Managing Organic Residuals PWT Meeting Summary

Cornell Waste Management Institute


December 14, 2006 from 10 AM - 3 PM

Coffee at 9:30

Location:  Tony Boffa's Restaurant, Middletown, NY

            Introductions and Updates


Marsh Aikens

Rose Baglia, CCE of Orange County

Jean Bonhotal, Cornell Waste Management Institute

Ken Brezner, NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation

Martha Clarvoe, Otsego County Conservation Association

Byron Clough, Hudson Valley Farm

Jeff Cooper, Onondaga County RRA

John Crockett, Mother Nature’s Farms

Kelly Crossett, Cayuga County SWCD

Dick Dale, Agricultural Consultant Services

Deron Davis, USDA NRCS

Wayne Davis, Maine Environmental Services

Mike DesGaines

Tyler Etzel, Ace Farm

Gary Feinland, NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation

Brian Fleury, WeCare Organics

Nora Goldstein, BioCycle

Brenda Grober, Empire State Development

John Halenar

Ellen Harrison, Cornell Waste Management Institute

Jim Hotaling, Cayuga County SWCD

Ed Hubbard, Town of Brookhaven

Allison Jack, Cornell University - Plant Pathology

Scott Johnson, City of Poughkeepsie DPW

Patrick Kennedy, New England Organics

Les Kirby, Sullivan County SWCD

Stephen Klemann, FCR/Casella

John Kowalchyk, Town of Brookhaven

Theresa Laibach, NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation

Jeff LeBlanc, WeCare Organics

Jerry Leone, Casella Waste Systems

Liz Manning

Kevin Mathers, CCE of Broome County

Stanley Merritt, City of Poughkeepsie DPW

Steve Mojo, BPI

Nancy Ngou, Core Business Services People Leader

Connie Patterson, Patterson Farms

Jonathan Patterson, Patterson Farms

Bill Powers, Town of New Castle

Jim Proctor, Cayuga Compost/P&S Excavating

Andrew Radin, Onondaga County RRA

Sally Rowland, NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation

Robert Rynk, SUNY Cobleskill

Mary Schwarz, Cornell Waste Management Institute

Susan & Roy Sineo

George Stang, USDA NRCS

Holly Taylor, Intervale Compost Products

Lee Telega, Cornell University - Pro-Dairy

Judy O’Brien Van Put, Country Folks

Kenneth Vanalstine, Vanalstine Nursery

Mark Wittig, Cayuga Compost/P&S



CWMI is looking for data on yard waste composts

Rowland – DEC may have some data from some permitted facilities, nutrients, metals,

Fleury will talk with US Composting Council about analyses done by the STA labs and whether those might be made available.

DOTs may have data if they have used such composts

On Farm compost handbook will collect data from labs as part of the current revision

Town of New Castle tests annually and will send data to CWMI

Testing frequency –how often should it be tested?

It depends of whether the recipe and process are consistent.

DEC: For permitted facilities, the required frequency is based on size. Varies from weekly to quarterly. These facilities generally have consistent processes. 

Sampling issues – how to get a representative sample.

Are there protocols? Is there guidance?  CWMI has a Testing Compost Fact Sheet on their www site that addresses sampling, choice of labs, parameters to test for.  See:

Woods End Laboratory WWW site has a sampling protocol.



Patterson – digesting manure, food waste 18000 GPD from cream cheese plant  - whey and slop.  Put digester in for odor control.  Got funding. Pleased with odor control. They get a tip fee for food waste but volume is equal to 800 more cows so much be able to handle the volume of liquids.  They are removing manure solids before digestion because they didn’t have enough solids for bedding if they digested first.  Temp 100 degrees F, 22 days holding time. 

DEC solid waste rules depending on type of waste – do not deal with manure. Biosolids yes. Depends a lot on what is feedstock. 

U. California- Davis is developing a high solids food scrap anaerobic digester. Some waste water treatment plants are taking pulped food scraps. Waste Mgmt in Chicago started liquid digester for high strength liquids.

