(July 26) Basil Hewitt is a Supervisor in the Public Information Office of the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, the agency that provides wastewater and solid waste management services for 5.5 million people in Los Angeles County. He has a Civil Engineering Degree from Rutgers University and a Masters in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Loyola Marymount University. His professional experience includes solid waste research and monitoring, preparation of environmental documents, and public outreach. Now his focus is in the Public Information Office, informing the public about the services and programs offered by the Sanitation Districts, where he has worked since 1987.
The LA Sanitation District was created in 1923, and solid waste management was added in 1949 because people were burning trash in their backyards, contributing to severe smog problems in Los Angeles. Now the District processes 390 million gallons/day of sewage, and 1/5 of Los Angeles County’s trash collection. Trash & recyclables are picked up from the community by outside companies, such as EDCO. The Puente Hills MRF recycles some of it, and the rest goes to landfills.
He showed video illustration of an automated sorting line separating categories of recyclable items. Community Collection Events are more efficient and productive because the items are collected together at one time. Recyclables are bailed and sold. Most recyclables (such as paper, metals and plastics) are shipped overseas, although some countries including China have toughened their criteria for cleanliness, so we can’t just dump it anymore.
Food waste is processed into biogas, fertilizer and compost. Biogas can be pumped into the natural gas pipeline system, avoiding microbial outgassing of methane into the atmosphere which contributes to climate change. For the last 2 years, sewage flow has been tested to measure molecular traces of COVID virus concentration as a community pandemic severity monitor. This is especially important now when many people test themselves for COVID at home, whose results are not reported to the public health database.