DON'T SPREAD ON ME

THE SLUDGE HAS HIT THE FAN IN POLITICALLY CORRECT BOULDER.

As directed by the city council in early February, Boulder officials are looking into other ways to dispose of the sludge that won't be sprayed as part of the Gunbarrel Hill plan, which in its scaled-down form is expected to handle up to 85 percent of the city's volume. The other 15 percent could go to private farms elsewhere or to a cement company near Lyons that would combine the treated sewage with cement kiln dust to create a soil amendment.

City officials say composting may also hold promise as a future solution to Boulder's sludge-disposal problem. That process not only reduces solid waste by breaking down lawn clippings, leaves and other yard debris, it also neutralizes pathogens, yielding a product that can be safely applied to home gardens. While Metro Wastewater composts a little more than 10 percent of the sludge from Denver-area cities, Longmont and Vail have operations that compost almost all of their treated sewage, according to Phil Hegeman of the state health department. Boulder is now discussing with other communities in the county the possibility of building a regional composting facility, says Ned Williams of the utilities division. For now, though, the viability of that option remains highly uncertain.

Though the cost of composting would be higher than the other alternatives she and other city critics have suggested, Debbie Quackenbush calls the concept "a really good long-range plan" for the city--as long as the composting facility is somewhere far away. "We're very afraid they want to put it on Gunbarrel Hill," she says.

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