Adding food scrap gets enhanced gas production. Also get more BOD reduction.

How to manage post-digestion solids?

Toronto area, German technology is in use.  One facility dewaters post digestion and sends the solids to composting.  The other dewaters first and composts.

Compost quality of digested vs undigested solids.  Would be less nutrients, less odor, less volume in digested solids.


Capturing food wastes

It is a challenge to get waste into recycling and digester facilities vs down the drain or in the trash.  Also a challenge to transport and manage them.

Adding a task in the kitchen is a problem.

If you can send it down the drain, it is “free”.  So keeping these organics from going down the drain or into landfills may require regulation.

A ban on Yard Waste in landfills is in place in some states.

MA landfill ban allowed 2 years from passage to implementation.

In MA, grocery stores are “inspired” to divert scrap. MADEP did training. Julia Wolf at MADEP supermarket program emphasized stressing that supermarkets have a robust recycling program as well as organics diversion. Consider taking not just organics, but also grease/oil, corrugated waxed.

MA tip fees are higher than NYS.  Harder to get people to divert wastes in NYS where landfilling is cheap.

In NYC food waste is a particular issue due to lots of restaurants.  There was fledgling effort in NYC to get restaurant food scrap to composting facilities in NJ, but the composting facilities closed. 

Residential disposals are now legal in NYC.

For farms, taking food scrap may be regulatory concern.  Small on-farm facilities under current scheme would require permit if >1000 yd3/yr of food waste. 


Discussion: Siting and Management of Large Composting Facilities

There have been a number of sites where neighbors are complaining of various impacts and it seems likely that as residences move into rural areas, we will see more tensions.  We discussed ways to minimize these conflicts.


A summary of the literature on “Compost Bioaerosols and Health” that CWMI is drafting was discussed.  It will be available on the CWMI WWW site.


1.      If management measures are taken that help control odors, does that mean that bioaerosols and potential symptoms of neighbors will also be controlled?  We really don’t know that.

2.      What do we know about movement of dust, odors, bioaerosols. Do they move with dust. If we know good ways to control dust and odor – does that equate to control of bioaerosols?

3.      Adequate moisture can help keep down dust.  Does it also help reduce bioaerosols?

4.      Are most problems associated with registered (vs. exempt and permitted) facilities? There are only ~60 facilities with permits and few of those are in violation.  There are ~300 exempt and registered facilities. DEC does not know their location.


Odor and Neighbors:

Many PWT participants observed that ALL composting facilities have an odor.  In fact all organic material processing facilities have an odor.   So a well-run composting facility that was in full legal compliance could/would have odors, though if they are a “nuisance,” then they are in violation.  How much odor with what frequency is “too much?”

Good communication with neighbors can help avoid major confrontations.

Whether an odor is considered objectionable depends on many factors.

More objective measure of odors, such as a nasal ranger, and a standard reporting system could be useful.

Outreach to site neighbors may be helpful.  It needs to come from the individual facilities.

Setbacks for new compost facilities that are not exempt from NYS DEC rules are 500 feet for a permitted facility and 200 feet for registered.  A larger setback can be required.  They are established primarily to deal with odors. Setback is to house from the active operation.  Neighbors change over time and new homes are encroaching.  There is thus a need for continued and consistent outreach.



A relationship between odors and health is not always found although some reported that they had never had illness complaints without odor complaints.  One research paper showed that people reporting illness do not necessarily report odors.  This implies that controlling odors will not necessarily minimize potential health impacts.

Illness may have nothing to do with odors or with operation.  Discharges may cause illness regardless of management.

There may be a cumulative impact if there are a number of facilities nearby.


Best Management Practices:

Good operations are critical. 

When piles should be turned is based on microbial needs, not a set schedule. 

Moisture levels are important both for microbial activity and for dust suppression.

Feedstocks can create odors if not managed promptly.

