Feb. 28, 2013
Kit Stolz, OVN correspondent
By Kit Stolz
The results of a $100,000 study looking into the feasibility of constructing a biodigester to dispose of horse manure from Ojai area ranches was presented at the Chaparral school auditorium Wednesday.
The study was conducted by the engineering firm ACEOM on behalf of the Ventura County Watershed Protection District.
Launched in 2011, the study focused mostly on horse manure and bedding because nutrients from these sources are suspected of impacting water quality in the Ventura River, based on Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB) findings.
Currently, most of the horse manure in the valley that is hauled is taken to Toland Road landfill east of Santa Paula, but much of it is used for agriculture or, in some cases, simply left on the ground.
Horse owners, who soon will face tighter restrictions on the storage and disposal of animal manure and bedding from the LARWQCB and possibly the Environmental Protection Agency, expressed mixed feelings. They showed interest in the biodigester concept, but several raised questions about the cost and practicality of the digester idea, estimated to cost $8.7 million.
“What the (LARWQCB) is pushing for is to have 99 percent of the manure removed, and to have it stored in concrete bunkers on the site. If that is all implemented, then yes, this would be a logical place to send the manure,” said Carolyn Ebken, who has worked with horses in the valley for many years. “It’s a good idea, but not if you have to pay $35 a ton to have the manure hauled there.”
Ryan Gallagher, from ACEOM, agreed that the cost of having the waste hauled was crucial to the financing of the biodigester plan.
“The project makes economic sense if it gets public financing for construction, and if the community can handle a tipping fee (charge for hauling) of $35 a ton, which is what they charge at Agromin right now,” he said.
Phil Sherman, one of the engineers who helped initiate the biodigester plan as part of the Waste-2-Energy team, has two horses of his own in the valley, and says he does nothing with the manure.
“A lot of it is just stacked on the ground,” he said. “My wife has a couple of horses, and we just leave it in a big pile, where anyone who wants can come and get it. But it’s not being taken away, and even if it’s not running directly into a stream, it’s leaching into the ground, and getting into the water table. It’s a waste. We could be using this to generate power.”
The study, which is available at the Watershed Protection District’s website, shows that the Ojai Valley generates about 50 tons of waste a day, enough to generate in the range of 2 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year. That could power about 200 homes.
Gallagher complimented Sherman and Bill O’Brien, and Ojai generally, for thinking ahead about the issue before the new nutrient load (called total maximum daily load) regulations have been issued, which is expected next month from the LARWQCB.
“What the community has come to is this digester,” Gallagher said. “It’s finding a solution before the problem has really landed. We saw something similar at the Calleguas (Municipal) Water District, which had to find a solution to their salinity problem. They came up with the salinity pipe, and took charge before the regulations were issued, so they had control of their destiny. I think this is an exciting project.”
Public comments will be incorporated into the final report of the study, to be released at the end of April. Contact Ryan.Gallagher@aecom.com to provide comments.