Tuesday, March 12, 2013

City of Los Angeles v. Kern County (Cal. Ct. App. - March 12, 2013)

I'm certain that many readers are, right now, saying to themselves:  "I live in Los Angeles.  I wonder where my poop goes after I flush the toilet?"

Fear not.  Justice Wiseman has the answer.  As well as decides the issue.

Perhaps, however, you don't want to know the gory details, and only want the basic gist.  In that case, I'm happy to oblige.

Almost certainly, your "waste" ends up at the Green Acres Farm in Kern County.  Where it gets applied to crops and then sold back to you.

It used to be that Los Angeles treated the waste and then incinerated it.  But we've got to fertilize crops with something, right?  Cow poo or human poo.  Seems like a waste of money to burn the stuff, and maybe bad for the environmen to boot.  So Los Angeles spends $10 million to buy a 4600-plus acre farm in Kern County, and now ships 75% of its waste there to be dumped on crops.  It's smelly, and it attracts flies, but it works. 

Well, "works" for everyone except the people in Kern County who have to live near it.  Which is why Kern County passes a ballot initiative that prevents farmers in Kern County, including Los Angeles, from using "human biosolids" as fertilizer.  Predictably, Los Angeles files suit, and six years of expensive litigation follow.

Los Angeles wins the latest round.  The trial court entered a preliminary injunction against the Kern County ordinance, and the Court of Appeals affirms.  So poop will continue to be applied aplenty.

Some readers might say:  "Glad we're not wasting anything here.  Good job, Court of Appeal."  For those, I say:  "Congratulations.  Enjoy your victory the next time you visit the bathroom.  Consider it a valuable contribution to the environment.  Your good deed for the day."

Others, by contrast, might say:  "Wait a minute.  My poop on crops I might eat?!  Disgusting!"  But fear not.  Los Angeles only grows corn, wheat and alfalfa at Green Acres.  And only uses it for cow food, not human food.  So rest in peace.  (And try not to think about it the next time you're eating a steak or drinking milk.)

So there you have it.  The circle of life for human waste.  At least in sunny Los Angeles.

P.S. - Having read the case, the ditty to the old 60's television show now means something very different to me.  "Green Acres is the place to be."  The place, at least, if you're poo.  (And if Eva Gabor knew about what was in the fertilizer, she probably would have liked the place even less than she did on the show.)