City proposes compost facility

The City of Winslow has proposed to build an unique facility that would not just recycle unusable biosolid waste but will also save the city an estimated $25,000 a year in fees.

The City Council sent the municipal composting facility to the drawing board last week. Once the city engineer’s plans are approved by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the construction can begin on a facility that will combine biosolid waste from the Wastewater Treatment Plant with grass clippings and wood chips to create fertilizer.

The facility is unusual because no other Arizona municipality operates such a plant in the manner Winslow has proposed. The mixed material would be formed into piles or windrows for the biological composting process to occur aided by mechanical turning.

City Administrator John Roche said ADEQ has taken an interest in the project due to its novel nature.

“They are kind of excited about the concept and what they want us to do now is present conceptual engineering plans before they proceed with anything,” he said.

Because this is not a common practice by cities, ADEQ only requires a permit but the federal Environmental Protection Agency will regulate other aspects of the facility.

The material will be tested before and after the composting process to ensure it meets state and federal guidelines. It would then be used as fertilizer in city parks or bagged and sold to the general public. The complete composting process takes about seven to eight weeks, officials said.

City Utilities Manager Allen Rosenbaum said there are private companies that operate similar composting facilities in the state, but no Arizona municipality operates one in the same way Winslow is proposing.

“We’re proposing to do it like most commercial operations,” he said. “We’re going to be the first city in the state to do it, so it’s a learning curve for the state too, for ADEQ.”

Rosenbaum said Lakeside blends household trash and sludge then composts it through a special dryer. He said he looked at that method but determined it would be too costly for Winslow. The method he wants to use is also more acceptable to state and federal agencies.

“This is the method the EPA prefers,” Rosenbaum said.

Roche said the reason for the facility is that it would save the city approximately $25,000 a year in transportation and landfill fees.

Currently, the city pays Waste Management to haul the biosolids from the treatment plant to a landfill in Joseph City. The city is charged $14 per ton of material to haul plus $70 per load to deposit at the landfill.

According to the city’s design plan, Winslow’s facility would receive from 40 to 80 tons of biosolids per week or approximately eight to 15 truck loads just from the city treatment plant.

Rosenbaum said the total amount of waste Winslow takes to the landfill now varies.

“It depends on how loaded our ditches get,” he said. “We’ve wasted everyday. Sometimes we waste every other day.”

The proposed facility would also ease the city’s workload.

“Part of our problem in waste management is we get so short handed sometimes, we can’t waste because bins are full and they can’t get around to picking it up,” Rosenbaum said.

The new facility would be constructed near the Wastewater Treatment Plant away from public eyes and noses. It would be built on two acres in an abandoned lagoon. A plastic or spray-on liner would prevent the material from seeping into the ground. A four-foot berm would surround the compost pile to block the wind from blowing the material into inhabited areas.

Rosenbaum said he is not sure if the facility would turn a profit because it is a prototype program for a city, but added that the commercial operations that do it turn a hefty profit.

“This stuff is worth its weight in gold literally,” he said.

Roche said the construction costs could be recouped within three or four years. He also said he expects a response from ADEQ on the plans within a few months.


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