BENNINGTON — The Development Review Board granted preliminary approval for a food composting facility at the municipal transfer station which will be run by a local businessman and his Shaftsbury waste disposal company.
Trevor Mance, owner of TAM Waste Management, appeared at the board’s meeting this week to discuss the proposal that would take food scraps from several local businesses and Bennington College, initially, and convert them to high-end compost which he plans to sell wholesale to contractors in the area.
The facility would be north of the landfill and built in an area that has little other use because it would be near a capped landfill that had once been a Superfund site. The facility is expected to be able to handle up to 24,000 cubic yards of composting material annually.
Food scraps would be brought to the facility and mixed in with nitrogen-rich material that would break it down, primarily through its own natural heat. That “active composting” process also removes weed, seeds and harmful bacteria.
In the curing process, the material, which is now biologically inactive, sits for many months in what are called windrows. The compost is next moved to the storage area where it’s ready for resale, Mance said.
Because TAM trucks have reason to come to the transfer station, Mance said he’s planning to make the operation efficient by having those trucks that come in also be used to take the finished composting out to his Shaftsbury facility where it can be weighed and loaded for sale.
The proposal was already discussed in April by the Select Board whose members showed unanimous support for creating an agreement to place the composting operation on the property of the municipal transfer station on Houghton Lane.
It would help the town and TAM comply with Act 148, passed by the Legislature last year. The act mandates that organic material be composted, starting with the largest producers but getting down to the level of all Vermont residents by 2020. Under the act, waste haulers like TAM are required to collect organic waste, especially food scraps, and having a local compost facility would allow TAM to treat the material more efficiently.
During Tuesday’s meeting, a few neighbors raised questions like whether the project could affect their property value and whether the composting would create foul odors. The facility is planned for about 370 feet from the nearest home and Mance assured the neighbors that the composting material will be exposed to oxygen.
“Oxygen is the key to success. You have aerobic versus anaerobic. Aerobic has oxygen, anaerobic does not. In the absence of oxygen, methane gas is created. Methane gas smells,” he said.
Dan Monks, Bennington’s planning director and zoning administrator, said the town’s bylaws would not allow the facility to operate if bad odors were leaving the property.
“You have to also remember, the town is the landlord so if there’s any problems there, they’re going to get shut down,” he said.
After the meeting, Mance said he was pleased with what he heard. He said neighbors raised good questions and he believed he had answers that left them reassured. If all goes well, Mance said he would like to break ground on the project in the late winter or early spring.
Before TAM can open its facility, the project must receive permits from the board and the Agency of Natural Resource’s waste management division and the state’s Natural Resources Board’s Act 250 commission.
The meeting on Tuesday was the first of two required before the Development Review Board can decide whether a permit will be granted. The next local meeting will be on Jan. 22 at the Bennington fire facility.
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