DEC permitted facilities have a specifically approved compost recipe.

Know which way the wind is blowing and disturb materials when wind is not blowing towards sensitive receptors. For facilities with DEC permits, wind direction during turning may be specified.

Keep sites from allowing ponding in tracks and other low spots.

There is a distinction between composter trying to make a product vs. others (like many municipalities) that may be focused on disposing of waste.

There is an opportunity to create public/private partnerships to address both the need to reduce wastes and the need to create a product.


Record-keeping and oversight:

Operators of all permitted and registered sites should be required to keep a record of temperatures (perhaps weekly) in the compost piles; feedstocks; processing steps (like turning).

Some provision for periodic site visits to both permitted and registered sites could help promote good management practices. This could be conducted by DEC, by a local entity or by a private third party.  Funding such oversight is an issue.


Decentralized smaller facilities:

In NYS, under the 360 rules, small facilities taking selected organic residuals are either exempt or can be registered rather than going through a full permit process.  The sense is that such facilities would have less of a potential impact.  However, it also allows for the possibility that there would be many such facilities in a small area such that a resident might be impacted by many facilities and thus a large amount of waste.  The regulations allow for an operator to avoid getting a permit by dividing up operations into a number of smaller sites.  Even on the same property, if it is divided into different tax parcels, facilities on different parcels would be considered separately and thus would be eligible to meet limits for exemption or registration.

The group discussed this “loop hole” and suggested consideration of an amendment to the 360 rules that would restrict the number of registered and permitted sites and/or the total amount of material that might be handled within some radial distance or within a town.  Whether DEC has legislative authority for such a rule needs to be considered. NYC has a law that certain kinds of facilities cannot be sited within a certain distance of a similar facility.  This is NYC regulation stemming from environmental justice concerns.



Even when a violation is noted, if the operator is not cooperative, the legal process can take several years.

Many odor complaints are in early morning or in the evening (probably due to air movement and due to when residents are at home) when most environmental and health agency personnel are not at work.

There seem to be sites where operators may be taking more and different materials than they are allowed.  Who/how is this being monitored?

The idea of making permits good only for a year (vs. 5) was discussed. It was noted that facilities have the right to a permit renewal and a denial would trigger an adjudicative hearing so it may not make a lot of difference.


Training and Certification of Operators:

Smaller facilities, especially municipally operated, need education. 

Protecting worker health is a justification for training.

Education regarding marketing compost is needed by many, especially municipalities.

Requiring certification and training might be good.  Need a strong carrot or stick. If not required, it will not reach all operators. 

Could training be specifically offered to municipalities and could it be done locally?  Is there a “carrot” to offer? Such as lower insurance rates?

Would a training DVD be useful? SWANA may have such a distance learning option.

Pennsylvania Organics Council does centralized several day training and then does specialty one day trainings around the state.  Funded by the state DEP.

DEC constraints regarding staffing and funding are a concern in requiring a training and certification program.

DEC requires landfill operators to be certified.  Operators can receive training from a number of sources and must then pass a test.

Continuing education credits could be required and could be given for attending conferences and courses.

DEC permit for NYC Dept. of Sanitation composting facilities requires DEC approval if operator changes since the current operator is viewed as well qualified.


360 update, Sally Rowland, NYS DEC – no scheduled changes to 360

Compost applications to turf, vineyards, and landscaping, research and extension project nearing completion by CWMI and Horticulture Dept.

NYSDOT composting road kill pathogen research/outreach project, CWMI project. Data collection is complete.  Workshops planned for summer 07.

Mortality and flesh composting; Avian influenza guidance, CWMI has a contract with NYS DEC.

Dried manure as dairy barn bedding, CWMI and others conducting research and outreach.

Bioassay of sludge applications using earthworms. CWMI and Cornell faculty research project.

Outreach – materials available or coming soon:

Additional compost fact sheets, CWMI

DVD and fact sheet on roadkill composting (including a Spanish translation of the FS)