Infrastructure Committee approves ordinance | Regulates compost facilities looking to operate within parish

Published 9:28 am Friday, August 24, 2012

Following a meeting of the Washington Parish Council’s Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday, an ordinance governing compost facilities is one step closer to becoming part of the parish’s Comprehensive Development Plan.

The ordinance, which was developed by the Planning Commission’s Compost Committee, chaired by Claude Bloom, was unanimously approved by the Infrastructure Committee, after a couple of minor revisions by Chairman Michael Fussell.

Fussell suggested that the definition of a compost facility be amended to read, “a facility accepting manure, clippings, leaves and/or wood waste materials for the onsite controlled biological decomposition of organic matter into stable, odor free humus in an amount over 50 cubic yards per year.”

The change, Fussell said, was needed because adding and/or would “leave it open to whatever they accept,” rather than a facility that accepts all of the materials listed.

Facilities accepting items other than those listed would need to request a variance from the Planning Commission, Chairman Levi Lewis said. Those accepting other items would need a permit, even if they are composting less than 50 cubic yards, Bloom said. The ordinance was intended to allow people who wished to compost smaller amounts of traditional materials onsite to continue that operation, he said.

“Yet, if we had someone come in that wanted to develop a larger scale facility using the things that create problems for us, which is the produce, and then beyond that, you could have animal carcasses or lots of other things — but any of that would have to come before the Planning Commission in terms of a permit application,” he said. “And it could be approved, depending on the type of facility they had designed.”

In addition to small-scale composters using traditional materials, the ordinance also “does not apply to agricultural operations that may receive manure, wood products or materials used as fertilizer or soil supplements on site.”

Among other guidelines, the ordinance requires the facilities it covers to obtain an approved permit from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, to submit applications for building and business permits to the Washington Parish Permit Office and to follow various other regulations designed to minimize the facility’s impact on adjacent properties.

While the ordinance initially stated that the parish director of Public Works would issue a notice to cease operations and notification about possible fines to noncompliant compost facilities, that wording was questioned by committee member Greg Route, and Fussell suggested that the text be altered to state that the director “or his designee” could perform those duties.

The ordinance will now move to the full Parish Council for introduction and approval.

The compost facility ordinance was brought about in response to Acadiana Compost, which caught the parish government by surprise when it sprung up in the Richardson community several years ago, operating under permits from the Department of Agriculture and Forestry and Department of Environmental Quality. The facility drew complaints from neighbors and the attention of the Parish Council and Planning Commission, especially after fly and odor problems increased when it began accepting produce from Walmart in December 2010.

However, Acadiana Compost is now in the process of closing out its operations.

Reporting on the facility during the Planning Commission meeting held Tuesday night, Director of Public Works Leo Lucchesi said Acadiana Compost has “totally abided by” the conditional use permit it was officially granted in June. The last load of stall shavings will be brought in by the end of next month, and there have been no insect or odor problems at the facility, he said.