Fight to stop composting plant continues
For over 18 months the residents of Hinkley and Barstow have asked for safety measures be placed on a San Bernardino County approved open-air sludge dump to be located upwind from our community and families.

Our county supervisor (Brad Mitzelfelt) approved this sludge dump, even though many questions have been raised about the location, process and history of the applicant. Supervisor Mitzelfelt also approved of the fact that the sludge dump would emit Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) many times exceeding the safety amount established by the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District (MDAQMD). These VOCs are known to cause developmental problems with children and possible reproductive issues for women. Our schools have spent years trying to eliminate VOCs from classrooms and now the County has allowed a major source to be placed directly upwind from two Barstow Elementary schools.

We have looked for help from the MDAQMD, but they seem to side with the sludge dumpers and against the people who will be affected. Why? As usual, it is about money, greed and politics. Companies who deal with sludge make millions in profits. Lots of companies are willing to build enclosed facilities that are proven to be safer and still make millions in profits.

The Hinkley Sludge dump will have a truck arriving every eight minutes, 365 days a year. The peanut butter like sludge will be dumped and mixed with other waste, then stirred and turned repeatedly. The "finished" mixture will be stored for up to two years in mounds 50 foot high on site. Mitzelfelt and the MDAQMD have agreed that the material will never blow off site towards our families and community. The Western Regional Climate Center lists our wind speeds as the fifth-highest average in California at 11.1 miles per hour. But the MDAQMD says our area never had a wind higher than 28 mph in 2006. Those of us that live here know different. But I guess a few campaign contributions can help change the safety measures that other more effluent areas enjoy.

This sludge dump would be illegal north and south of us. Those areas require large industrial sludge dumps to capture 80 percent of the VOCs, gases and dust to protect their children and future. Why are we not protected equally?

Maybe we should ask Supervisor Mitzelfelt why we should be put in danger so that other areas' waste can be dumped cheaply on our community. This process can be done safely with enclosures and filters and we will not settle for anything less. We have done a baseline air sample to prove our air is clean now. We will present this to the MDAQMD on Monday, Jan. 28. The lawsuit against SB County also starts Monday Jan. 28 in Barstow. Show up and support our future. Go to the helphinkley.org website for more information.

D. Norman Diaz Hinkley