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U.S. EPA Settles with Ventura Co. Company over Excessive Sewage Sludge Application in 1996 and 1997

Release Date: 6/3/2003
Contact Information: Lisa Fasano (415) 947-4307

     SAN FRANCISCO -- A $69,591 penalty was handed down this month to a Ventura County company for applying biosolids -- or treated sewage sludge -- to an oat hay crop in 1996 and 1997 at nearly 10 times above the agronomic rate.

     The federal Clean Water Act does not allow sewage sludge fertilizer to be applied at a rate that exceeds the amount of nitrogen that the crop will take up. On May 19, Administrative Law Judge Carl C. Charneski ruled that Tri-County Builders Supply violated this agronomic rate rule.

     Tri-County Builders was a subcontractor to the city of San Buenaventura when the over-application took place at a field in Rancho Canada Larga in 1996 and 1997. The EPA issued an administrative penalty to the city and Tri-County, and the city settled the case by paying a $104,000 penalty.

     Tri-County challenged the order before Judge Charneski, and a hearing was held in November 2001. Tri-County claimed the biosolids application was part of a reclamation project -- specifically a one-time application to restore drastically disturbed land -- and so they could apply in excess of the agronomic rate.

     But the EPA had not approved the project as a reclamation project and noted a number of other problems with the application site, including cows in the fields that were receiving the biosolids, large numbers of flies and proximity of the field to a tributary of the Ventura River.

     Judge Charneski's ruling is at: