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Re: [GreenYes] Clopyralid and Spokane

Santa Rosa moves to protect compost

                   Fearful of damaged plants from weedkiller, city won't
                   include yard waste in composting process

                   April 19, 2002

                   By MIKE McCOY
                   THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

                   Santa Rosa's Board of Public Utilities on Thursday
barred yard waste
                   from the city's composting program for as long as two
years to protect the
                   compost from a weedkiller.

                   "I'm going to shut it down as soon as I get back to
the office," Mike
                   Reynolds, the city's biosolids coordinator, said upon
leaving the board's

                   Yard waste will continue to be collected every two
weeks in the city, but
                   Santa Rosa will not use the grass clippings, leaves
and other organic
                   material collected in the 18,000 cubic yards of
compost it produces and
                   sells annually.

                   The decision was driven by the discovery of an
herbicide at various
                   Sonoma County composting facilities over the past two

                   Clopyralid has been detected at levels up to 12 parts
per billion. Reynolds
                   said it takes as little as 10 parts per billion to
kill many types of vegetable
                   plants -- beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and

                   Composters, county and city officials say there has
yet to be a reported
                   case of clopyralid-tainted compost damaging plants in
Sonoma County.

                   But Washington state recently prohibited the use of
clopyralid statewide,
                   and California is considering its own ban. On
Tuesday, the Sonoma
                   County Board of Supervisors will consider urging the
state to ban the

                   "The persistence of the stuff is scary," said Ken
Wells, director of the
                   Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, which oversees

                   Santa Rosa utilities board member Ting Guggiana said
he is afraid the
                   state will move too slowly. "All the plants in the
state may be dead by that
                   time," he said.

                   The state Department of Pesticide Regulation has
moved to ban 15
                   products containing the herbicide, which is used on
lawns, a main
                   component of compost.

                   There is no move to ban the chemical's use on open
rangeland or timber

                   The decision by Santa Rosa's utilities board could
put added pressure on
                   the county's Mecham Road landfill, where a private
company composts
                   60,000 to 70,000 tons of yard waste a year.

                   Both Sonoma Compost and Santa Rosa use yard waste
hauled to the
                   landfill from unincorporated areas and the county's
nine cities.

                   Compost from both facilities has tested positive for
clopyralid. Santa
                   Rosa's compost tested as high as 12 parts per
billion; Sonoma Compost's
                   as high as 7 parts per billion.

                   Paul Paddock, co-owner of Sonoma Compost, said his
company will be
                   able to handle the 6,000 tons of yard waste Santa
Rosa has been
                   composting annually.

                   "We'll just have to compost more efficiently," he

                   Paddock said his sales have been "dramatically"
reduced by the clopyralid
                   revelations, but that tested levels in Sonoma County
are so minuscule "that
                   we've had no instances of where a customer has come
back and said
                   they've had clopyralid damage."

                   Santa Rosa's decision to stop using yard waste was as
much to stop the
                   spread of clopyralid as it was to protect sales of
its compost, which
                   generates about $175,000 a year.

                   Santa Rosa utility board member Ross Liscum said yard
waste should be
                   removed from the mix until the compost can be proven
to be

                   Liscum said selling clopyralid-tainted compost would
cause irreparable
                   long-term harm to the "reputation of our compost."

                   Reynolds said it takes a year or two for clopyralid
to break down enough
                   to be harmless.

                   "If no more clopyralid is used as of right now, we'd
still see it in our
                   compost for at least a year, possibly two," he said.

                   Reynolds said the city's $15 million composting
center at the regional
                   sewage treatment plant, off Llano Road, will continue
to produce
                   compost despite the yard waste ban.

                   Instead of yard waste from the landfill, Reynolds
said he will turn to mills
                   for wood chips to combine with sludge from the
treatment plant, along
                   with steer and chicken manure to make compost.

                   Santa Rosa officials expressed worries the yard waste
they are now
                   rejecting will be buried at the landfill.

