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Farm wants to spread treatment plant’s sludge near Vance Creek

The state Department of Ecology is considering a permit from Onalaska-based Fire Mountain Farms to allow a farm near Elma to spread biosolids that originate from the city of Elma’s wastewater treatment plant.

Farm owners Willis and Joan Martin currently use the farm for livestock and hay production. They’ve proposed taking five acres located adjacent to the treatment plant to spread the biosolids to act as a kind of fertilizer and to help improve the quality of soil at the farm. The property is located south of Highway 12 at 1711 W. Main Street. A map shows that Vance Creek moves through the property in question.

“Fire Mountain Farms is proposing to permit only those fields that are well away from residential housing,” the application for the site states.

The application notes that Vance Creek Park is located across the freeway an eighth of a mile from the site, but the application states that there should be no impacts.

“Fire Mountain Farms will consider requests from neighbors if biosolids application procedures pose a likelihood of conflicting with planned activities,” the application states. “There are no known special events in this area that biosolids activities could impact.

“The primary intent of this proposal is to provide a site for biosolids removed from the Elma wastewater treatment plant lagoons. These biosolids will be applied directly from the city of Elma’s wastewater lagoon, which is adjacent to the fields. There will be no storage at this site; however a frac tank may be placed on the site for short-term storage.”

The city of Elma has not yet granted permission for biosolids to be dispersed, but the application is “being permitted in anticipation of the City of Elma going to bid on the removal and land application of biosolids from the Elma Wastewater Treatment Plant lagoons,” a State Environmental Policy Act checklist states.

Elma Public Works Director Jim Starks says that Fire Mountain Farms is the only local project moving through the permit process now. Although, they will still need to bid on the project. Other outfits around the state could bid on it too, but would require trucking the biosolids to their sites.

The farm consists of 192.95 acres, but they’re only proposing to spread the biosolids on five acres, the application notes.

The farm is proposing to disperse the biosolids using various approved methods, including rear- and side-discharge manure spreaders for dewatered biosolids, spray irrigation equipment for liquid biosolids, drag hose systems for liquid biosolids or other equipment as approved by Ecology.

The site will be posted with a “No Trespassing Biosolids Recycling Site” sign and a spill-prevention plan will be required to be put in place.

A public notice issued by the state Department of Ecology notes that the state agency “has determined that the proposed action will likely not have a probable significant adverse impact on the environment.”

“This site is anticipated to be used in the summer of 2013 but delays may push back the schedule,” the environmental checklist states. “Elma lagoons will need to be cleaned out every “10-15 years. This site could be used for future lagoon cleanouts.”

“Land application will be limited to the driest months between spring and fall when the depth to groundwater at the site is greater than three feet below ground surface.Sufficient time will be allowed between application and the onset of fall precipitation,” Ecology officials said in the agency’s determination of non-significance, “Land application may be limited to times of the year to minimize the possibility of high public exposure.”

The applictaion has proposed a 33-meter setback. Ecology notes that they may want to adjust the proposed setback, depending on site inspection and public input and Ecology notes “leak prevention will be addressed in permit coverage for this project.”

The application notes that smell could be an issue in the application of the biosolids, but states, “off-site odors should not be a problem as the current uses of this site is agriculture.”

“There is an odor associated with the spreading of biosolids,” the application states. “Most of this odor dissipates quickly and what lingers is a musty smell. Odors will vary depending on source and method of treatment used. This site will be limited to biosolids from the lagoons at Elma Wastewater Treatment Plant. Lagoon-stored biosolids have a very low likelihood of odor impact. Lagoon biosolids, in general, have fewer odors than other processed biosolids. With good management practices associated with biosolids land application, odor will be minimized and relatively short lived. There will also be emissions from equipment used to pump and spread biosolids (tractors) and emissions from trucks hauling equipment and personnel.”

The application doesn’t address any specific methods to control potential odor issues.

“There are no proposed measures to reduce or control emission or other impact to the air,” the application states. “Good management practices for land application of biosolids will assist in reducing potential odors.”

The application notes homes, churches and commercial businesses are adjacent to the site on the west and north boundaries.

The state Department of Ecology will conduct a public meeting April 22 in the Pavilion Meeting Room at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds, 32 Elma McCleary Road. At 5 p.m. there will be an open house during which people gain information and can ask one-on-one questions of Ecology staff. At 6 p.m. there will be a formal public meeting and hearing.

Public comments can be mailed to Jamie Olivarez, P.O. Box 47775, Olympia, WA 98504 or via email to