CSWD expands compost operation

District ‘paying close attention’ to odor 

By Jason Starr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Observer staff

Williston’s Development Review Board last week approved an expansion of the Chittenden Solid Waste District’s composting operation on Redmond Road. 

The district plans to expand its composting space from 8 acres to 13 acres, use new equipment and create a trucking entrance separate from the public food scrap dropoff area. Earlier this year, the district stopped selling small quantities of compost to retail customers to focus on wholesaling large quantities to commercial customers.

The expansion comes months after the State of Vermont’s universal recycling law went into full effect, requiring the diversion of food scraps from landfills. It will allow the CSWD to process up to 6,000 tons of food scraps annually, said Josh Tyler, CSWD director of operations. He projects the facility will reach that volume in about two years, then require further expansion or shipping of material off-site as the volume continues to increase in the coming years.

“As the tonnage increases, we will need to figure out another solution,” said CSWD compost director Dan Goossen.

A major component of the expansion is the acquisition of a “windrow turner” — a piece of heavy equipment that will turn and aerate food scrap piles more efficiently. What used to take four weeks to turn with an excavator now can be done in one day, Tyler said. The windrow turner was purchased with a grant from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and put into use in July.

“It optimizes our operation for the next 20 years,” Tyler said.

The windrow turner also helps mitigate the smell from the site, he said, as it will more frequently aerate the food scrap piles. Odor from the site has increased of late, according to residents of nearby Ledgewood Drive. The removal of trees associated with a Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO) storage project nearby has contributed to the problem.

“I have lived at this address for a little more than four years, and when I first moved in, we rarely had any odor that made its way to the neighborhood due to the buffer of the forest between us,” Ledgewood resident Norm Brault wrote in a letter to the board. “We noticed that after VELCO cleared a large area of forested land off Redmond Road … a strong odor during the late fall and into the spring.” 

He said his property value has been negatively affected. 

As a condition of approval, the board required CSWD to plant trees along Redmond Road “where feasible.”

Goossen said the district “will be paying very close attention to odors as we do this expansion.”

“As is the case with all compost facilities, odor is one of the more sensitive issues, just by the nature of the materials we are processing,” he said. “There is potential for unpleasant odors to escape the facility. 

“It is really helpful for us to hear when there are odors that might be abnormally offensive because we might not notice them. Being close to the stuff all the time, our noses are perhaps less sensitive.”

Planning Director Matt Boulanger said the town can’t enforce its odor nuisance ordinance on the district because of a state exemption.

“State law protects regional landfills from local regulations that would interfere with their intended function,” Boulanger wrote in his report on the district’s application.

The district plans to break ground on the expansion in October.