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Composting Facilities

Regulation of Composting Operations

The State Water Resources Control Board and Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Water Boards) are required to protect the quality and beneficial uses of the waters of the state. The California Water Code requires that anyone who discharges waste that could affect waters of the state must submit a report of waste discharge. Current practice is to issue individual waste discharge requirements (WDRs) for larger composting facilities. A conditional waiver for “green waste-only” composting facilities was in effect from 1994 until 2003, when a change in law required all waivers to be either renewed or replaced with WDRs. The State Water Board developed draft statewide general WDRs that will address water quality protection at composting facilities that currently exist or may be constructed.

 

 





Current Activities

The State Water Resources Control Board released for public comment the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and General Waste Discharge Requirements for Composting Operations (General Order). The comment period for both documents ended on March 2, 2015. A public workshop was held on February 13, 2015. A Board Workshop was held on June 16, 2015 in the Cal/EPA Headquarters Building. Several informal, focused stakeholder meetings were held prior to and following the Board Workshop. The State Water Board certified the EIR and adopted the General Order on August 4, 2015.

Land Application of Uncomposted Organic Materials in California: General Information

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Current Documents

General Order Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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Why are there limitations on additives for Tier I and Tier II facilities

Additives are materials mixed with feedstocks or active compost to create favorable composting conditions.  Generally, additives are incorporated at rates to consume or fix/immobilize constituents during active composting. A number of factors were considered during the development of additive limitations for each tier including the character and volume of material and potential threat to water quality, design specifications required for protection of water quality, additive limitations at existing facilities currently operating in the state pursuant to waste discharge requirements issued by the Regional Water Quality Control Boards, general standards of practice, and additive limitations imposed by other states.

Materials such as manure pose a higher threat to water quality due to concentrations of constituents such as pathogens, nitrates, and salts. Tier I facilities are not required to have improved working surfaces or ponds; limiting higher threat additive materials to 10% is required to be protective of water quality.

Tier II facilities are constructed and operated to be more protective of water quality. Limiting additives to 30% at Tier II facilities is based on industry practice that a material comprising more than 30%, on a total volume basis, is considered a feedstock.  Additionally, incorporation of greater percentages of raw materials, such as fertilizing agents, may have the potential to create anaerobic or other undesirable conditions.


How is agricultural composting defined?

The Composting General Order, Attachment A, defines agricultural composting as the operation of composting conducted in agricultural settings where: (1) feedstocks consist of materials generated onsite by production of farm, ranch, agricultural, horticultural, silvicultural, floricultural, vermicultural, or viticultural products, for example, orchard and vineyard prunings, culls and crop residues, and spoiled or unsalvageable food commodities (but not including animal carcasses), and; (2) the resulting compost product is returned to that same agricultural site, or an agricultural site owned by the owner of the composting activity and applied at an agronomic rate. No more than an incidental amount of up to 1,000 cubic yards of compost product may be given away or sold annually.


Are all farms that compost manure required to enroll under the Composting General Order?

Agricultural facilities choosing to compost materials generated on site may be exempt from the requirements of the Composting General Order if the conditions specified in the definition of Agricultural Composting in Appendix A are satisfied. It should be noted Agricultural Composting does not limit feedstocks to Agricultural Materials. If the conditions specified for exemption from coverage under the Composting General Order are met, Agricultural Composting operations may still be required to obtain coverage under other permits.


Are all operations that compost manure required to enroll under Tier II?

The applicability of the Composting General Order to manure composting depends on the use of manure in the composting process. If used as an additive (up to 10% of the total volume), manure may be acceptable at a Tier I facility. Manure is an acceptable feedstock at a Tier II facility. However, if manure is composted in a manner that meets the specifications for Agricultural Composting, operations within a fully enclosed vessel, operations with less than 500 cubic yards at any given time of allowable materials, or operations less than 5,000 cubic yards of allowable materials managed to cover materials during storm events and prevent the production of leachate, those activities may be exempt from the requirements of the Composting General Order. Composting operations conducted in a manner other than those defined in the Composting General Order or as exempted may be subject to individual waste discharge requirements issued by the Regional Water Quality Control Boards.


Can you explain the Agricultural Composting exemption in the Composting General Order compared to the agricultural exclusion in California Code of Regulations, Title 14?

The Agricultural Composting exemption in the Composting General Order is similar to the agricultural exclusion in California Code of Regulations, Title 14 (Title 14), Section 17855(a)(1), in that both set limits on feedstock source and the amount of finished compost that may be sold or given away. However, the agricultural exclusion in Title 14 limits feedstocks to "agricultural material" as defined in Title 14, Section 17852(a)(5), whereas the Composting General Order agricultural exemption does not limit feedstocks to "agricultural material. Therefore, although Title 14 includes manure in its definition for agricultural materials and the Composting General Order excludes manure from its definition of agricultural materials, this difference does not impact the application of the agricultural composting exemption in the Composting General Order.  Agricultural composting facilities that are eligible for the agricultural exclusion from Title 14 requirements would likewise be eligible for the agricultural exemption from the requirements of the Composting General Order. Agricultural composting operations not eligible for the agricultural exemption may be required to comply with the requirements of the Composting General Order. Similarly, agricultural operations not eligible for the agricultural exclusion in Title 14, Section 17855(a)(1), may be subject to the Agricultural Material Composting Operations requirements of Title 14, Section 17856.

