[UPDATED with New Kern County Stink:] Courts Weigh Orange County Poop

Categories: Main, OC Media
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UPDATE, MAY 26, 12:42 P.M.: There's an interesting nugget about Orange County and the Carlyle Group in coverage of the ongoing court battle over human waste from Southern California spread atop farmland in Kern County.

Anyone trying to put the Bush 43 years behind them may have forgotten about the Carlye Group, a global asset management firm whose senior counselor was once James Baker III, chairman emeritus was George H.W. Bush's defense secretary Frank C. Carlucci and former senior advisers have included Clinton SEC chairman Arthur Levitt, Bubba's chief of staff Mack McLarty and Bush 41 himself. But Carlyle's greatest claim to fame (or infamy) involved its ties to the family that spawned Osama bin Laden.

William Karel's 2004 documentary The World According to Bush featured an interview with Carlucci, who discussed Shafiq bin Laden, Osama's estranged brother, attending Carlyle's annual investor conference during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that changed everything forever. More widely seen was Fahrenheit 911, Michael Moore's documentary from the same year, which portrayed the bin Laden family investments in the Carlyle Group as such an embarrassment after the Twin Towers fell that the bin Ladens were forced to liquidate their assets with the firm. Carlyle's divisions within the defense industry also raised eyebrows given the inconvenient truth of the firm's ties to the bin Ladens and Bush family/cronies.

A bill introduced in the California Legislature in February 2008, and later withdrawn, would have barred CalPERS from investing money "with private-equity firms that are partly owned by countries with poor records on human rights." That would have included Carlyle because its Mubadala Development firm is partly owned by the United Arab Emirates.

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Anyway, a subsidiary of that Carlyle Group is contracted by Orange County to take our poop to the pastoral-sounding Green Acres Farms, land near the tiny Kern County town of Taft where OC and Los Angeles County spread mucho waste-o. The counties concluded this was cheaper than the old practice of merely pouring shit into the sea off the coast, which environmentalists and ocean water regulators successfully made much more expensive.

Orange County homes, businesses and industries, on a per capita basis, together generate more than 80 gallons of raw sewage every day. We like to think after the toilet water swirls that our waste is taken to a magical place where ferries on ponies wave wands that turn the nasty stuff into sunshine and rainbows.
Actually, when it comes to that generated in 21 of our cities with a total population of 2.5 million people, the Orange County Sanitation District treats the sewage daily--enough to fill Angel Stadium almost three times.

Most of the biosolids, as the treated waste is more politely known, winds up covering fields in Yuma County, Arizona, where hay is grown. A Rialto plant also converts some OCSD biosolids into charcoal-like fuel pellets that can replace coal (and reduce greenhouse gas emissions). But 39 percent is taken to Green Acre Farms, which is owned and operated by Synagro Technologies, which was acquired in 2007 by . . . drum roll, please . . . the Carlyle Group.

The biosolids are turned into compost there, although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prevents spreading that fertilizer on crops consumed by humans. Despite the Green Acres composting having been deemed safe by the EPA, Kern County voters are not hot to take our ca-ca, fearing what the composting process is doing to the air they breath and groundwater they drink. Measure E (for effluent?), a ballot initiative passed in 2006, made it a misdemeanor to dump biosolids on unincorporated Kern County land, which includes Green Acres. Orange and Los Angeles counties have been fighting the measure in court ever since. The battle went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided against wading into the muck, kicking the matter back to the trial courts. The Southern California counties filed a new lawsuit to invalidate Measure E in February.
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