Assembly wades into L.A.-Central Valley feud on human waste disposal


SACRAMENTO -- Treated waste exported from Los Angeles and other counties into the Central Valley would be subject to additional testing under a bil approved by the Assembly on Thursday.

The measure, by Assemblyman Rudy Salas Jr. (D-Bakersfield), is the latest show of long-simmering tension in Kern County, where residents have objected to imports of sewage sludge, the semi-solid material leftover after treatment of human waste. The city of Los Angeles owns 4,700 acres in Kern County, where the sewage sludge, also known as “biosolids,” is recycled as fertilizer.

Most experts say such recycled products are safe if handled properly. In response, Salas has pointed to a 2009 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, which found a number of heavy metals, pathogens and other worrisome contaminants in sludge samples.


“They even found 11 flame retardants, if you can believe that,” Salas said in an interview Wednesday. “So what I’m saying is, why don’t we use all the science that we know and test for all these additional factors so that we can make sure people are safe.”

In 2006, residents of Kern County overwhelmingly approved a local measure that would ban the import of sludge from outside the county. Los Angeles, arguing the measure conflicted with statewide waste management laws, sued; the ban has not been enforced while the matter remains in litigation.

Salas originally sought to revive the ban through legislation, introducing a bill that would give Kern County supervisors authority to block the import of waste from other counties. But facing stiff resistance from Los Angeles (and its large statehouse delegation), he reframed the bill this week to focus on testing.

The bill would now allow the State Water Board to perform two tests per year for two years, screening for pathogens, endotoxins and other contaminants.

Despite the scaling back of the bill, the city of Los Angeles remains opposed.

“We have a very extensive battery of tests that we run on the product already,” said Enrique Zaldivar, executive director of the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation. He said any additional testing, as prescribed by the measure, would be “redundant and unnecessarily expensive.”

The bill, AB 371, passed 49-6, with many members from the Los Angeles area abstaining.

The Assembly also approved a measure requiring more disclosure in campaign ads, a proposal that the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) characterized as “I am not a doctor but I play one on TV.”


The measure requires campaign advertisements to disclose if a person portraying a licensed professional, such as a doctor or teacher, is a paid spokesperson for the campaign.

The bill, AB 510, ensures that “voters are not misled into thinking the opinion of paid spokespersons are those of licensed professionals,” Ammiano said.

The measure passed 58-15. Both bills now move to the state Senate.