                   Under state law, cities and counties must cut their
waste stream to landfills
                   by 50 percent, a target that will be harder to meet
if the yard waste is
                   dumped in the landfill.

                   Sonoma Compost now requires customers to sign waivers
                   the compost may contain clopyralid and are informed
about how it can be
                   applied to eliminate its deadly potential.

                   You can reach Staff Writer Mike McCoy at 521-5276 or

                      Jenny Bagby                                                                            
                      <Jenny.Bagby@ci.sea        To:                                 
            >                cc:                                                         
                      Sent by:                   Subject:  [GreenYes] Clopyralid and Spokane                 
                      04/19/2002 09:56 AM                                                                    
                      Please respond to                                                                      
                      Jenny Bagby                                                                            


The Spokesman-Review
Thursday, April 18, 2002

Composting facility not accepting new waste
Wendy Harris - Staff writer

The Spokane region's troubled composting facility -- backed up with tons
of herbicide-tainted material -- has stopped accepting new waste.

The private company that operates the Colbert facility is having trouble
selling the tainted compost.

It's now hoping to find some relief in its contract with the Spokane
Regional Solid Waste System.

Norcal Waste Systems of Spokane, which has been operating the composting
facility since the fall of 2000, is maxed out with 45,000 cubic yards of
contaminated compost.

"We are out of space, the site is full," said David Prunty, Norcal's
general manager. "It's been very difficult to market it."

Norcal signed a 10-year contract with the Solid Waste System in 2000.
The system is a joint venture of the city and county, but it is managed
by the city.

"We are in discussions with them about the contract," Prunty said.

Damon Taam, the Solid Waste System's contract manager, said officials
are working with Norcal to find a solution.

"We understand their situation and it's not something they caused," Taam
said. "We are trying to develop alternatives and assist them in their

Norcal stopped accepting yard waste in mid-February. Since then, all
grass clippings, tree trimmings, weeds and other debris are being
shipped to the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Roosevelt, at the Solid
Waste System's expense. It's costing the system about $4 more per ton to
landfill it than pay Norcal to take it, Taam said.

Norcal's entrance into Spokane's recycling market was ill-timed, Prunty

Shortly after the San Francisco-based company signed its contract to
operate the Colbert composting facility, the effects of the herbicide
clopyralid were being realized.

The herbicide is found in a Dow AgroSciences product called Confront,
which has been popular with lawn care services in the region for killing
weeds, Prunty said.

But when it gets into compost material that ends up in gardens or farm
fields, it's also effective at killing broadleaf crops such as tomatoes
and peas.

Last year, Dow voluntarily pulled Confront off the market in the region,
Taam said. Then last month, the state Department of Agriculture placed a
120-day ban on the use of the herbicide. Next week, the agency will hold
a public hearing on draft rules that would restrict the use of the

"It's a matter of time before this herbicide gets purged from the
environment," Taam said.

In the meantime, Norcal is trying to figure out what to do with its tons
of tainted compost. The company sells its compost for $7 to $10 per
cubic yard. So far, it has only sold 7,000 cubic yards of the tainted
material and is looking for alternative markets, Prunty said.

Prunty said he doesn't know when Norcal will be able to begin accepting
yard waste again. And he declined to say whether he believes Norcal will
remain economically viable at the Colbert facility.

"It's been difficult to move the product and that is essential to us
being successful here," he said.

Norcal operates two other composting facilities in California.

The herbicide problem is the latest in a series of problems plaguing the
Colbert facility.

The Solid Waste System recently settled a suit from area homeowners over
foul odors emanating from the facility. The system was required to pay
homeowners $1.5 million and buy them out of 15 houses.

As a result of the suit, the system switched contractors and selected
Norcal, which uses an "ag bag" technology that encloses the compost in
plastic. The former contractor cured the material in the open.

When Norcal received complaints last summer from neighbors about the
continuing odor, it improved its ventilation practices and added wood
chips to the debris to diffuse the odor.

.Wendy Harris can be reached at (509) 459-5433 or by e-mail at

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