Probe: November 7, 2002

November 07, 2002

QUESTION: Out near the Imperial wastewater treatment plant there are six huge piles of human waste, the dried solids removed from the plant's settling ponds.

They dry it and grind it into dust. I think they're storing it to put on fields. When the wind blows it blows toward my house and the stink is ghastly. It smells like an outhouse.

It's not enough that we have to endure the stench of the El Centro plant west of town. Now we have to put up with the dust from the Imperial sludge. — Ugh! Whew!, Imperial

City of Imperial Public Works Director Jackie Loper concedes the sludge may stink a little when it's fresh and still wet. Once it's dried, it doesn't.


The city doesn't grind the sewage solids. The solids disintegrate into small particles in the settling ponds. When it dries, it turns to dust.

There are only three or four small piles of sludge, waiting for a hauler to truck the piles to Arizona, where the sludge is legally spread on non-food crops.

Loper says you saw mountains of concrete and asphalt salvaged from old sidewalks and streets. The city grinds and saves the stuff for base to build new streets. It may spew a little dust but it doesn't stink.

You could be getting a whiff of the El Centro wastewater plant, he said. The prevailing winds usually blow the stench away from Imperial but when the wind is right, Imperial people can smell it.

We haven't had a complaint about the El Centro plant in years, but in the 1980s, Imperialites claimed the stench was so strong it took paint off buildings.

QUESTION: Years ago you had a recipe in PROBE for friendship starter bread. Do you still have it or do you think a PROBE reader could find it for me? — Cook, El Centro

It's probably here somewhere in the 25-year collection of PROBE columns. Unfortunately, it would take months to go through the old columns to find it.

Only the columns done in the last few years are in our data- retrieval system. We're going to ask PROBE readers if they remember the recipe. If you have it call Hazel Seay at 352-2626.

The starter bread was based on getting a piece of raw yeast dough from a friend or neighbor to make your own bread. Stir the dough into some flour and water and the yeast, a living organism, will multiply, puffing up the bread.

Women crossed the prairies in wagons toting a piece of bread dough in a jar or covered dish.

Some housewives and bakers kept one batch of yeast growing for years. Reportedly the yeast in San Francisco sourdough bread is over 200 years old.

QUESTION: I would like a recipe for the cabbage soup you eat to lose weight. You can eat all you want and lose weight. — Pudgy, Holtville

We remember the soup. Twenty years ago half the people in Holtville and around the Valley were slurping cabbage soup. It was nutritious and some people dropped 20 or 30 pounds.

Whenever you got hungry, you heated up another bowl of cabbage soup. It was filling and nutritious. The best thing was a little of the soup went a long way.

The last time we asked for the recipe, we didn't get a response, but somebody must remember how to make it. If you do, give us a call on our PROBE line at 337-3448 or send us a copy.

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