Kern County Sludge Initiative Measure E (2006)

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Kern County Measure E appeared on the June 6, 2006 ballot in Kern County. It was approved with a landslide of 85,011 votes in favor to 17,117 votes against, or 83.24% to 16.76%. It is sometimes called "the anti-sludge ordinance", since it bans the importation into Kern County of sludge (sewage) from other counties.

The ballot question read, "Shall the ordinance prohibiting the land application of biosolids in the unincorporated area of Kern County be adopted?"

Kern County residents tire of sludge from other counties

The background to the passage of the initiative is that Kern County residents came to resent the fact that for ten years, southern California water treatment agencies had been trucking treated human sewage to Kern County and dumping it on Kern County farm fields. This included the City of Los Angeles, which since 1999 had been sending about 26 tractor trailer loads a day of its biosolids to a 4,700 acre piece of land owned by the city in Kern County. The land, a 15-acre parcel 15 miles southwest of Bakersfield, is known as "Green Acres".

Lawsuit to keep the initiative off the ballot fails

Two Spanish-speaking truckers who made their living shipping sludge into Kern County sued to keep the measure off the June 6 ballot. The contention of drivers Jose S. Bonilla and Rafael C. Rivera was that their civil rights were violated because the signature-gathering petition was printed only in English. They relied on the legal reasoning in Padilla v. Lever. [1],[2]

Los Angeles, others successfully sue Kern County after Measure E passes

After Measure E passed, Kern County was sued in federal court by the City of Los Angeles, and other southern California cities who used Kern County for sludge dumping purposes. In the case of City of Los Angeles v. Kern County, Judge Gary Allen Feess of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that Measure E was unconstitutional. Judge Feess asserted this on the grounds that Measure E violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Kern County has spent upwards of $200,000 defending Measure E in court. In April 2008, county attorneys asked the Kern County Board of Supervisors to set aside another $362,000 to defend the ordinance.[3]

External links


  1. Bakersfield Californian, Lawsuit to keep on truckin' in Fresno today, April 6, 2006
  2. Bakersfield Californian, Sludge initiative on hold, April 5, 2006
  3. KGET-TV, Costs soar in legal battle over measure E, April 11, 2008