Kern County, California Biosolids Litigation
On April 16, 2010, WEF co-filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in an appeal by three utilities (the city and county of Los Angeles and Orange County Sanitation Districts) to the U.S. Supreme Court to consider issues related to the Kern County, California, biosolids land application litigation.
The litigation was initiated when the county of Kern introduced a ban on the land application of biosolids generated outside the county. The April 16 brief was co-filed with the National Association of Clean Water Association (NACWA), the North East Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA) and the Northwest Biosolids Management Associations (NBMA). WEF filed its own amicus brief on this case in 2008 in the 9th Circuit Court. According WEF's Chief Technical Officer Eileen O’Neill, “WEF’s involvement in this brief is a continuation of our efforts to inform consideration of this case. Our earlier brief focused on the science underlying the efficacy of biosolids land application. The appeal to the Supreme Court, however, relates to interstate commerce issues involved in the Kern County ban and so this is the focus of the new joint brief.”
The new brief also discusses how a ban on biosolids land application in Kern County could affect municipalities across the nation. A separate amicus brief is being filed with the Supreme Court by a group of major municipalities led by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago; and including the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District (Denver Metro); King County, Washington; the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District; and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.
A very low percentage of cases that are appealed to the Supreme Court are accepted for consideration, but WEF President Paul Freedman believes it is important that the Federation helps move this case forward. "WEF does not advocate a specific wastewater solids management option but rather believes these are decisions best made by individual utilities," said Freedman. "WEF also supports the primacy of EPA and state regulation/oversight of biosolids land application.” Freedman also noted that, “as communities look for more ways to recycle resources, biosolids land application can be an important consideration.”