Nothing about Los Angeles’ 10-year battle with Kern County over the voter-approved Measure E ban on the land application of treated human and industrial waste goes quickly.
For the past two weeks, Los Angeles and Kern County attorneys have been fighting the most recent round in Tulare County Superior Court.
On Friday, Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner wrote in an email, both sides finished presenting evidence in the case. Now there’s a lot of paperwork to do before Judge Lloyd Hicks can rule.
First, Goldner explained, the court reporter needs to deliver a transcript of the two-week trial. Then both sides will have 45 days to write up their closing briefs — a written version of the closing argument.
Then both sides have 30 days to respond, again in writing.
Only then will Hicks take the case as submitted and prepare his ruling — which he has up to 90 days to do.
That means, Goldner wrote, that it could be November before the public knows who won this round, the latest in a series of court battles that began in 2006 after voters approved Measure E.
Goldner declined to speak about the process of the trial.
But attorney Michael Lampe, who represented Los Angeles, said it was happy “with the way the evidence came in.”
“We think the evidence was pretty compelling that not only does the city of Los Angeles benefit from the land application of biosolids but the City of Bakersfield and the county do, too,” he said.
And, even before the trial, L.A. and Kern County agreed that there was no evidence that the land application of biosolids had caused injury or illness to humans or animals.
But Kern County has argued that there are a host of chemicals and substances that are not regulated and could harm humans or the county’s groundwater.
Measure E banned the land application of treated sewage sludge, known as biosolids in the waste business, on unincorporated property in Kern County.
Attorneys for the City of Los Angeles and the companies that contract to haul the waste to Kern County and use the biosolids to grow crops on Los Angeles-owned Green Acres Farm sued in federal court.
Los Angeles claimed a first-round victory in U.S. District court in L.A. That victory was overturned by a federal appeals court and, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, the federal case was dismissed.
That led, eventually, to the formal trial on the merits of the case that ended last week. It was the first time both sides had called witnesses and delivered evidence in the case.
Los Angeles sought to show that it was complying will all state and federal regulations and the land application of the highly treated material is a beneficial reuse of a waste product.
Kern County sought to show there are serious questions and concerns about many of the unregulated substances that exist in the biosolids — materials that could be hazardous to human health.
Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to allocate another $1.8 million for Measure E legal costs for the rest of this fiscal year.