SAN BERNARDINO A proposed composting facility near Hinkley will have to revise its water study and be reapproved by the County Board of Supervisors before it can begin construction, a judge ruled at San Bernardino County Supreme Court Friday.

Nursery Products has proposed building an 80-acre composting facility eight miles from the community of Hinkley, with plans in the works for about six years. The plant has been permitted to accept 400,000 tons of waste product per year, of which half will be biosolids, or treated human waste. The rest will be green waste, such as tree trimmings and grass clippings.

The county initially approved of the facility in 2007, but a community advocacy group, HelpHinkley.org, has been trying to stop or delay the project through the courts. Members of the group say that the plant should be enclosed and that the plant will cause air pollution.

Superior Court Judge John Vander Feer pointed to a study done by the Mojave Water Agency that showed that the aquifer the plant would be drawing water from is already depleted.

Nursery Products estimated they would be using 1,000 gallons of water a day for the plant, but Vander Feer said they needed to revise their water study to find out if there actually was sufficient groundwater for the project.

Judge Vander Feer also ruled in favor of the defendants, which included Nursery Products and the County of San Bernardino, on another aspect of the suit and said they did not have to provide further alternatives to mitigate the impacts of the composting facility. The suit had requested that different alternatives to the project be submitted, but the judge said that the company had already looked into building a closed facility. He said the enclosed facility would have been much too expensive for a privately owned company to build.

Ingrid Brostrom, a staff attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Envrionment, who is representing HelpHinkley.org in its fight against Nursery Products, said after the ruling that she was happy about the judge's ruling about the water part.

For one HelpHinkley.org member, the ruling was not surprising.

"When the Mojave Water Agency wrote their comments, I was amazed by their analysis," said Steve Smith, who said their study showed there was not enough water in the area to support the composting plant.

Another HelpHinkley.org member was simply happy that there would be a delay in the project.

"Every day delayed is good," said Peg Diaz.

Lawyers representing the county and Nursery Products were not available for comment immediately following the hearing.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or kjonas@desertdispatch.com