CSWD wants compost facility in Williston (4/8/10)

April 8, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

The Chittenden Solid Waste District has dropped plans to build a new composting facility in Richmond, and now wants to locate the operation in Williston.

Compost in the district currently goes to the Intervale Center in Burlington, which CSWD took control of in 2008, but the state has required the site to stop accepting food scraps by July 1. For that reason, CSWD has been searching for a new location for its composting program.

The district had narrowed its search from 55 sites to two — one in Richmond and one in Williston — with Richmond being the preferred location as recently as January.

But CSWD General Manager Tom Moreau said further cost analysis shifted the preference to Redmond Road in Williston, where the waste district owns property and wants to construct a landfill.

“We looked at the long term best interest for the district, and Redmond Road was just the better economic system,” Moreau said.

Leasing land and building the compost facility in Richmond, Moreau said, would have required the district to pave a road and bulldoze parts of the property. Without plans to eventually purchase the site, the waste district would have spent a lot of money improving a site it didn’t own, Moreau said.

Building in Williston will cost more money — Moreau said projections show a price tag of $1.25 million — but CSWD sees it as a long-term investment.

“The board came to the conclusion that we have to get into organics, and rather than get into a temporary site, let’s add permanence to this,” Moreau said. “The logic was, we can use Williston to grow.”

Last week, CSWD officials met with Williston officials to inform the town of the decision. The waste district also met with three residents from Ledgewood Drive, the neighborhood near the proposed site.

In both meetings, participants say, questions arose about the facility’s ability to control odor, noise, traffic and stormwater runoff. Moreau said plans call for a three-sided, enclosed structure meant to hold the compost and trap some of the odors. A system of aeration will expedite the composting process.

Craig Abrahams, one of the Ledgewood Drive residents who met with the CSWD, said Moreau answered concerns about the expected problems and promised to resolve any issues that arise after the facility is built.

“I think he’ll stand behind his word,” Abrahams said.

Yet Abrahams, who also belongs to the group VOCAL that opposes a landfill on Redmond Road, wanted to see CSWD propose a larger compost facility for the site — one that could further reduce landfill waste. Designs call for a compost facility that will handle up to 20,000 tons of organic waste annually; CSWD projects that it will receive 15,500 tons of manure, yard waste, food waste and wood chips.

“I’m personally very disappointed in the lack of effort to remove organics from the waste stream in the county,” Abrahams said.

Before CSWD can build the compost facility, the waste district needs to obtain local and state permits.

The town and waste district also need to determine whether the existing host town agreement, which generally supports a landfill, covers a compost facility. Town Manager Rick McGuire believes the composting operation will require a new agreement.

He said a host town agreement would offset the town-incurred costs of a compost facility, including wear on roads from increased truck traffic, any problems with odor and any stormwater runoff issues.

The waste district has yet to file for permits, but Moreau said if the process progresses smoothly, the facility could open in December or January.

“Our bottom line is, we’re very excited and proud to be proposing a very, I think, good facility,” Moreau said. “This is not your father’s compost out in the backyard.”