 

General Order Enrollees

The table below is continuously updated as additional operations become fully enrolled.

Site Name(s) GeoTracker CIWQS
Recology Grover Environmental Products (Vernalis); Recology Blossom Valley Organics North, Stanislaus County; Grover Landscape Services L10004469722 817431
Northern Compost, Northern Recycling Compost - Zamora Facility; Environmental Reclaiming Solns L10008133205 815001
SA Recycling LLC WDD100008949 815369
Chico Greenwaste Composting Facility T10000010186 827346
Griffith Park Composting T10000005488 829416
Nursery Products Hawes Composting Facility T10000007056 745389
Z-Best Composting Facility T10000008201 816605
California Wood Recycling, Inc / Agromin Organics Recycling T10000005297 829627
Compost Solutions Inc Orland Compost facility WDR100033231 649646
Agromin Chino Green Material Composting Operations WDR100039480 829082
Vision Recycling Benicia Compost Facility / Goodyear Partners LLC WDD100009936 829297
Vision Recycling Greenville Road Compost Facility WDD100009938 829298
Valley Naturals Composting Facility T10000009996 829835
Harvest - Tulare Composting Facility WDD100009386 266681
Red Star Plant Foods Composting T10000009585 215363
Limoneira /Agromin Agricultural Composting operation (California Wood Recycling, lnc./Agromin) T10000010023 831561
Vicini Brothers Green Material Recycling   827096
City of Modesto Co-Compost Project   826886
Tracy Material Recovery and Transfer Station   826983
Mid Valley Disposal Recycling and Transfer Station   830138

Questions?

CalEPA Environmental Complaint System

Ex Parte Disclosure Requirements

This item is subject to the ex parte communication disclosure requirements of Water Code section 13287, as explained in http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/laws_regulations/docs/exparte.pdf. Any communications between interested persons and board members (other than at a noticed board meeting or submitted as a comment letter in compliance with the public notice) must be disclosed by the interested person within seven days of the communication. Sample disclosure forms are available at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/laws_regulations/docs/swrcb_godf_fillin.pdf.

This item will be considered at the August 4, 2015, Board meeting. Beginning Tuesday, July 28, 2015, at 12:00 noon, ex parte communications between interested persons and board members concerning this item are prohibited.

Past Activities and Documents

Stakeholder Meetings - Development of Performance Measures for Implementation of the Compost General Order

State Water Board staff will host informal stakeholder meetings to develop performance measures related to the implementation of the Compost General Order.

  • Sacramento, California:
    • Date and Time: Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
    • Place: CalEPA Building, Byron Sher Auditorium, 2nd floor, 1001 I Street, Sacramento, California 95814
    • Agenda
    • Presentation
  • Riverside, California:
    • Date and Time: Thursday, June 23, 2016, 1:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
    • California Tower Building, Highgrove Room, 3737 Main Street, Suite 500, Riverside, CA 92501-3348
    • Agenda
    • Presentation
  • Sacramento, California:
    • Date and Time: Monday, August 15, 2016, 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
    • Place: CalEPA Building, Klamath Training Room, 2nd floor, 1001 I Street, Sacramento, California 95814
    • Agenda
    • Corrected Agenda
    • Presentation
    • Handout

Joint State Water Board and CalRecycle Stakeholder Meetings – Land Application of Compostable Materials

State Water Board staff and Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) staff will jointly host education and outreach meetings regarding land application of compostable materials. All attendees are required to register with CalRecycle at 2016 Land Application Meeting.

  • Sacramento, California:
    • Date and Time: Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
    • Place: CalEPA Building, Byron Sher Auditorium, 2nd floor 1001 I Street, Sacramento, California 95814
    • Agenda
  • Riverside, California:
    • Date and Time: Thursday, June 23, 2016, 9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
    • Place: California Tower Building, Highgrove Room, 3737 Main Street, Suite 500, Riverside, CA 92501-3348
    • Agenda

Documents for State Water Board Consideration on August 4, 2015:

Revised Documents as of May 29, 2015:

Revised Documents as of January 6, 2015:

Public Workshop: February 13, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Concept Revisions

The revisions to the concepts are provided below and reflect comments received since the August 23, 2013 public scoping meeting.

Public Scoping Meeting: Programmatic Environmental Impact Report

Informational Meeting: Changes to the Draft Statewide Order for Composting Facilities

State of California Resources

Water Boards

Regional Water Quality Control Boards

Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery

California Department of Food and Agriculture

Other States Resources