CWEA, CASA Respond to Los Angeles Times Article About Biosolids

Wastewater professional Ameen Uddin shows rags and debris removed by screens at the Hyperion treatment plant. The LAT decided to use this photo over and over on their website under the headline "LA's urban waste" - possibly giving readers the false impression this trash was headed to farmland. It's the opposite - Hyperion's screens (and addtl fine screens later in the process) remove this debris and more and sends it the landfill where it belongs. Trash and debris should not be sent to farmland. (photo credit: Gary Friedman, LAT)

On Monday Nov 26th the LA Times printed an article titled “Central Valley residents tire of receiving L.A.’s urban waste.

CWEA President Carrie Mattingly and Executive Director Elizabeth Allan worked with Greg Kester of CASA, Alec Mackie a member and Los Angeles resident, LA biosolids experts and the Executive Committee to draft a few clarifications. CWEA wanted to point out the important role wastewater professionals play in recovering resources from wastewater each and every day and the importance of recycling biosolids back to nature; as well as, the incredibly high standards the Los Angeles agency achieves in processing biosolids. Here is the letter submitted:

Dear Editor:

The LA Times is grossly mislabeling wastewater biosolids as a “waste.” There’s no waste in wastewater and the faster we look at reusing every aspect of this resource the better. Why are biosolids a resource? At the Hyperion Treatment Plant, a facility certified by the National Biosolids Partnership, biosolids are carefully cleaned to Class A (the highest) standards. Gas produced during this process is recovered and utilized to generate electricity.

To ensure environmental protection – dozens of City of Los Angeles Industrial Waste Inspectors work with manufacturers to keep hazardous waste out of the sewer system. They work with dentists and pharmacies to keep unwanted items and drugs out of the sewers. As wastewater professionals we do outreach and want every Californian to know they should never flush pills down the drain.

Biosolids are some of the richest fertilizer available – rich in phosphorous and nitrogen worth millions of dollars to farmers. These nutrients are returning to the farmland – returning right back to where they started. The whole natural food cycle starts again. That’s recycling. Yes it’s yucky. Yes, we know no one wants to think about poop – but someone has to. As wastewater professionals we think about turning wastewater into a resource every single day. In the LA Basin 4 million pounds of biosolids are safely recycled and nearly 1 billion gallons of wastewater are purified every single day. The City of Los Angeles biosolids program is a national model for the safe, clean and proper recycling of our natural resources.

Carrie Mattingly
California Water Environment Association

Here is a link to the printed letter in Nov 30th LAT.

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Alec Mackie

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