And the discussion goes on.

The regional air board met on Monday in Victorville to discuss composting facility regulations, rules which could affect the proposed Dawes composting site to be built by Nursery Products near Hinkley, but did not vote on the rules.

The rules would have mandated the enclosure of composting facilities only if the air district exceeds the pollution limits set by federal standards. The air district is currently below the acceptable pollution levels, but HelpHinkley.org would like to see composting sites covered regardless.

"You can't tell me that the dangerous material in any of this stuff - this sludge - won't eventually be blown towards Barstow," said Norm Diaz of HelpHinkley.org. "There are other things that we could be doing with this sludge, making low-grade compost is not something that we should be proud of."

Not every one in the crowd was opposed to composting. Bob Feenstra, president of Ag Concepts, a company which represents farmers, said that he favors the process because prices for chemical fertilizers have increased in recent years because they are petroleum-based.

"My whole interest is that farming benefits from compost. It's win-win because the water treatment companies need to get rid of this stuff, and the farmer gets a cost-effective fertilizer," he said.

Jeff Meberg, president of Nursery Products, disputed that the winds would blow the compost off the company's site.

"If (the nearest house to the facility) was 500 feet away, I'd be surprised if the compost blows that far," he said.

The air district's report stated that the cost to reduce the amount of fine dust particles through enclosure of the facility would cost more Nursery Products more than $7,500 per ton, a cost the company's director of operations Chris Seney called economically unfeasible.
"(The cost) would eventually be borne by the taxpayer," Seney said.

Bob Sagona, vice-chairman of the air board, said that he would like to see a compromise worked out between the county, Nursery Products and members of HelpHinkley.org. Meberg said he would be happy to meet with the group and said the company plans to form a citizens' advisory committee to receive public input.

"How would you like to sit down and work out a compromise to make this go away?" Sagona said to Meberg.

"I'd like that very much, sir."

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