Jun 06, 2008

Water Environment Federation Files Amicus Curiae Brief in California Biosolids Case

Brief supports three southern California public agencies that operate land application programs

On June 2, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the Kern County, Calif., biosolids litigation that has attracted national attention (City of Los Angeles et al v. Kern County, 509 F. Supp. 2d 865 (C.D. Cal. 2007). The brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and supports the position of three southern California public agencies that operate land application programs in Kern County and that are asking the Appeals Court to maintain a district court judge’s ruling that allows these programs to continue.

The WEF brief documents the scientific, technical and regulatory foundation for the safety of land application. It was prepared with the assistance of a diverse work group of WEF members that included a range of academic disciplines and professional experience related to wastewater treatment, biosolids management and protection of public health and the environment. Led by Dr. Richard D. Kuchenrither, a past president of WEF and past chair of the WEF Residuals and Biosolids Committee, the work group utilized a consensus process similar to the one utilized for the production of WEF Technical Practice Updates.

WEF has a long-standing position in support of biosolids recycling, including support for land application as one of several management options available to public agencies under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Part 503 regulation. WEF’s Position Statement, Guidance for Regulatory Officials on Biosolids Recycling, adopted in 1996, supports beneficial use programs and state primacy in permitting local biosolids programs based on EPA or more stringent state standards. Preparation of the brief was approved by the WEF Board of Trustees following recommendations from both the WEF Residuals and Biosolids Committee and the Board of Directors of the California Water Environment Association.

The outcome of the Kern County case has the potential to have a significant impact on biosolids programs in every state, not just the Ninth Circuit, because this will be the first appellate decision on whether biosolids bans are legal under the federal Constitution. WEF has members who are responsible for managing biosolids programs across the country and prepared the amicus brief to provide a review of the current science and state of practice regarding land application.