"The biosolids we produce have some nutrients in them, like a low-grade fertilizer," SBWRD General Manager Mike Luers said. "We would prefer to put those biosolids to beneficial use up here in Summit County, and we would also like to avoid the drive down Parley's Canyon, especially during inclement weather."
Biosolids are the sludge left over after SBWRD and Coalville treat the wastewater at their facilities.
Currently, SBWRD is trucking their biosolids to Salt Lake City where they are put on top of the landfill to promote the growth of grass.
They are now proposing to truck the biosolids to a site one mile southwest of the I-80 westbound Echo Port of Entry. The site is about 17 miles from the Wyoming border.
The Summit County staff is looking into what issues could arise from drying the biosolids at that location.
"We're definitely concerned about appearance and odors that may be there," County Planner Sean Lewis said. "There's got to be some consideration for people driving through. This is the first part of being in the state and it may not be the best idea to have a malodorous odor as the first thing people smell when they come in to the great state of Utah."
There aren't many houses nearby. County staff estimates there are about three properties within two and a half miles from the site, but none within a mile.
Despite their concerns, county staff has not formulated an official position, which will be based on the Eastern Summit County Development Code.
"This is not a normal land use thing we see every day," Lewis said. "So we're trying to make sure we take extra care to take care of it in a proper fashion."
There can be some odor while the biosolids are drying, which is why they haven't picked a location next to subdivisions, Luers said. "That's one of the issues we have to work with when drying biosolids."
Regardless of smell, the biosolids are very safe, he said.
The testing of biosolids is divided into two classes: Class A and Class B. Biosolids tested to meet Class A standards are safe for use in backyards, gardens and soccer fields. Class B biosolids are tested less and are used in agricultural fields where people won't come into contact with them.
"In this operation we will have Class A biosolids," Luers said. "That way they can be used wherever a rancher would like to use them without any restrictions."
While some cities bag their biosolids and sell them to gardeners and home improvement stores, Coalville and SBWRD plans to only use them on range land because of the convenience of having rangers pick up the material.
"When they are dried, the biosolids kind of look like topsoil with some nutrients, although the nutrients aren't enough to be called a true fertilizer," Luers said. "If you have these ranchers that have cattle out and ranch land with poor soil, they can apply the treated biosolids to help the growth of various grasses."
While the ranchers could buy fertilizer, biosolids are a more affordable option. In fact, SBWRD will pay them to take it off their hands, although the ranchers will still be responsible for biosolid testing fees.
"So we get the benefit of having a disposal option locally as well as putting the material to beneficial use," Luers said. "And the ranchers have the benefit of having an organic material applied to their range land. It's a win-win."
Luers sees only one downside to the set-up. "The downside would be if we just went out and buried it without putting it to beneficial use. That's an option for us but we prefer not to do that."
The previously scheduled Oct. 3 public hearing about the issue was postponed until more data can be collected.