would be a problem with the many who use the 2,000-acre park to fish, golf and ride horseback.

Bob Feenstra, former head of the regional Milk Producers Council, asked Ovitt on Synagro's behalf if he knew of any place Synagro could store the manure.

Candelaria said Kirk made an honest mistake in believing that the county had the right to store the manure at the park under the lease.

"With anyone, whether it's a constituent or a business, we will try and facilitate their concerns," said Candelaria, adding that no money was exchanged in the transaction.

"This was well-intended. Unfortunately, we just got ahead of ourselves."

Now the county is admitting its mistake, and after a couple of weeks of scrambling, the manure is being temporarily transferred this week to the Milliken Landfill in Ontario.

Candelaria said Synagro would foot the bill for the move. And the county can use as much of the compost as it wants at no cost while it is stored in the area.

"It's been a lesson learned," Candelaria said.

"But everything is in the process of getting solved."

After realizing the mistake, the county also explored other options, including selling the manure and splitting the profits down the line 50-50 with Synagro or simply telling the company that the county had no place to store the mound.

A Synagro spokesman would say only, "San Bernardino County is handling the issue."

jonathan.abrams@latimes.com

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