Howard County is nearing an agreement with Arundel and Baltimore counties to build a composting facility for yard waste, county officials said this week.
The proposed $5.9 million regional facility would be in Howard County off Dorsey Road, near the Howard County-Anne Arundel County line.
Officials from the three jurisdictions, who negotiated for 18 months, hope to have project approval from their respective councils by March 15, with opening planned for Oct. 1.
Linda A. Fields, Howard County's recycling chief, said the compost facility was an "extremely important" project.
"This will be the first regional solid waste project we're doing," Ms. Fields said. "We're hoping to have other regional solid waste facilities with these counties. It's sort of a starting point for us."
Since October, state law has prohibited placing grass clippings, leaves, brush and branches in landfills.
The three counties have received a $500,000 state grant to help develop the composting facility. The project will be paid for by revenue bonds issued by the Maryland Environmental Service, a quasi-governmental agency that assists local governments with solid waste projects.
Debt service on the bonds will be included as part of the $36.17 tipping fee per ton of yard waste delivered to the composting facility.
Howard County owns the land and will sell it to MES. The facility will be run by a private contractor and supervised by MES.
As part of the proposed 20-year Inter-Governmental Agreement, each county is obligated to deposit a minimum amount of yard waste each year and pay tipping fees for that minimum, even if it falls short of the requirement.
Howard County has agreed to send a minimum of 8,000 tons of grass and brush per year, which it will begin collecting from 14,000 homes in April. The rest of the county will have grass and brush collections by the end of the summer. The 3,000 tons of leaves it now collects from residents will continue to be composted at the county's landfill.
Anne Arundel would send a minimum of 15,000 tons of yard waste to the compost pile annually, a little more than half of the 25,000 tons it collects each year.
Baltimore County will be obligated to deposit a minimum of 7,000 tons of yard waste each year, about one-third of its total collection.
The operation will have open-air rows of compost that measure about 8 feet wide, 6 to 8 feet high and between 50 and 200 feet long, said Annette Anselmi, treasurer for the MES. The compost rows periodically will be turned by a machine.
The yard waste turns to compost in about 120 to 180 days, depending on the weather, she said. The finished product will be sold by the private operator of the compost facility.