The applicant proposing a controversial sewage sludge-holding facility spoke publicly to county officials about the project Monday.

Evan Daily of Biocycle LLC addressed the Bartholomew County commissioners during a public hearing on a proposed ordinance prohibiting the importing, storage and application of biosolid material from anywhere other than Bartholomew County.

Biosolids essentially means organic matter recycled from sewage, especially for use as a fertilizer in agriculture. If the proposed ordinance is passed, violators could face fines of up to $5,000 a day.

Monday’s exchange came five days after more than 100 people voiced concerns on Daily’s proposal during a public meeting at CERAland. The event was convened by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

“I think the public believes I’m bringing in some massive amounts of out-of-county biosolids, with trucks coming in all the time,” Daily told the commissioners. “That’s not the case.”

Daily, who lives on County Road 300S, exchanged comments with the commissioners on different legal interpretations and health concerns.

“We don’t want to be the state’s application county for Marion or other large counties that are in similar situations,” commissioners Chairman Larry Kleinhenz told Daily. “They are looking for places to dispose of their biosolids. Evidently, you are creating a business that plans on utilizing that.”

Daily brought up a potential issue expressed by IDEM representatives to The Republic after last week’s public hearing. Both said the proposed ordinance may not hold up in court.

“There’s legal and non-legal aspects of ordinances, and some of them just haven’t been challenged,” Daily said. “This ordinance is clearly just affecting a select few farming operations in the county, with one being mine.”

Kleinhenz responded that for the past 40 years, Bartholomew County has banned out-of-county generated trash from the county landfill, and it has never been challenged in court.

There are already restrictions on out-of-state Class B biosolids coming into Indiana, Daily said. Class B biosolids refers to sewage sludge that has undergone treatment by processes that significantly reduce pathogen concentrations.

“IDEM reviewed that law a few years ago, and came to the conclusion that if its challenged, they’ll have to repeal that law,” Daily said. He added the only reason it isn’t repealed is because of the red tape involved.

He asked if the application of out-of-county biosolids is banned in Bartholomew County, what does the county intend to do about products sold at Lowes, Menards and Soils Plus that have biosolids mixed in some of their fertilizers?

The only current generator of the sewage sludge in Bartholomew County is the wastewater treatment plant operated by the city of Columbus, Daily said. However, he claims IDEM regulations require that biosolids from the wastewater plant has to be mixed with sludge from another generator of biosolids before it can be applied to agricultural fields.

In effect, he says if out-of-county sludge isn’t brought in from other counties, the application of biosolids will be banned on all properties.

Daily also warned that if several other counties enact similar bans, Bartholomew may find it difficult to dispose of its sewage sludge.

The rural Columbus resident said Indiana code supports the ability of farmers to apply biosolids, regardless of county of origin.

“The county cannot restrict products used as fertilizer or require special exemptions,’ said Daily, who added a court has struck down those types of local restrictions nationwide.

In terms of public safety, biosolids from treatments plants and generators contain around 100,000 fecal coliform bacteria, compared to as much as 8 million for hog manure, he said.

“So the amount of bacteria you have in untreated waste is so much higher than what you are getting through an actual treated waste,” Daily said.

Besides livestock manure, chicken waste spread across the ground also creates a greater risk of disease and pathogens than biosolids, Daily said.

Although Daily pointed out Columbus City Utilities currently accepts septage (from septic systems) and sewage from areas of Edinburgh, Brown and Jackson counties, Kleinhenz said that if the biosolid comes into the city’s wastewater treatment plant, it can be applied in Bartholomew County. In contrast, the ban applies to materials shipped in from out-of-county locations.

Daily also claimed the state “already has tons and tons of regulations” on biosolids, adding he doesn’t think it’s right for the county to adding additional regulations.

“I don’t know if there is anything more heavily regulated on testing and testing procedures than biosolids,” Daily said. “More testing goes into biosolids than drinking water.”

But at last week’s public hearing, land application specialist Brenda Stephanoff of IDEM said Biocycle will perform their own testing, rather than have testing conducted by an outside entity. The business will also issue its own monthly report regarding the findings of their tests.

Indianapolis attorney Arie Lipinski, who represented more than two-dozen audience members, described this type of self-regulation as unacceptable and self-serving.

Daily said the wastewater treatment plant is also pulling samples for testing every day, and that all biosolids produced in the state must meet the same requirements.

But Commissioner Tony London said other counties have a vested interest in getting ride of sewage sludge, and he’s worried a breakdown in another county’s processing would lead up to a pile up of biosolids that haven’t been properly treated.

“We don’t want to take a chance on sub-par treated material making its way into Bartholomew County,” London said. “We have no way of judging that. No way of stopping that.”

While the ordinance received an initial, first-reading approval, commissioner Carl Lienhoop said he felt Daily brought up good points that the commissioners need to consider before the second and final reading.

In order to provide the commissioners with sufficient time, no date has been set for when the ordinance will be up for a final decision on second reading.

About the ordinance


WHEREAS, the Bartholomew County Commissioners are opposed to the import and transport of Biosolid Material from counties other than Bartholomew into Bartholomew County properties; and

WHEREAS, Biosolids are defined as processed human or other waste processed and/or produced by utility and other treatment plants; and

WHEREAS, the County Commissioners intend to make it a violation of this ordinance and the Bartholomew County Code for any resident, company or other entity to import or transport biosolids from any county other than Bartholomew for the storage or application of said biosolids on Bartholomew County property or real estate; and

WHEREAS, a violation of this ordinance shall be punished in the amount of $5,000 per day.

This ordinance shall be effected immediately upon its passage.
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