County and Newport discuss use of biosolids

NEWPORT — After much deliberation on the subject of biosolids, Lincoln County Commissioners have drafted a bill that would authorize counties throughout Oregon to regulate the spread of biosolids.

The draft bill was handed off to Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) to introduce this legislative session the county’s behalf. Senate Bill 286, would authorize counties to impose more regulations on biosolid application in their jurisdictions.

“The current system does not allow counties...we’re actually prohibited from doing any land use regulation of the land application,” said county attorney Wayne Belmont. “This will change that structure.”

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, which has worked with the local anti-biosolids group Save Our Siletz River, met with the Newport City Council on Wednesday to discuss a host of issues, including biosolids.

The contentious issue plagued at least a few of the cities here, as well as the government agencies of Lincoln County, after concerned residents of the Toledo, Siletz and Logsden areas approached the board of commissioners early last year over the spread of what some called treated sewage sludge being spread on certain agricultural lands in the east part of the county.

At the time, the county commissioners started to look into whether they were obligated to regulate the spread of biosolids. They found the county doesn’t actually have that kind of control.

“They [Save Our Siletz River] assumed we had some authority over this application, and I explained to them that we did not,” said Claire Hall, chair of the board of commissioners. “The cities were doing this through permits issued through the state, and ultimately under guidelines from the federal government.”

The county, at that time, agreed to investigate the issue further. A summit regarding biosolids ensued, at which local elected officials, Siletz tribal members, experts and other members of the public spoke about biosolids.

“Among the takeaways we saw on the county level, a concern about whether in fact the oversight of this program at the state level is really adequate,” Hall said during the meeting. “We heard anecdotally about spills on county roadways, about applications that took place without proper signage being posted.”


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