Washington State Department of Ecology - March 19, 2013

13-081

Ecology appeals court decision upholding Wahkiakum County biosolids ordinance

OLYMPIA – The Department of Ecology is appealing Cowlitz County Superior Court's decision upholding Wahkiakum County's biosolids ordinance, which does not allow land application of Class B biosolids.

Ecology had challenged the ordinance, passed on April 26, 2011, by the Board of Commissioners of Wahkiakum County, asking the court to declare that it conflicts with the state biosolids law, in violation of Article 11, Section 11 of the Washington State Constitution.

The Superior Court handed down a ruling in the county’s favor on Feb. 22, 2013. Ecology filed its appeal on March 11, 2013.

Regarding the original lawsuit, Laurie Davies, manager of Ecology’s Waste 2 Resources Program, said: “Ecology’s decision for legal action is a last resort – we always prefer not to challenge a local action. However, we are tasked with upholding state law. Prior to Wahkiakum County adopting a new local ordinance in 2011, we tried very hard to address concerns about the ordinance. We let the county know numerous times that we considered their ordinance unconstitutional before they passed it.”

In 1992, the Washington State Legislature made the policy decision to discourage the disposal of sewage sludge in landfills and to aggressively promote its treatment and beneficial use as a soil conditioner. The Legislature declared that properly managed municipal sewage sludge is a valuable commodity that can be beneficially used in agriculture, forestry, and landscaping. It also directed Ecology to create a program to maximize such beneficial use while minimizing risk to public health and the environment. 

Davies said: “By prohibiting the beneficial use of Class B biosolids, which constitute approximately 90 percent of the biosolids managed in the state, Wahkiakum County’s ordinance conflicts with the state biosolids law, and reflects a policy directly opposed to that of the Legislature. This is the bottom line of why Ecology disagrees with the Superior Court’s opinion and the reason for Ecology’s appeal – it’s our opinion that Wahkiakum County’s ordinance does conflict with state law.”

Biosolids are a beneficial product that is used to improve soil and therefore can be kept out of landfills.

 # # #

Media Contacts:

Linda Kent, Ecology media relations, (360) 791-9830, linda.kent@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

Biosolids (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/swfa/biosolids/)

Ecology's social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)