Carroll farmers may be able to take some of the yard waste burden off county landfills if a proposed zoning amendment is adopted by the county commissioners.
In response to a request from the county zoning administrator, the Carroll County Agricultural Commission yesterday favorably recommended the amendment, which would allow farmers to operate commercial composting facilities.
Under the proposal, as amended by the Agricultural Commission, farmers could accept yard waste and mix it with their own plant debris, animal manure and livestock waste at their private compost plant.
Farmers could then sell the result, usually a nutrient-rich material similar to potting soil, to gardeners and other farmers. Currently the county is collecting yard waste at the Northern Landfill and giving the compost away to residents.
"When Commissioner [Donald I.] Dell was first elected, he mentioned to me that, possibly, farmers might want to get into this," said David Greene, head of the Carroll County Extension Agency. "They're looking at this as a way to reduce the amount of yard waste going into the landfill."
At the meeting, Mr. Dell said that the county's composting facility is expensive and that he'd like to either reduce or eliminate it. Encouraging private composting facilities would allow this to happen, he said.
"We just had to buy a $250,000 windrow turner," said Mr. Dell, noting that the county recently purchased a smaller one that is now obsolete because so much waste is coming into the facility.
"My intention is that farmers could compost and take some of this yard waste," he said.
Agricultural Commission members said the animal wastes would be necessary for their nitrogen content. Zoning Administrator Solveig Smith's proposal had called for only yard and plant waste being used in the mixture.
"In composting, you need a carbon source and a nitrogen source," said William Powel, administrator of the county's agricultural land preservation program. "Manure is your nitrogen source."
Carbon comes from wood chips and other plant matter, he said. The county's compost facility at the landfill uses grass clippings as a nitrogen source, Mr. Powel said.
As for composting dead animals, Mr. Greene said the dead animal disposal committee has decided to delay action on that suggestion until after a county solid waste disposal committee presents its report at the end of June.
That committee, which has been examining incinerators and other garbage disposal options, recently visited a composting facility in Tennessee that accepts dead animals along with other waste.
Committee members are expected to recommend a similar facility be built in Carroll County.
At the Tennessee facility, up to 1 percent of the waste stream can be animal remains. In Carroll County, that would be from 3,000 to 5,000 pounds per day, far below what Agricultural Commission members expect to come into the facility.
Agricultural Commission members have been looking into dead animal composting as an alternative to burying them on farm properties. Concerns about possible water contamination from buried carcasses have made that option unattractive.
Also, local rendering companies -- businesses that find other uses for carcasses -- charge up to $150 to pick up a horse or goat, while charging $25 to dispose of a cow.
Commission members have said they would encourage farmers to continue having large animals picked up by a renderer.