State prevails in biosolids suit

Supreme court declines to hear county appeal


April 30, 2015

Wahkiakum County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow learned Wednesday that the state supreme court has declined to hear his appeal of a court of appeals decision that would invalidate the county's biosolids ordinance.

This means the state Department of Ecology prevails, and the county doesn't have the authority to prohibit the application of two of three classes of biosolids on land in the county.

Responding to concerns from Westend residents about the application of Class B biosolids at a Grays River Valley farm, commissioners adopted an ordinance that permitted only the application of Class A biosolids in the county. Class A biosolids are more highly treated than other biosolids.

The state Department of Ecology sued, claiming the legislature had given the agency the authority to regulate biosolids. The county maintained that it had authority under state law to add additional regulation.

The county prevailed in superior court, but the DOE appealed, and the court of appeals ruled for the agency, saying it had authority to regulate the application of biosolids.

Bigelow said the decision came as "kind of a surprise."

"This has been a harder fight for the state than the attorney general expected," he said. "We won for a longer time than they anticipated."

Once the formal mandate reaches superior court in Cowlitz County, which originally tried the case, individuals and organizations may start the permitting process to apply biosolids in the county.

This will interest the Town of Cathlamet, which would like to dispose of Class B biosolids from its waste water treatment plant on its Bradley Mountain forest land. This would lower operating expenses, for the town must pay to have the biosolids hauled to a disposal site in Lewis County.


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