What a Load of . . . Manure
By Alex Distefano
The city of Norco sure has a lot of crap to deal with these days, literally. This Riverside county community with a population of around 35,000 residents is also home to an estimated 15,000 horses, earning it the honorary title of Horsetown USA in 2008. But with these horses comes the obvious problem of manure, and according to a recent Press-Enterprise story, some estimates concur that up to 65 tons of horse waste is created a day in the city.
But now, local city leaders in the neighboring town of Eastvale are crying afoul after plans of a proposed energy plant that would use the excrement to create energy are being looked at by the city of Norco. The plant would be located in Eastvale, but so far, nothing has been officially set in stone or voted on by any city government or public utility agency.
But that doesn’t stop Eastvale’s officials from speaking out against a project they say will be a detriment to their community if built within their city limits. “The reason I’m against it is because it will be bringing in a problem that Norco has into Eastvale,” said Councilman Ike Bootsma. “As it stands right now, Norco has had problems and violations with [its] manure from horses in the past, so I don’t know why we want that problem shipped over to Eastvale.”
Bootsma told the Weekly that he and his fellow council members, as well as the city’s mayor are all opposed to the project. He said that most of residents of Eastvale that he spoke to were against it as well. “One-hundred percent of the citizens I’ve talked to are against this project,” said Bootsma, adding that he spoke to around 35 residents so far. “The problems will outweigh the benefits for this energy plant. We already have a waste treatment plant in our community, there’s already a smell coming out of that, and we’re trying to work with through those issues; but the bottom line is that we don’t need another problem in Eastvale.”
Bootsma also told the Weekly that the energy plant will basically incinerate the horse manure at a very high temperature and create energy. The estimated cost of the entire project from start to finish, he said, is $35 million. Bootsma mentioned that Chevron Energy Solutions conducted a study last year, which found the plant to be a “viable project” that could produce energy to meet Norco’s needs or that the city could sell. But he questions whether or not Eastvale will see any positive outcome. “If this goes forward, I wonder if we will even get to see any of the projected benefits.”
According to Bootsma, it is uncertain if the city of Norco even has the authority to construct the plant in Eastvale. A study by the Riverside County Wastewater Treatment earlier this year, recommended the plant be built, but Bootsma said that Eastvale officials are still unsure if their zoning laws would apply to an electrical generating plant.
“I talked to a Norco council man yesterday,” Bootsma said. “He told me that the plant probably won’t get built, but I don’t buy that fallacy.” Bootsma said that either the state or federal government is paying Riverside County to conduct an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposal. “They are saying it may not get built but the EIR costs $9,000 dollars, so in my mind they know it is going to be built, otherwise why would they spend the money?”
Eastvale Mayor Jeff DeGrandpre told The Press-Enterprise that at the very least, the project cannot be built without the consent of the city of Eastvale. “If this thing is going to be located in Eastvale, we have to be involved in some manner,” he was quoted as telling the newspaper in a recent news story.
When reached for comment, DeGradpre e-mailed the Weekly back with the following statement “We are having a presentation to the City Council on this topic this Wednesday. I will be able to comment after that.” Norco city officials were unable to be reached for comment for this story.