District considers sites for compost (1/7/10)

Deadline looms for new facility

Jan. 7, 2010

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The Chittenden Solid Waste District has narrowed dozens of potential sites down to two locations for a new composting facility.

Under an agreement with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, CSWD must stop accepting waste on June 30 at its existing composting facility in Burlington. The district assumed control of Intervale Compost in 2008 and agreed to wind down the operation amid pollution concerns.

The preferred site for a new facility is located on Kenyon Road in Richmond, which runs off U.S. 2 just west of the bridge over the Winooski River, said CSWD General Manager Tom Moreau. A fallback plan is to place the facility near district offices off Redmond Road in Williston, on land it purchased from Hinesburg Sand & Gravel.

Regardless of the site, Moreau said the district is unlikely to complete permitting and construction before the June 30 deadline.

“I don’t think we’re going to make that, so we’re going to have to do something else,” he said.

The district could temporarily truck waste to be composted to private processors.

Composting is a key part of the district’s long-range plan to reduce waste and hence the size of a planned landfill in Williston. The proposal for a landfill off Redmond Road has generated opposition from neighbors, but the district no longer wants to transport waste to far-away private landfills.

The district composted 5,500 tons of yard waste, 5,000 tons of manure and 4,000 tons of food waste in the last fiscal year.

Since assuming control of the Intervale operation, the waste district has combed through a database to locate potential sites. Starting with 55 sites, the district eliminated most because of traffic, land-use or other issues.

“It’s been a long, hard arduous process,” Moreau said.

The district ended up with the Kenyon Road site, owned by Joyce Livak and located about a half-mile off U.S. 2. The plan is to lease 16 total acres, with half used for the composting facility and half to plant crops where the leachate, called “compost tea,” could be spread.

Several meetings have been held with Livak and her children to discuss the proposal. They have been given a draft option agreement, Moreau said, but nothing has been signed.

The site, part of which was used as a sandpit, works well because of its proximity to a state highway and distance from other homes, Moreau said. But the location is also problematic because Kenyon Road itself is dirt and has washout problems.

A “fatal flaw” such as an intractable permitting and transportation issue could still scuttle the Kenyon Road plan, Moreau said. Any new composting facility would require state and local permits, including Act 250 approval.

If the Kenyon Road site doesn’t work out, the district will take another look at the database of potential sites. Moreau said a “hip pocket plan” would be to place the facility at the Williston sandpit, which has the advantage of being near district offices and the planned landfill.

The town of Williston has a longstanding host town agreement with CSWD that generally expresses support for the landfill. Town Manager Rick McGuire said he was unsure if the agreement addresses a composting facility, but at minimum it would need a local land-use permit.

Moreau said the Redmond Road site could accommodate composting but there is not enough additional land on which to spread the compost tea.

The district plans to lease the site it settles on for three to give years. Meanwhile, it has already started to consider a longer-term plan for organic waste disposal.