Selectboard dissatisfied with compost communication

Oct. 28, 2010

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff
Dean Wilson picks through garbage on Friday as part of the Chittenden Solid Waste District’s trash sorting effort, performed to learn about the composition of waste in Chittenden County. Wilson came from the Rutland Solid Waste District to learn about CSWD’s efforts to improve its waste services. (Observer photo by Greg Duggan)

The Selectboard is not pleased with the Chittenden Solid Waste District’s efforts to build a compost facility in Williston.

CSWD General Manager Tom Moreau appeared before the Selectboard on Monday night to detail changes to the proposed compost facility. Following a presentation from Moreau, board members took turns blasting the general manager and the waste district for communication problems and for moving ahead with the construction process before reaching a host town agreement with Williston.

“In my opinion, it was a tale of two different meetings,” Moreau told the Observer Tuesday.

He said he expected to explain the compost facility, whereas the board largely focused on communication problems.

Moreau spent several minutes running through the design process and evolution of the compost facility — the expected cost of the facility has jumped from $1.2 million in March to $2.24 million currently — before being interrupted by board member Ted Kenney.

“I feel like I’m being filibustered a little bit,” Kenney said, noting that he and other board members wanted to ask questions about the facility before moving on to other agenda items.

Moreau said he had no intention of talking through the entire meeting. He went on to say the designs for the facility had evolved in a way meant to address noise, odor and environmental concerns raised by neighbors and during the permitting processes.

Yet Selectboard members raised concerns about how the process has played out over the course of the year.

“I’m … displeased with how the solid waste district is communicating with the town,” Kenney said.

CSWD currently operates a compost facility at the Intervale in Burlington, but is under state order to stop accepting compost materials by Feb. 28, 2011. Earlier this year, CSWD decided to open a new compost facility on Redmond Road in Williston.

Selectboard member Judy Sassorossi argued that Williston, as the town set to host the compost operation, has a greater need than other waste district communities to know the details of the facility. She and other board members felt CSWD has not been forthcoming with those details.

Moreau admitted to “communication gaps,” and said Williston’s CSWD commissioner, Joe Duncan, has been largely unavailable during the process.

The construction process has already begun for the compost facility, with trees and stumps being cleared from the Redmond Road site. The work seemed to antagonize the Selectboard.

Williston has appealed a state approval of the compost facility, arguing that the approval violates a clause in the Town Charter requiring a host town agreement for such facilities. The town and waste district have yet to sign a host town agreement, which would compensate Williston for any impacts of the facility.

Asked by the Selectboard why CSWD went ahead with the project without awaiting a decision on the appeal, Moreau said the waste district’s lawyers had advised that it was OK to begin construction.

Board members Chris Roy and Jeff Fehrs said it felt as if Williston had been left out of the planning process, and only learned about changes to the compost facility once CSWD decided how it wanted to move forward.

Moreau apologized multiple times for communication failures with the Selectboard; following his last apology, Sassorossi told Moreau he failed not only the board, but the entire town.


In an effort to learn about the trash disposal habits of Chittenden County residents, staff from the Chittenden Solid Waste District spent much of last week sorting through garbage.

The trash sort took place Tuesday through Friday mornings at the All Cycle Transfer Station in Williston. Bags were dumped onto a conveyer belt, and then staff picked through the waste, sorting it into bins for compost, recyclables, paper and other trash. Once sorted, the various bins were weighed to determine the percentage types of waste.

CSWD Marketing Coordinator Clare Innes expected the results to be available in a couple of weeks. The data will be combined with results collected from a similar sort in May and used to help CSWD evaluate its education and outreach programs, she said.

According to a press release from CSWD, the May data showed an increase in the amount of “true trash” showing up in garbage bins compared to a sort in 2006. In 2006, true trash composed 47.5 percent of the waste collected. That number had risen to 55.4 percent by May 2010, with a corresponding decrease in recyclable and compostable material showing up in trash bins.

The waste came from residential pick-up routes, Innes said.

— Greg Duggan, Observer staff