Supervisors seek to tighten regulations on composting facilities

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted today to move ahead with plans to tighten regulations on where waste recycling plants can operate and what they can process. On the recommendation of Chairman John Benoit, the board signed off on a strategy to strengthen zoning requirements and general guidelines related to large-scale composting. The effort was inspired by the county's experience earlier this year with Cal-Biomass Inc., a Thermal-based composting facility that sank into financial straits after it had to suspend operations, in part because of environmental violations stemming from the mounds of smelly waste on its 30-acre property.

Residents of a nearby retirement community lodged numerous complaints about the gagging fumes wafting downwind of the site.  The county arranged for a diversion of the product to a county-owned landfill and is contributing $152,000. worth of personnel and equipment to sanitize the location.  Benoit submitted a proposal calling for new and more stringent standards for composters, noting that the state has directed that 75 percent of all waste be recycled by 2020.

County officials anticipate that five or six new large-scale composting facilities will be needed to handle the volume of recyclable product.   Benoit advocated, and his colleagues supported, preparing an ordinance  that draws on the expertise of code enforcement, environmental health, waste management and planning personnel to create zones where composting would be off limits to prevent offensive odors from impacting communities, set standards for composting facilities so that they do not become public nuisances, require mitigation procedures for processing waste that gives off noxious odors, require waste recyclers to prove that they are financially stable and enforce storage amounts limits.

According to Benoit's office, preparing the proposed regulations will require an estimated $100,000. in staff time and research.   The matter is expected to be brought back before the board for consideration later this year.  

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