Farm wants to spread treatment plant’s sludge near Vance Creek

The state Department of Ecology will conduct a public hearing today to consider a permit from Onalaska-based Fire Mountain Farms to allow a farm near Elma to spread biosolids that originate from the city of Elma’s wastewater treatment plant.

Farm owners Willis and Joan Martin currently use the farm for livestock and hay production. They’ve proposed taking five acres located adjacent to the treatment plant to spread the biosolids to act as fertilizer. The property is located south of Highway 12 at 1711 W. Main Street. A map shows that Vance Creek moves through the property in question.

“Fire Mountain Farms is proposing to permit only those fields that are well away from residential housing,” the application for the site states.

The state Department of Ecology will conduct a public meeting today in the Pavilion Meeting Room at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds, 32 Elma McCleary Road. At 5 p.m. there will be an open house during which people gain information and can ask one-on-one questions of Ecology staff. At 6 p.m. there will be a formal public meeting and hearing.

The application notes that Vance Creek Park is located across the freeway an eighth of a mile from the site, but the application states that there should be no impacts.

The city of Elma has not yet granted permission for biosolids to be dispersed, but the application is “being permitted in anticipation of the City of Elma going to bid on the removal and land application of biosolids from the Elma Wastewater Treatment Plant lagoons,” a State Environmental Policy Act checklist states.

Elma Public Works Director Jim Starks says Fire Mountain Farms is the only local project moving through the permit process now. Although, they will still need to bid on the project. Other outfits around the state could bid on it too, but would require trucking the biosolids to their sites.

The farm consists of 192.95 acres, but they’re only proposing to spread the biosolids on five acres, the application notes.

The application notes that smell could be an issue in the application of the biosolids, but states, “off-site odors should not be a problem as the current uses of this site is agriculture.”

“There is an odor associated with the spreading of biosolids,” the application states. “Most of this odor dissipates quickly and what lingers is a musty smell. Odors will vary depending on source and method of treatment used. This site will be limited to biosolids from the lagoons at Elma Wastewater Treatment Plant. Lagoon-stored biosolids have a very low likelihood of odor impact. Lagoon biosolids, in general, have fewer odors than other processed biosolids. With good management practices associated with biosolids land application, odor will be minimized and relatively short lived. There will also be emissions from equipment used to pump and spread biosolids (tractors) and emissions from trucks hauling equipment and personnel.”

The application notes homes, churches and commercial businesses are adjacent to the site on the west and north boundaries.

Public comments can be mailed to Jamie Olivarez, P.O. Box 47775, Olympia, WA 98504 or via email to jamie.olivarez@ecy.wa.gov


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