Compost facility weighed Officials to tour Tennessee plant

August 05, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Composting Carroll's garbage could be cheaper than burning it and could be a way to avoid mandatory recycling, Westminster's mayor told the Carroll commissioners yesterday.

The commissioners and Carroll's town mayors agreed to tour a Tennessee composting plant next month to see the process.

"I definitely would have an open mind," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. He has proposed building an incinerator at the Northern Landfill to burn trash and generate electricity.

"I think it's something that's do- able," Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said of building a composting plant.

"Composting sounds real good to me; it really does," Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said.

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown broached the subject at the mayor's quarterly meeting with the commissioners.

"This process meets both our needs. You don't have to make it [recycling] mandatory and everything gets recycled," he said.

The officials agreed to tour the Bedminster Bioconversion Corp. plant in Sevier County, Tenn., Sept. 16-17. Mr. Brown visited the plant July 28.

Carroll officials are seeking ways to save landfill space and save money on trash disposal. A citizens committee that is studying Mr. Dell's proposal to build an incinerator has not decided whether an incinerator would be the best way to dispose of trash.

The commissioners also are considering mandatory recycling in Carroll to meet a state mandate for the county to recycle 15 percent of its trash by next year.

Composting could be the answer to the mandate, Mr. Brown said, because the process could divert up to 76 percent of the county's solid waste from the landfill.

The Tennessee plant, in the eastern part of the state near JTC Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, opened in September. It composts about 150 tons of garbage and 35 to 40 tons of sewage sludge a day, said John DeMoll, general manager of Sevier County Solid Waste Inc., the quasi-governmental authority that runs the plant.

The facility is on two acres of a 160-acre landfill site and charges a $27-a-ton tipping fee.

Batteries are not allowed in the compost, but plastic, glass, metal and dead animals are, Mr. DeMoll said.

The trash spends three days going through a cylinder 12 feet in diameter and 185 feet long. The cylinder turns constantly, and temperatures inside reach 140 degrees. The resulting product may be used as fertilizer and is sold to soil-mix companies, farmers and others for $10 a ton, Mr. DeMoll said.

The processed material is not recognizable as garbage, Mr. Brown said. The material is piled for six weeks with tubes below it to circulate air through the piles.

"Nature is at work," the mayor said.

The resulting product has a sweet, woody smell, Mr. Brown said, but there is no odor outside the plant.

"As the mayor of Westminster, I'd have no problem saying, 'Put it right here, at the Northern Landfill, wherever,' " he said.

Carroll County would need a larger plant than the one in Tennessee because county residents generate about 350 tons of trash a day, Mrs. Gouge said, and the county also would need one to two acres of space under a roof for every 100 tons of garbage.

It probably would cost about $23 million to build a composting plant that size, Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Dell said an incinerator would cost about $50 million.

The commissioners talked with Bedminster officials during a National Association of Counties conference last month in Chicago. The company is based in Cherry Hill, N.J.

Mr. Dell said he had planned to visit the Tennessee plant Friday and Saturday with Adams County, Pa., commissioners. He said he probably will make the trip with Carroll officials next month instead.

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